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Cause & Effect

DJ Marco Collins says “Gifted Gab got serious AF on this,” while HipHopDX says it simply: “Gifted Gab is DANGEROUS.” Spark your best blunt before spinning Cause & Effect, a premium strain opus with no features, and a lone producer, Antwon Vinson. Shining a light on both sides of Gab’s singular style, mixing complexity with wit, confidence with seduction. Half of the album is hard-hitting gangsta murder music, while the flip is effortlessly smooth R&B for the afterparty, for when you’re up close and personal. This year, it was released on limited-edition vinyl as volume 4 in the Crane City Music collection.

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Black Babylon

Black Babylon came out in March, so I’m a little behind in writing about it. Artist Donte Peace calls this work his “three-year diary,” and it’s full of reflections on the passage of time and the rejection of labels. “Trapped Folk” reminds us how the game is gamed, disadvantaging black communities through urban living, poverty, and lack of education. The song “Ghetto Boys” is a contemplative, thinking man’s number punctuated with pensive pianos. Much of the production is courtesy of producer D-Sane who brings gravitas to these tracks, alongside reverb-heavy classical music instrumentation that recalls the best work of Raz Simone. Indeed, lotsa innovative producers on display here, including one of my personal favs Max Watters, who works some magic on “Soufside,” with a funky beat and a never-ending slowdown over the final two minutes of the track. “Flaw” features UK rapper Just Jess, providing an accented counterpoint to Donte’s often relaxed flow. These are 12 songs worthy of your contemplation.

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Solar Power: New Sounds in Seattle Hip-Hop

From UK music mag The Wire: “Fab comp on fab orange vinyl collating 14 leap-off points from a loose collation of Seattle based hip-hop artists and producers. The musical diversity here is ear-popping, ranging from the glitchy dubhop femme-gospel of DoNormaal and Stas Thee Boss and the electro ferocity of Remember Face to the rain-soaked doleful grooves of Jarv Dee. Crucially, the racial and gender mix ensures that the story told never gets dull; the album chops and changes to give an intriguing portrait of 14 artists you’ve never heard before finding their own ways to chart Seattle life and Seattle strength through hip-hop. Fascinating.”

From Michigan alt-weekly Northern Express: “This compilation, complete with its appropriately solar flare-focused cover art, brings together more than a dozen performers from Seattle’s hip-hop scene on a transparent, vinyl-only collection that gives these impressive artists the flair they deserve. Included here are tracks by Jarv Dee, who throws down an unforgettable remix of “I Just Wanna”; Gifted Gab, who mixes up R&B and late ’80s rap-pop on “Show You Right”; and Sendai Era, whose tropicália-influenced closer is an album standout.”

From Dusty Groove Records in Chicago: “A nice primer on the underground hip-hop scene in Seattle, circa the post-millennium teens! Solar Power doesn’t really set out to round up a succinct snapshot of a particular Seattle style and sound, so much showcase how diverse and distinctive the voices and producers in the city are. This compilation has the potential to survive as a pretty vital time capsule of this era in Seattle hip-hop history. It’s a lot more gender inclusive than many compilations, too, showing that it isn’t just a boy’s club – and tracks includes “Know Better” by New Track City, “Stop Calling My Phone” by Taylar Elizza Beth, “Front Steps” by Raven Hollywood, and more on colored vinyl.”

From Portugal’s Rimas E Batidas hip-hop magazine: “A new hip-hop edition with 14 tracks of emerging talent. Solar energy is the motto given to this compilation: The idea that Seattle stays true to its past while using its own strength as fuel for the change and renovation of its artistic panorama. This sonic self-sufficiency, a unique sonic imprint for the city, recalls the old glory of grunge, but it’s now in rap that this engine lies, emerging from a more underground, carefully manufactured sector, in the cellars and abandoned factories that will thrive there for not much longer. DoNormaal, Astro King Phoenix, Stas Thee Boss, ZELLi or JusMoni give voice to the manifesto of a constantly changing movement across the city.”

From Jet Set Records, in Kyoto, Japan: “Out of the city where Shabazz Palaces, Blue Scholars, Macklemore and Sir Mix-A-Lot made their base and their mark, a 14-song limited-edition compilation on orange vinyl. From emerging label Crane City Music, this one introduces you to the current Seattle hip-hop scene. The musicians explore various experimental styles, ranging from R&B to G-Funk. Seven of the tracks are from women artists. The jacket artwork by Seattle artist Ari Glass is also brilliant along with the content.”

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Quadruple Funk

The name Mario Casalini first turned up for me in the production credits of exceptional songs by Raven Hollywood and DoNormaal. I was therefore very excited to discover Quadruple Funk, an 8-song release from the man himself. His music taps into a nostalgia for a time that never was, a sort of space-age ‘70s dance funk mixed with perverted video game music, 8-bit, reversed, turned way up on the low end. Fav track “Temporary Girl” has a Daft Punk feel and the opening of “Too Much Heart” may blow out your speakers. Welcome vocal support on some tracks from Donte Peace, DoNormaal, Ill Skyy, Forza, Planet 39, Munky Do and others. Certifiably fresh. This one sounds like little else.

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Solid

Solid is one of several recent releases from the children of OG Seattle rappers. Over the past few years, a whole new generation has been putting their mark on the Town. There’s Malcolm Rebel (son of Vitamin D), Seaan Brooks (son of Criminal Nation’s Clee-Bone), Upendo Moore (son of Jonathan Moore), and ZELLi’s dad is Silver Shadow D.

ZELLi is a young woman in touch with her power. During “No Ca$h,” a sly, tight number that colors outside the lines with the confidence of a banger, she states, plainly, “I can make you put your phone down,” and you are ready to believe her. That standout track also features up-and-comer Porky $coop! This hypnotic EP, Solid evokes neon lights and futuristic synths and would be a killer soundtrack for a Seattle-based cyberpunk film, especially if said theoretical film were shot in major label clubs with the Hennessey flowing. Don’t miss the one-two punch of the opening tracks, “Sacrifice” and “Solid” which were together turned into a gorgeous music video. The multi-headed monochrome red cover art is trippy.

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Mr. Fantastik

I was up in Everett when I came across this Seattle hip-hop gem, Mr. Fantastik by Faded Theory, from 2009. I’ve put all three members of this rap group on vinyl: Mario Casalini, Raven Hollywood on DoNormaal’s double LP, and Max Watters on Gifted Gab’s Cause & Effect. Ten years earlier, they were a threesome of emo experimental Hello Nasty-era Beastie Boys, dropping this seven-song EP with cool Seattle O.G. Neema. It begins with a groovy as hell bass line, as the opening track asks the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Casalini kills the verse here, it’s a boxing match with the beat, sidesteps, and uppercuts. Watters’ guitar on the title track is smooth like taught fabric, and I always laugh when Raven name-drops Sir Mix-A-Lot. Rumor has it that this record–and their other project, HellaWeirdo–was inspiring to a young DoNormaal and was part of what brought her to Seattle. Search for Faded Theory on SoundCloud. Definitely worth a spin to hear the beginnings of three local legends.

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