Source of Labor’s Stolen Lives, from 2000, is a masterpiece of Seattle hip-hop. Source Of Labor was unlike any other rap group before or since. Everyone should have this in their collection. I can’t speak highly enough about this contribution to our city’s musical canon. (It’s oft-cited as the record that inspired a young Macklemore to begin rapping, FWIW.)
If you’ve never heard of this record, go seek it out immediately. Pictured here is the 19-track double vinyl. As Wordsayer raps on the opener, it’s an “out-of-body audio excursion.” If you can’t snag the vinyl, there’s also a CD version, with a different cover.
Source of Labor was primarily the work of emcee Wordsayer (the late, great Jonathan Moore) and Negus I, with contributions from Vitamin D and MC Kylea, aka Beyond Reality. Stolen Lives was the long-anticipated debut full-length album from a group whose influence is hard to measure. And they deliver here an album that is viscerally emotional, expansive, and experimental, sometimes with a careening rap flow that feels like a car accelerating down a very large hill without brakes. It’s thrilling.
The album is also defiantly proud of its Seattle roots, with civic anthems like “Wetlands,” or there’s “Sunshowers,” which opens with an audio clip that suggests that the people of Seattle think that “the sun is evil.” (LOL.)
The songs often incorporate live performance recordings, which I have to say groups today don’t do enough. I especially love Side 4 and the song “Invaded Lands”, featuring Beyond Reality, which I’ll confess I’ve often had on repeat, playing just that one side over and over again. Treat yourself and seek this own out today.
Here’s another take:
Source of Labor’s prominence on the local hip-hop scene is growing in accordance with the effort the group (and Jasiri Media as a whole) keeps pourin’ into it. If you’ll pardon the play on words, the labor that goes into the source of this sound is massive: From their regular, high-energy shows in Seattle to Stolen Lives, their new full-length album, Source of Labor are working hard to carve a distinct niche for themselves in a corner of the country that still isn’t recognized for the quality hip-hop that keeps sprouting up out of the region’s soggy, intellectual thought-generating climate.
It’s precisely that climate that Source of Labor keep paying tribute to on songs like “Emerald City,” “Sunshower” and “Wetlands,” a catchy song released last year as a 12-inch single. (Anyone else want to get “Wetlands” nominated as the city’s honorary theme song?)
Razor-sharp turntablism, an assortment of humorous, Northwest-specific samples and nice mixing touches make for a strong, original album, and Wordsayer (vocalist and songwriter Jonathan Moore) has got an unquestionable knack for loose, flowing, historically and socially grounded microphone poeticism. To be sure, not every track is particularly memorable-or even seems designed to be-but songs like “Easy” are standout cuts by any standard. Opening with a live version and segueing smoothly into the studio recording, “Easy” rushes you off on a kind of laidback, intergalactic journey, and stops along the way for some schoolin’ on the importance of a positively conscious lifestyle in word, intent, and deed. That’s the kind of message that we could all stand to incorporate more fully into our lives. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by Silja J.A. Talvi.)