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Byrd's Eye View

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Reigncraft 6: Gotta Do It!

Reigncraft 6: Gotta Do It! is a compilation of some of the best rappers and producers in Seattle and the greater Pacific Northwest. The series began in 2003, and Gotta Do It! which dropped in 2006 keeps the party going. Early in Reigncraft 6, two earnest and heartfelt tracks emerge. First, Xperience exercises an easy poetic dexterity in his lyrics to “The People’s Anthem.” It’s a spoken-word-feeling, game-filled pep talk from someone who has seen it all. “Life ain’t all about the fame and the afterparties,” he reminds the listener.

Second is the spectacular “Ego” by Macklemore. His win at the Grammy Awards was still eight long years away at this point, but even in back 2006 he was clearly a superstar. Mack is an artist who found his sweet spot somewhere between street and square and rode it to the top. This track is very mature, and spreads a valuable message that we need to remember. “Ego” was previously featured on Language Of My World in 2005. In retrospect, his jealousy of Boom Bap Project and Grayskul in the track is comical, considering the heights to which Mack’s career would eventually elevate him.

After those two inspirational songs, let’s examine a couple from the opposite side of the spectrum. “Reality Check” by Skuntdunanna is a nonstop blitzkrieg attack, full of sizzling slams and insults. Most of the punches are above the belt, “If I had your flow in my notebook, I’d be asking God, why me?” is one that always gets me. But unfortunately, Skunt sometimes tosses homophobic slurs which can detract from the final result.

Another punchline expert is Livio. For his track “Hit Em Up,” producer Funk Daddy flips Grieg’s 1875 “In The Hall Of The Mountain King,” and lays it with cocking shotguns and hammers blasting. It’s genius, and the rousing music enhances Livio’s hilarious stream of jokes. “Livio’s a madman, what you think a Magnum’s for? Man I’m on some bullshit, I hope you’re a matador,” is one that stands out. “Hit Em Up” can also be found on Livio’s sophomore album Cruel Intentions.

I don’t want to forget dRED.i’s “Freedom 4.” DJ Roc Phella and Kenyatto “Moorpheus” McThomas are the two musicians in this excellent group. This particular track is an anthem about mind body and soul, and the freedom sought by all. The lyrics are very conceptual, yet simultaneously down to earth and useful. “Teach by example, boy, it’s more than something you can preach.” Well said. Written by Novocaine132

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Reigncraft, Volume 2: The Source

Reigncraft Volume 1: The Resources, the first in executive producer KNDNM’s Seattle rap compilation series, came with a mission statement. The liner notes described a pre-Facebook media landscape, “Every artist on a Reigncraft compilation is familiar to their neighborhood, a different neighborhood for each artist means the other artists on the compilation will then become familiarized to each new location.” The idea was an ambitious one, and it succeeded at showing off diverse Seattle rap talent. Highlights included tracks by Willie Will, Ricky Pharoe, AC, and Illy Wonka.

Reigncraft Compilation Volume 2 hit the streets several months after Volume 1, and it contains a whole new list of bangers. “That Boy” by Livio features a Funk Daddy beat, and bragging lyrics full of gun talk. “I pack a Desert Eagle black, I get raw with that, pearl hand four five I’m talkin all of that,” is a typical line. Another lyric could be seen as a shot at Mix-A-Lot, “Why give you a fair chance when you do a dumb job? Go and square dance, Square Pants Sponge Bob.”

Mo-X brings an edge in his voice which adds grit and realism to his gangsta track, “Losin’ Control.” “We Live This” by Mista Ock captures a tense, high-energy tone in the music and lyrics. He accuses other MCs of “playing” with hip-hop while he actually lives it day to day. “Hip Hop Sent Me” shows off the steady flow of Kaotic over a simple, yet very effective Greedy B.D. beat.

Things go a little rap-rock near the end of Volume 2, starting with the hype scratching on “Thinking Back” by Rewind. Then Black Swan’s excellent “Days Gone By” sneaks in the door. The melody and chorus feel rock-inspired, but the verses are solid rap bars. Last on the compilation is “Fly Away,” a hot-air balloon trip to the ether by Cancer Rising. KNDNM was right, Reigncraft Compilation Volume 2 really does hit from every angle, and it offers something for everybody. Written by Novocaine132

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I Want All That

Greg “Funk Daddy” Buren is a Seattle hip-hop all-star. In the 80’s he sharpened his craft as a DJ/rapper/producer, a force to be reckoned with. In the 90’s he exploded onto the national rap scene, thanks in no small part to his work with hyphy Bay Area emperor E-40. Right after Y2K, Funk Daddy continued to impress with his 2001 album I Want All That.

On “Intro,” perpetual weed-smoker B-Legit is ready to cosign for Funk Daddy, and he says so in as many words. Up-and-comer at the time Livio had just dropped his own debut single, and he joins Funk Daddy on the sardonic “All These Hos.” Groovy track “Freaks Sippin Hennessy” is an interpolation of Digital Underground’s 1990 sexy classic “Freaks Of The Industry,” and original Underground member Money B unspools an entertaining verse. Funk Daddy reunites with his Crooked Path partners Jay Skee and Dee-Lyrious on the excellent, upbeat cut “Just Don’t Stop.”

Rhyme Cartel-signed, rap/rock act Outtasite adds vocals to three tracks on I Want All That, album opener “Whatchuthought,” party anthem “Mah City’s Tight,” and the quite explicit “Ghetto Luv.” “Drinking till we see the sun, ladies be like two to to one, you don’t need no lady luck, bouncing like they’re down to f***,” goes a typical line from “Mah City’s Tight.” Portland’s Cool Nutz is featured on “Day To Day,” which has one of my favorite beats on the album. The various voices and guest appearances add zesty flavor to the project, and the album stays spicy from start to finish. The menu is assisted by rapper Mr. Rossi, who appears on most of the tracks here.

The artwork on the back of I Want All That is a city skyline, with the Space Needle modestly featured. This isn’t directed at Funk Daddy, but I have a question for all current Seattle hip-hop artists. Why do you need to put a picture of the Space Needle on your album? Is it so you can find your way home? Is it like sewing your name in your jeans to identify them?

In June of 2022, the company which owns the 1962 landmark sued a Seattle coffee business that used the Needle as its company logo. According to an article in US News & World Report, “Karen Olson, head of Space Needle operations and marketing, said the legal action is unusual. ‘We’ve never had to get to this point,’ Olson said. ‘I’m surprised that we’re here.’” In the past, the Needle let things slide, but brazen usage of the trademark has multiplied in recent years. Rappers, just ask yourselves, what am I trying to say by using the Needle in my art? Written by Novocaine132

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Keep It Gangsta

In 2001, a very young Livio released his debut album My Life Vol. 1, with nearly all the beats produced by Funk Daddy. The first single from the album was released as a twelve inch record for all the DJs.

The A-side offering is “Keep It Gangsta,” and it’s about as West Coast as it gets. From the vocoder to the heavy bounce in the beat, “Keep It Gangsta” sounds like a popping Cali party. The track, produced by B. Kante, has lyrics about hitting hydraulics switches, getting in shootouts, and other details of the gangster lifestyle. Guest rapper Tray Dee from Long Beach drops a short verse, “Catch me behind the steel with a mind to kill,” goes one of his lines. After a decade of g-funk saturation in the 1990s, the genre could be seen as low hanging fruit, but Livio and crew loudly insist that they aren’t ready to quit anytime soon.

Side B has two tracks not found on the full My Life Vol. 1 album. “Say That Then” is a high energy cut showing off Livio’s fast rapping talent. “You threw your album in the oven just to say it was hot,” he mocks. “If you sitting on 20s now say that then, if you sippin on Henny now say that then,” goes the chorus. “Say That Then” makes a good call-and-response song, as the fans can shout “say that then” along with the words. The other track is “Put Your Hands High,” which coincidentally also has built-in crowd participation. Many rappers forget that they need to keep the audience involved in the show, but not Livio.

In a 2005 Seattle Times article, producer Funk Daddy talked about how much he had enjoyed working with rapper Livio over the past several years. “He’s my Snoop Dogg,” gushed Funk. Sure enough, Livio would drop a sophomore album titled Cruel Intentions that same year. Written by Novocaine132

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