A film about Northwest hip-hop from

FNDMNTLS

FNDMNTLS is a 2014 mixtape from vowel-adverse Porter Ray. This record is filled with studies–of stasis, and of the crystallization of memory. Take for example “Ruthie Dean” a 5 1/2 minute song of rambling recollection, while in the background the same piano loops over and over again. Porter’s stream of consciousness storytelling repeats reoccurring motifs across multiple songs: dice, his absent brother, shorty, the District, after parties, countless blunts smoked and bottles raised in honor of some lost time before, as Cam The Mac intones throughout “Blackcherry,” sex, drugs and money dominated his days. Or, as Porter himself says wistfully on “Meditate,” “I wonder where this rap shit is taking me.” This record was released around the time he signed with Sub Pop. Two years on, his first official SP release, Watercolor is finally, imminently due, and we’re about to find out where.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Reigncraft, Volume 1: The Resources

The tech world is known for Silicon Valley start-up incubators like Y Combinator which launched in 2005. Incubators bring together talented people with different skillsets who team up to create new technology companies. In 2003, a fan of Seattle hip-hop named KNDNM was ahead of the curve. He decided to start his own Seattle hip-hop incubator called Reigncraft, which led to a CD compilation, Reigncraft, Volume 1: The Resources. KNDNM explains his goal on “Intro,” which is to introduce producers, rappers, and studios to each other so that they can all find someone who matches their creative vision.

“Sing A Song” by Willie Will and Illy Wonka starts things off, and it’s hella dope. At first it seems bubblegum, but as the track goes forward it gets more and more nutritious, and the MCs earn the candy beat with excellent flows. This is a sound that could be on the radio, it rides like a more wholesome version of “Headband” by B.o.B. and 2 Chainz, or a less repetitive “There It Go” by Juelz Santana.

Ricky Pharoe is a rapper known for alter egos. After all, he released four albums as Art Vandelay, George Costanza’s fictional architect. Is that meta enough for you? Here he uses the name Greasy Earl, and offers the track “Celebrity Status.” Earl hits it out of the park on this multi-dimensional, entertaining joint, with a gorgeous beat produced by I. Meek and J. Karp. “Keep clipping the coupons, I’m up in the penthouse, you sleep on a futon,” he disses. Pharoe dropped a full Greasy Earl album in 2003 titled Chief Executive Officer, with possibly my favorite rap track of all time, “New Earl Order.”

Illy Wonka returns with his own solo track, “This Is How I Feel,” which is another winner. Wonka found an excellent producer in Mugsy Styles, who also produced “Sing A Song.” While some tracks on The Resources are muddy and poorly mixed, Mugsy’s work is clean and his beats pop with clarity. The mood is positive and the lyrics provide something to build on, such as, “When you don’t practice, you lose.” I’m a big fan of empowering messages, and Wonka has plenty.

“Buildn 16” is the most complex track on the compilation. From the first line, “First floor apartment one, a single mom and her son,” the lyrics are very visual and descriptive. Rappers A.C. and Kevin deliver compelling verse after verse. The beat allows the message to stand out by staying in the background, but it brings plenty of funky weirdness and mood for days. Reigncraft was an ambitious project, and it would not be long before Volume 2: The Source arrived later in 2003. Written by Novocaine132

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