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Homebass

The cover of Homebass features an in-motion collage of trees and records evoking the chaotic fury of our times. Do yourself a favor and slide on this six-song, 21-minute project the way you might a pair of immaculately tailored pajamas. Get comfortable and settle in.

Opening cut “OMG!!!!!!!” questions how one reconciles their dreams with reality while nodding to those small pleasures that make the struggle worth it. On a day like today, when the world recoils from George Floyd’s murder, Cypher asks “Do you play it safe?”

Many songs question our individual actions against the status quo while providing an invitation to get to know Greg Scott Cypher better. “They don’t understand me,” he says on “WOO WOO.” As a rhymer, Cypher is a fast-moving dribbler. Before you know it, he’s dunked another lyrical basket.

The album’s centerpiece is “Mi Casa” where, against a whirlwind of background voices and clamor, Greg speaks directly to you with an arresting intimacy in the age of social distancing. Producer Def Dee grounds every track with a deep sense of place using sublime studio skills. You’re there. In the room. As a loping Rube Goldberg beat unfolds on “Mi Casa,” as the wavering rumble of piano interrupts “NuthinToSay” (featuring KFG compadre Mr. Hentvii), and in the yard, banging beats on boards with the gang on “DAY UNO’s.” This cut pulls the slick Rik Rude outta retirement for a feature that Cypher says is an album highlight. It is.

Auto-tuned Greg on “Space” is at first unexpectedly jarring but proves to be yet another of this album’s many delights. Homebass is a solo debut, a clear statement in response to our uncertain times, a chance to hear a familiar voice anew, and a clear contender for album of the year 2020.

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NEWCOMER

This 82-minute feature film is an intimate introduction to Seattle’s vibrant hip-hop underground. It was assembled from hundreds of tiny performance clips—shot for Instagram—into a single, continuous concert mosaic, and stars 93 of the top hip-hop artists from The Town.

Here’s how KEXP describes it in their review: “NEWCOMER stretches the idea of the concert film to an artistic extreme: Sub-minute snippets artfully arranged to resemble a field recording of Seattle’s rap scene, the pieces fractured and pieced back together in a truly engrossing way. The narrative flows through venues like Barboza, Cha Cha Lounge, Vermillion, Lo-Fi, the Showbox, the Crocodile, and dozens more. It’s Khris P pouring Rainier into a Solo cup while he raps; bodies packed into regional landmark ETC Tacoma; SassyBlack improvising a song urging concertgoers to buy her merch; the delightfully awkward dance moves of white people in KEXP’s Gathering Space; Chong the Nomad beatboxing and playing harmonica simultaneously; Bruce Leroy bullying a beat next to the clothing racks at All-Star Vintage; Specswizard rhyming about his first time performing in front of a crowd while standing before The Dark Crystal playing on a projection screen. The film is about the moments we experience—as lovers of live performance—just as much as the performances themselves.”

NEWCOMER was directed by Gary Campbell and was an official selection at the 2020 New York Hip-Hop Film Festival and the 2020 Golden Sneakers International Hip-Hop Film Festival in Hamburg, Germany. Throughout November 2020, the film screened for four weeks on the Northwest Film Forum theatrical screening site in honor of Hip-Hop History Month.

You can watch the full movie below.

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The Wizard of Ounces

When I was first writing this, I wrote the phrase “singular sound” multiple times. Stop reading and go listen to “28 Grams of Wizardry,” and then come back. Oh, you’re back? Let’s start here: In the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy’s house is plucked up from its familiar environment and era and dropped into technicolor magic land. Pictured here is the brand-new The Wizard of Ounces cassette from Rik Rude which is indeed that colorful, exotic place. It revives the rave-soaked summer of 1995, filled with drum-n-bass music—like Goldie’s Timeless and Photek and all those Metalheadz 12” singles. The sound essentials from that summer Rude delivers in an electrifying recontextualization, all fresh and new for our present time. You’re going to hear this record and then you’re going to look up ‘90s drum-n-bass records on YouTube and then you’re going to want to make more new albums like this one. “Let this record spin,” he says, in that amazingly multidirectional flow. While the record spins the magic happens: Once you see these colors you’ll struggle going back to b&w. “Spark a spliff and meditate,” he says on the spectacular “Gold Standard.” I’m genuinely addicted. It’s good to hear Kelly Castle Scott featured on a couple of cuts. Listen for the many piano details during the “Rolling with a pack of lions” song… It’s called “Bronze Lions of Glory.” Headphones are a must.

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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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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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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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Bossalona

Introducing Bossalona, a 2012 Seattle banger from Fresh Espresso–rap duo P Smoov and Rik Rude–that comes out swinging. I love the bullfighting cover. There was a time a few years ago when I was obsessed with bullfighting: the spectacle, the dance, the push-pull dynamics between epically opposing forces. (Deadly serious and playfully silly.) All things you’ll find on this record, too. Bullfights are often preordained: You know the inevitable outcome going in and the focus is the journey that gets you there, and this sentiment is especially evident in the album closer, “Goodbye My Love,” a Dear John letter to a life of excess and drugs and an acknowledgment that something is about to end. Along the journey to get there, a plethora of exotic beats and sentiments: Samples from ragtime and funk and Indian melodies on fav “Yommie.” Nocturnal club track “Sunglasses On” is just on the right side of cheesy. Vocalist Shaprece, featured on half the tracks, waves a red cape at all the right moments, propelling the music forward.

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SeattleCali Fragilistic ExtraHella Dopeness

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2010,” saying that:

The album equivalent of a 2-0-6 hip-hop house party, by design SeattleCali wasn’t exactly an official debut LP for State of the Artist, but a showcase for much of the talent in the city. The three SOTA emcees were consistently outshone by their guests and a lot of times the lyrics didn’t seem to make any sense. As strictly a party album, however, there wasn’t one better.

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4 The Love of Music

Imagine a family reunion where everyone is there. I mean everyone. That means you get to see grandpa captivate people with his charm and wit, and you can hear a few of the aunts harmonizing a lovely new song they just made up, but you may encounter some not-so politically correct language from certain relatives. 4 The Love Of Music contains 17 tracks from across the family of rap and hip hop in the Emerald City as it existed when this comp was released in 2010. The expert curation by Tendai Maraire places tracks by superstars like (his own band) Shabazz Palaces, Macklemore, and Sir Mix A Lot, alongside offerings by other artists familiar to fans of Seattle hip hop. Thee Satisfaction contributes “Queen Supreme” and The Physics give us “Booe’d Up.” Fresh Espresso’s “Sunglasses On” stands out for its synthwave aesthetic, while “What Up Pimpin” by Draze is impossible to dislike, it’s simple and catchy. Unfortunately, there are too many more artists to name them all, but I must mention “Can’t Stand The Reign” by Mash Hall. Clocking in at five minutes and thirty-six seconds, this track is mysterious and inventive, calling to mind a hallucinatory Harmony Korine movie soundtrack. 4 The Love Of Music is one of the most complete assemblies of Seattle’s diverse rap community, and this compilation is a must-own. (This review was submitted by reader Novocaine132.)

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Glamour

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2009,” saying that:

Easy to hate on and equally as easy to dance to, Glamour simultaneously represents all that is right and wrong with hip-hop. P Smoov and Rik Rude’s hipster musical stylings bring more folks into the 206’s glorious hip-hop sphere — and this is a good thing. The duo has virtually nothing of substance to say, however — and this is a bad thing. Doesn’t matter, though. The relevance of Fresh Espresso is firmly established in The Town, so soapbox bloggers like me can step the fuck off, I guess. Plus, P Smoov’s already prodigious talent and still-to-be realized potential is undeniable.

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Think Tank

Seattle collective the Mind Movers released this ambitious record in 2008. City-wide in scope, the talents of over 30 Town emcees, vocalists, DJ’s and producers were utilized in the creation of this solidly underground compilation; probably exposing many of them to an audience that may have not heard them before, thus making it somewhat of a Do The Math for the Northwest’s third wave of hip-hop.

Think Tank is 21 varied and energetic tracks in length, and each song has multiple contributors. Crew cuts! I for one had only known of a few of the collaborators when I picked this up; it certainly opened my ears to a ton of great talent. The Mind Movers are made up of emcees Khanfidenz, Inkubiz, Mic Flont, Open Hands, Phreewil (who also handles production, and now resides in Hawaii), and producer/DJ Dead Noise. Besides those cats, the massive Seattle crew Alpha P/First Platoon represents as well, with features from emcees Jerm (also of Cloud Nice), Inkubiz and Phree Wil(again!), Kasi Jack Gaffle, Diez, Asad, Rajnii Eddins, Rufio, Jerz, Julie C, Yirim Seck, and Asun, who especially kicks it all over these tracks. Other names appear as well… It’s a huge who’s who.

Musically the beats are heavy, dusty underground gems. With six beatmakers in attendance, the tracks are surprisingly cohesive, although the ranges of styles are vast. Drum-heavy, broody, atmospheric tracks are heard in abundance (thanks mainly to Phree Wil), alongside upbeat soul samples, and mellow jazz piano loops. Whatever, it’s all nice; no beats out of a can here, this is artistic craftsmanship from the bottom up. Despite the huge undertaking, only the surface of the last decade’s hip-hop scene has been scratched with this release. The Town is bursting at the seams with talent. This is just a decent slice of it. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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