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Gab The Most High

This artist needs no intro. I’m assuming y’all already big fans of the self-proclaimed “queen of Seattle,” Gifted Gab. Throughout the year I’ve had love affairs with other records, but it’s Gab The Most High, released in May, that I’ve consistently returned to again and again. Few records have felt so confident, demonstrating such complete command of instruments, writing, rapping, vocal sampling, and on. Gab is a magpie, collecting threads from multiple genres: funk, R&B, and reggae; and then layering in new textures, including showing off a soulful singing voice. The album release party featured a full Motown-style backing band.

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Gab The Most High Swishahouse Remix

I’ll confess that I wasn’t super hip to the whole Screwed and Chopped scene before Gifted Gab started hyping this record and the unique remixing style of DJ Michael “5000” Watts. Starting with Gab’s startlingly great release Gab The Most High, Watts slows down every track by 1/3, and then introduces skips and repeats and scratches. Anyone who knows me already knows how much I love the source material, and here, slowing the music down illuminates the tiny musical details, and the repeats put the focus on the nuances of Gab’s lyrics and wordplay. Listening to these remixes makes me love the original album even more. (And this isn’t just a few tracks—Watts remixed the whole damn album.) This Swishahouse remix confirms Gab’s right to serve as Queen of Seattle. Please give her the Royal Warrant pronto.

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Origin Story

Origin Story is an upbeat six-track hip-hop EP from Kublakai, full of compelling storytelling and short vignettes. “Full Circle” underscores with piano the tale of being discovered, the long road to fame, and the importance of paying it forward. “Thir13en,” tells of coming of age against a backdrop of bizarro beats, concluding with hidden acapella number, “I Am Free.” In “Mixed Messages,” he ponders his biracial upbringing, while backup singers chant “You’re beautiful.” Sweet and inspirational, this EP is 27 effortless minutes of musical joy.

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Huckleberry

Huge props to Sam Lachow for his ongoing commitment to promote fellow rappers from the town. His 2013 one-off single, “Young Seattle, Part 2”–featuring a host of local MCs–was my first real introduction to the scene, and I voraciously sought out music by each and every contributor. Huckleberry follows suit, pulling in artists and collaborators on every track. It was funded through Kickstarter, allowing fans to be collaborators of sorts, too. The record itself is a fun collage of introspective, self-referential party rap, with killer pop hooks and top-notch beats. (A special call out to the wild guitar and vocal textures contributed by Maggie Brown.)

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Barkada

I’m spinning this 2014 collaboration, Barkada, from Prometheus Brown (aka The Blue Scholars’ Geologic) and Bambu. Here’s a record that has become more relevant with age, with lyrics that deeply consider West Coast identity, immigration, the origins and future of America, protests and police; themes on the forefront of front pages during these first few months of 2017. These themes are communicated via a deeply playful playbook of technical prowess: “Coming (To America)” is almost exclusively built around with words that end with “o,” while opener “Live from Hawaii” contains more words than you could imagine that contain “bar-…” This is a fun album, ingenious and subversive. Hook your headphones up to it today. Also, I love the Photoshopped “record wear” effect on this cover art.

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Tomorrow People

Today is one of those beautiful Seattle days with infinite blue skies and cool breezes, where all you want to do is lay on the grass or drive to the coast with the top down. The perfect accompaniment is The Physics 2012 album Tomorrow People. Contrasting many laptop-produced hip-hop records, here you have a group of musicians riffing and jamming and rapping together. Laid-back, organic, and gorgeous.

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2012,” saying that:

Tomorrow People reaches for a broader context than The Physics’ previous album (last year’s outstanding Love is a Business) without sacrificing any of what makes the group so appealing. Soulful, funky, and beautifully nuanced, TP is 13 tracks of grown-man/woman hip-hop. MCs Thig Nat and Monk Wordsmith are thoughtful, conscious, and raunchy always right when they need to be. And producer Justo and don’t-call-them-back-up singers Malice and Mario Sweet put the finishing touches on each track so they shine at just the right angles. This is a crew with a rare nonchalance that never translates to dull, a sure sign of artists who truly know who they are. There is something for everyone on Tomorrow People. You could play this album for your grandma and she would probably love it, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Similarly, The Stranger selected Tomorrow People as one of the “Top 5 Albums of 2012,” saying that:

“So Funky,” the first track on The Physics’ latest album, Tomorrow People, is, for me, hip-hop in a pure state. It’s spare and it has a big and chunky beat, a raw and rubbery bass, bits of scratching, and no singing or chorus—this is a rapper’s paradise.

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Love is a Business

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2011,” saying that:

A giant leap forward for Seattle hip-hop (and R&B for that matter). The Physics’ Love is a Business was the long-awaited follow-up to the group’s first LP, Future Talk, a record that held many promises for those heads still living in rap’s Golden Era. Love is a Business did have much in common with its predecessor but also moved beyond with a wholly-conceived sound that was more soulful and refined thanks especially to don’t-call-them-back-up singers, Malice and Mario Sweet.

LIAB represents Seattle hip-hop in its most fully-grown incarnation. Thig Natural, Monk Wordsmith, and Justo placed themselves contextually in that realm of maturity where one is still young enough to enjoy a Tuesday night jump-off encounter, but not without a hint of regret at having to face the coming workday on little to no sleep. In these mens’ lives, the intersection of their art, professional careers, and romantic engagements are inseparable, each one informs the other. If there’s any justice in the musical universe someday The Physics will make beats and rhymes for a living, and this album’s description of their current existence will serve as a fond reminder to them of when life was a little less charmed.

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