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The Playoffs

In 1994, DMS dropped a short six-song album called Takin’ Ends on D-Shot Records which established them as serious players in the 206 rap game. Two years later, their spiky track “Keep Da Change” was featured on Loosegroove’s 14 Fathoms Deep rap compilation. By 1999 they left D-Shot Records and dropped their sophomore album titled The Playoffs, which came out on Clear Head Entertainment.

“Hytymez” and “Jonzin'” document the weed-smoking lifestyle which is so familiar in rap music, you already know. “Drunk Words…Sober Thoughts” talks about struggles with alcohol abuse. “206 N’It” includes shout outs to other Seattle and Tacoma rap artists, and also a list of some local landmarks like the Pike Place Market, Mt. Rainier, and the Space Needle. Most of the album lyrics relate to everyday life, their pride in our city, and their identity as rappers in Seattle. The genre is squarely in the reality rap camp, with less wordplay and concepts and more newspaper style reporting of daily events in the neighborhood.

Highlights on The Playoffs include a slow burner titled “Freak Show,” which is an interpolation of “And The Beat Goes On” by The Whispers. “My World Too” is a moving sequel to “My World” from Takin’ Ends, and this track written solo by group member Moe-B is filled with frank and honest lyrics concerning fear of failure and his own personal struggles. “Outro” names every track on the album in a clever twist. The best thing about The Playoffs is the level of lyrical and philosophical growth compared to the songs on Takin’ Ends. One minor complaint I have about this album is that the songs are all extremely long, and sometimes overstay their welcome. Sometimes a tight three minute track can say more than one that rambles for five or six minutes.

DMS were in a large club of Seattle rap groups and artists who were excellent at their game. They had the breath control which is so important for balanced verses, plus their vocal tones were varied and compelling. The beats were tight, conforming to the highest standards, and the aesthetic was 100% hip-hop. They had the dope style and the swagger to fit the description. If a group like DMS checked all the boxes, then why didn’t they become millionaires? The answer is what some people like to call the ‘X Factor.’ The X Factor means there is something magic or supernatural about your music that is undeniably unique, and thus your content instantly differentiates itself from that of other artists. Without the X Factor, DMS didn’t have one definable quality which could set them apart from the thousands of other rap groups in the 1990s. Therefore, even though they solidly represented their art form, this was their last album according to Discogs. Written by Novocaine132

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From the very beginning of Hustlin-N-Hell it’s clear that Central District representatives Self Tightld are going to take the listener into a dystopian drug dealing and gang banging lifestyle. The cover art shows a chaotic scene in which a cigar smoking skeleton, itself a symbol of death, appears to be wreaking havoc on Seattle. Self Tightld came together in the mid 1990s founded by Maine 1 who teamed up with four other members, Rob Doe, Popsykle, Sikface, and 2elevn. Whether the album glorifies the gangster lifestyle or warns against it will probably depend on the listener, for the tales are rich with ups and downs, victories and defeats, and of course the notorious legacy which comes with going out in a blaze of bullets.

Track two, “Hustlin In Hell” is emblematic of the album’s themes, namely survival is not guaranteed and you don’t get what you deserve but only what you bargain for. “Hustlin In Hell” drops a bread crumb which leads to another famous street rap from Seattle, “I’m not from Union but I’m hustlin,” referring to “Union Street Hustlers” by Ice Cold Mode. The album continues with bleak rhymes about violence in the neighborhood on “Northwest Gunfest,” “Ill Thoughts,” and “Problems.” “Leave these crimes alone and your life just might pop, or a pistol might pop and give your life an early stop,” goes one of my favorite lines on “Problems.” Lack of opportunity for youth is addressed in tracks like “Self Tightld,” “Live4Today,” and “Negatives.”

The group doesn’t only rap about gunplay and trap life, there are also songs like “MC Fo Short,” and “Rhymes Top Of The Line,” which show off verbal skills and drop challenges to other rappers. To their credit, Self Tightld don’t delve too deep into the “Rap about rap” rabbit hole in which rappers spend all their energy talking about their record label or other rappers.

There are several highlights on Hustlin-N-Hell including “Pleasure Pouches” which features an appearance from California’s B-Legit. “Pleasure Pouches” is predictably a paean to pot smoking, and the group celebrates cannabis with various clever rhymes. “Watch That B/N” is a reminder to be careful who you trust, because there is a hustle lurking around every corner. Another track that shines is “Growth And Development,” a very meta message about how to choose the right path in life. Each of us is “Chillin in a crossroads,” as the song puts it, and we must do the right thing or risk a literal dead end. Due to its popularity, Hustlin-N-Hell was re-released by Point Side four years later in 2002. Rest in peace to group members Rob Doe who passed in 1998, and Popsykle who passed in 2018. Written by Novocaine132

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Takin' Ends

DMS was a Seattle rap group with three members, Dee.aLe, Moe-B, and Sheriff. In the early ’90s they were discovered by D-Shot from The Click, who founded his own eponymous Bay Area record label in 1994. That same year the label released a short DMS cassette and CD titled Takin’ Ends. There are only six tracks, but I feel it has enough varied content to call it an album. Overall the beats might be basic but they are undeniably clean and punchy, and it’s a very professional-sounding and well-balanced project.

Takin’ Ends begins with the title track which is a play on words. ‘Making ends meet’ has always been a common phrase for earning money, but DMS aren’t gonna make it, they’re gonna take it. As the song fades in, the group members spy on and discuss another hustler in a drop top who is going to get “caught slippin.” The emphasis on the words “drop top” could be seen as a swipe at fellow Seattle rapper E-Dawg, who had released a single called “Drop Top” only a year prior in ’93. Track two “Which Game” finds the protagonist trying to make a difficult life choice, and it uses a classic Too Short lyric to describe the dilemma, “Do you wanna rap or sell coke?” In fact, the slow simple delivery on “Which Game” is reminiscent of Too Short’s easy going, slow, humorous rhyme style. “Drunk Drivin” is song three, but just like a drunk driver this autobiographical track unfortunately never really finds its direction.

Tracks four and five, “Back Up Off My Tip,” and “Sunshine,” were both featured by Jake One on the legendary 2010 Town Biz Mixtape. “Back Up Off My Tip” is a direct warning to scandalous, gold digging women who might try to use the group for their money. Powerhouse single “Sunshine,” easily the biggest hit on the album, is all about smoking grass. The song deftly turns a sped-up Alexander O’Neal line into a head-nodding beat. “I can’t go a day without my sunshine,” goes the chorus. The last song, “My World,” is all about various circumstances faced by African-American youth growing up in the United States.

This release in 1994 began a several year run for the group which pushed them to higher status in the Seattle rap game. In 2012, a remastered version of Takin’ Ends came out, which included two bonus tracks: “Hoes Be Trippin” and “Typical Tough Guy.” At eight songs Takin’ Ends can finally be called a true album, congratulations fellas. Written by Novocaine132

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