A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Coldest Winter

Mad Passion was a Seattle record label run by Matt Wong in the early 2000s. It only released a handful of projects, including this terrific 2003 album titled The Coldest Winter by Mista Ock. In the CD credits, Mista Ock writes to Wong personally, “thanks for not only believing, but also giving me a platform to be heard.”

There are a few tracks that don’t quite hit for me. For instance “Come Home With Me” is romantic but trite like an LL Cool J love ballad. “Ride Tonight,” featuring Central Intelligence members Key and Diopolis, is an attempt at gangsta rap but the beat is too basic to capture any real tension or suspense. By contrast, the sound effects and tonal urgency found in “Countdown To Genocide” combine these same violent themes into a more successful track. High-energy club joint “Workin It Out” tries its best, but this is another style which isn’t a natural fit for Ock, who sounds too laid-back and calm here to convey the requisite party/dance hype.

But enough criticism, the majority of The Coldest Winter is top level. Ock’s talent shines when he speaks from a place of honesty about overcoming struggle, and those songs are serious and downright compelling. The line, “S*** was all a joke, but it wasn’t too funny, I remember days, Mom scraping up ends for lunch money,” in “All I Ever Knew” is a descriptive and visual example of the humiliation that accompanies poverty. Tracks like “Changes,” “Through My Eyes,” and “Hold On,” feature Mista Ock baring his soul and his feelings to the listener. On “Forgiveness,” Ock speaks to his deceased father in a moving confession.

Title track “The Coldest Winter” is excellent, probably my favorite on the CD. “You only lose when you stop trying, and I ain’t trying to stop,” he cleverly raps to a solid beat. That’s going to be my new motto. After the success of The Coldest Winter, Seattle trio Cancer Rising signed with Mad Passion to put out their second album Search For The Cure in 2005. Written by Novocaine132

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

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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