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All Star Opera

In early January of 2018, All Star Opera launched the audacious “Seattle World Tour,” a five-stop jaunt through several neighborhoods in our city, each night selling out a different venue and each night sharing the stage with artists representing a dozen genres of Seattle music. Most of the profits from the tour were donated to Mary’s Place shelter. It’s, therefore, no wonder that this five-piece hip-hop rock band have endeared themselves to the community. I was lucky to see them on stage three times that week, and each live performance shined brighter than the last. Not to mention you get to witness the sheer joy on the face of guitarist Will Greenburg throughout the set. Their self-titled debut, All Star Opera, is the next best thing: ten tracks of singalong roots-rock hip-hop that sounds amazing on headphones. The back half is where this record really packs a punch, from the half-Spanish “Indigestión” and it’s prog-rock trip around The Dark Side of the Moon, to the nightmarish “1,000,” featuring Remember Face and Nacho Picasso, and the seven-minute “Clocktopuss” that jams its way into a frenzy. Album closer, the similarly-lengthy and gracious “A.S.O.,” is enhanced with a string section, showing they are already ready for their MTV Unplugged debut, and all the other famous stages where Seattle has shined.

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2KFG

In the liner notes for this record, music critic Larry Mizell Jr. says “Kung Foo Grip have always been flamethrowers, but lately they’ve been eating straight gunpowder.” That’s the conclusion reached by anyone who’s heard 2KFG: CityArts magazine declared it their Album of The Month in February, describing its sound as “bass-heavy beats, braced with digitized melodies, classic West Coast minimalism and cloud rap.” Respect My Region states it plainly: “The new Kung Foo Grip album is finally out, and it is fire.” The Seattle Times says it is “infectiously cool… a knockout blow.”

Here’s another take:

In their annual year-end critics’ poll, The Seattle Times ranked 2KFG as one of the very best Seattle albums of 2018, saying:

This versatile hip-hop duo have made a name for themselves with explosive live performances, but emcees Greg Cypher and Eff is H show their true range on the Keyboard Kid-produced “2KFG.” One minute they’re kicking melodic hooks that could siphon Sol fans, while getting grimy with Nacho Picasso on the slithering “Risin’” the next. They have the bars to please purists, but Kung Foo Grip are neither boom-bap throwbacks nor cloud-rap play chasers — a group truly cruising in their own lane.

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AntiHero Vol. 2

“iGo,” the opening track on Nacho Picasso’s 2017 release, AntiHero Vol. 2, was playing in my headphones. The vocals bounce around, across several voices. I went to look up who all the featured rappers were on this track, and to my surprise, it’s all Nacho, playing different characters, different intonations, inhabiting different bodies. A few songs later, I thought, “Into The Night” should be suffixed, “feat. Nacho Picasso,” even though it’s his record because here the opening vocals from Mistah F.A.B. and Kobe set up the pins for Nacho to walk in with the assassin’s verse and strike ‘em all down. This guy is a town talent, with impressive range and unorthodox idiosyncrasy. As evidenced by this cover, he’s also a big fan of anime, a genre filled with adolescent fantasies and multi-tentacled monsters terrorizing the orifices of every teenage schoolgirl. The songs on this record are fantasies of excess, too: sex and death and violence. (And a few of those monstrous tentacles.) “I’m on some murder shit,” he raps on “Cereal Killer,” before cracking a joke. Indeed, a lot of these songs are laugh-out-loud funny. On “Somehow (Feat. Raz Simone)” he suggests, “I got a dark past, so bring a flashlight.” The single “Queen of the Dammed” orbits around a deceptively simple loop, and will be permanently stuck in your head. This is but one in a recent series of collaborations with Harry Fraud. You’re encouraged to seek them all out, including 2018’s The Role Model EP, on all them streaming services.

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The Alhambra Collabs

The Alhambra Collabs is a 2016 compilation mixtape from Jarv Dee and DJ Rocryte, exclusively streaming on SoundCloud. It collects together a bunch of Jarv’s appearances on other people’s tracks, demonstrating both his dominance on the scene and acting as a who’s who of Seattle hip hop (Featuring Kung Foo Grip, Nacho Picasso, The Physics, Gifted Gab, Katie Kate and many more) Here, Jarv flies in with the superhero verse and is often accompanied by his loyal sidekick, Mary Jane. Rocryte uses his terrific turntablist chops to scratch these tracks into one continuous 45-minute mix. Head over to SoundCloud to hear the magic for yourself.

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#TEN

Shout out to DJ Zeta and his ongoing series of All City Chop mixtapes. Pictured here is his latest, #TEN, a sampler of the best the local hip hop scene has to offer, featuring tracks from DoNormaal, Raz Simone, Dex Amora, Nacho Picasso, WIZDUMB and many more. He’s an awesome champion of Seattle hip-hop, has his fingers on the pulse, and has introduced me to more than a few amazing local musicians who were not yet on my radar. Get this sampler free on Bandcamp. Alternately, go see Zeta perform live at Vermillion every third Friday as part of his ongoing “Wild Style” residency.

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Satellites, Swishers and Spaceships

One of my favorite records from 2015: Go buy yourself a copy of Jarv Dee‘s deeply funny and intensely relevant album Satellites, Swishers and Spaceships. It playfully transfixes right from the operatic overtones of “Amen” to the soulful stylings of “Mary I’m in Love,” with Jarv covering this spectrum with his confident rat-tat-tat flow. I had the honor of hanging with this cat in Alaska–he deserves all your many “text-mail” accolades.

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7 Slaps In The Sack

7 Slaps In The Sack is a video interview series created by Carrick Wenke. Shot between 2014 and 2020, the show has more than 50 episodes, each of which involves going record shopping at Everyday Music on 10th in Seattle with “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.”

Everyday Music is sadly gone now, but you can view all the episodes from the series on YouTube. A wide range of Town talent has spent the day shopping with Carrick, talking about favorite records, influences, and craft, including Jarv Dee, Keyboard Kid, Nacho Picasso, Romaro Franceswa, Travis Thompson, and many others.

We’ve embedded a few of our favorite episodes below.

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Girl Rap

One of the masterpieces of Seattle rap: Gifted Gab‘s Girl Rap. If this were a cassette I would have long ago worn it out. Rarely a week goes by that I haven’t spun this a few times. Gab has a potent ricochet flow and lots of truth to deliver.

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2014,” saying that:

Gifted Gab becomes a more fully-evolved artist with every release and Girl Rap was Gabby embracing ‘90s-influenced R&B in equal measures with the hard, bracing shit-talk we’ve come to know and love her for. This rapper is good enough to bat third in any crew’s lineup; she’s Griffey-like in the way you don’t want to miss an at-bat because you never know when she’ll do something incredible.

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Nation

This looks like a book, but Nation is a 2014 hip-hop CD from the one and only Katie Kate: Right out the gate–starting with short intro track “The Visions”–this album takes you on a synth-heavy electronic cross-country roller-coaster road trip. There’s an otherworldly quality to this music: After a long day at the wheel, you’ve found yourself somewhere in the southwest desert, your car has broken down but you don’t care. It’s night, and there are just so, so many stars overhead. (I have this image in my head whenever I hear “Zombie”) Your guide supplements her supple melodies with a pulse-pounding rap flow, repetitive chanting, and sweet, ethereal singing. (Along the way, listen for guest hitchhikers Nacho Picasso, Jarv Dee and Rik Rude.) This special edition came as a luxe limited-edition 60-page book, with lyrics, writings, and artwork. The whole package was designed by Radjaw and a handful of copies are still for sale on Bandcamp.

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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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High & Mighty

The Stranger picked High & Mighty as the very best album of 2013, saying that:

Released on the very last day of October, High & Mighty has three things that make it the top record of the year. First, the production on this album is just solid. From the first track (the darkling “Crime Waves”) to the last (the brilliantly twisted “Sounds Like the Outro”), the music keeps the listener engaged and pleased. High & Mighty does not have a single weak or lazy beat. Second, it has a unified sound that corresponds with reason three: Nacho Picasso’s rap mode. His rhymes pulsate just above the subliminal, often spiral into the surreal and pornographic, are often packed with references to deep and dark parts of popular culture, and imagine a nocturnal 206—a 206 that never sleeps but is also not really awake, existing in the twilight of the two states. High & Mighty is a record Seattle can be proud of.

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP also picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2013,” saying that:

Nacho Picasso branches out sonically on High & Mighty, which makes for his best release since 2011’s For The Glory. Nowhere to be found on H&M are common collaborators Blue Sky Black Death, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the atmosphere is lighter. Here we have out-of-Towners Swish and Swiff D providing gothic, trap-inspired soundscapes, in addition to local heavyweights Vitamin D and Jake One on more densely composed beats.

And of course Nacho, possessor of the most recognizable voice in Seattle right now, is in rare form, laying out his bleak philosophy on life on “Crime Waves”, making (ahem) fowl assertions on the opposite sex on “Duck Tales”, and laying out the skeletons in his closet on the emotionally bare “Alpha Jerk”. In 2012, it was often difficult to see the forest for the trees in Nacho Picasso and BSBD’s collabs: too many clouds shrouding the deeper layers of the rapper’s complex psyche. High & Mighty, though, is a step through the looking glass, lyrically and beat-wise, and it results in a much more intricate picture.

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This That & Th3rdz

Hmmm... There's not a lot of information about this project in the museum encyclopedia. We'd love your help! TOWN LOVE is maintained by an awesome community of passionate volunteers who keep it all up to date.

Do you know something about the history of this record? Do you have a favorite lyric or a favorite memory? Send us an email on why this is one of the great hip-hop albums from the Northwest. Thanks!

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The Otherside

The Otherside is an hour-long documentary predominantly covering Seattle’s Capitol Hill-centric “third wave” hip-hop scene, circa 2010. This was a time when MP3s and streaming were fairly new and completely reshaping the music industry. Artists like Blue Scholars were experimenting with Kickstarter and direct fan support. Everyone was trying something new.

There’s a wealth of great interviews, concerts, and backstage footage from artists across the Town. There are hella people in this movie. It’s clear the filmmaker tried to talk with anyone and everyone who was willing. There are some great long chats with Jake One, Prometheus Brown, and Sir Mix-A-Lot. There’s also lots of footage of pre-stardom Macklemore & Ryan Lewis as they prepare to drop The Heist.

Larry Mizell Jr. offers up a four-point guide to being successful in the Northwest: “Be truthful to yourself. Be respectful and knowledgeable of what’s going on and what came before you. Be good: Work on your craft. Further the culture at all times.”

The Otherside premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival and was an audience favorite, selling out two consecutive screenings. It was also chosen as “Best of SIFF” by festival programmers.

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Dopamine

Hmmm... There's not a lot of information about this project in the museum encyclopedia. We'd love your help! TOWN LOVE is maintained by an awesome community of passionate volunteers who keep it all up to date.

Do you know something about the history of this record? Do you have a favorite lyric or a favorite memory? Send us an email on why this is one of the great hip-hop albums from the Northwest. Thanks!

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Exalted

I imagine Nacho Picasso to be an excellent chess player. In an age of Kendrick-esque speed-demon rap, Nacho provides refreshing counterpoint–carefully placed and methodically draped defiant verses over beats before coming in for the kill. Exalted was released in 2012, and is the third of four collaborations with Blue Sky Black Death, a hip-hop production duo from SF. There’s heavy use of synths here. Fav track of mine is “4th of July” a Seattle name-check, pedigree diss track. His is the rap of unrestrained ego, dolled out in slow motion, and listening on headphones, well, it’s hard not to feel cool.

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Young Seattle

Between 2012 and 2016, musician Sam Lachow created three collaborative short films, each bearing the name “Young Seattle.”

Slightly confusingly, the videos are labeled “Parts 1, 2, and 4.” Part 3 was released as an audio-only track with no video.

Here’s his explanation of the concept: “I make these Young Seattle videos each year simply because I’m a huge fan of all these artists. As a fan, I just thought it’d be badass to put them all on one track. My favorite thing about the Seattle hip-hop scene is that we don’t have any specific sound. There are so many different types of styles in this little city and yet we all fuck with each other. We’re all part of the same culture. It’s fucking cool.”

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Ziplock Hip-Hop

From the ghost of Christmas past–or I guess, 2011–here’s Bad Ass Yellow Boyz‘s debut full length, Ziplock Hip-Hop. This album launched the careers of three local hip-hop legends: Jarv Dee, Nacho Picasso and Steezie NASA. And it’s toe-tappingly good, every song a banger and the verses profane in just the right way: They give off the tough guy stance, but you’re well-aware they’re having a blast making these songs. The hit single “Fast Lane” is the one track you should not miss. Also, great trompe l’oeil cover by Tay Sean.

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For The Glory

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

Emerging from a Cloud (Nice, that is) of weed smoke and comic book sound effects is Nacho Picasso. Even blazed-up and squinty-eyed this dude is more clever than your average MC, dropping punchlines quippy enough to win the affection of both your girlfriend and high-brow music publications. For The Glory‘s arrival on the scene correlates perfectly with the sonic trends going on in the greater rap arena. Production duties were handled by Blue Sky Black Death, whose hazy take on the Cloud Rap aesthetic fits in nicely next to the genre’s currently favored albums. The star here is inarguably Nacho himself, though. Holding a Marvel comic book in one hand and a Desert Eagle in the other, the man otherwise known as The Tat in the Hat is poised to introduce his specific branch of Seattle rap to the rest of the nation.

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