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Cidewayz: Full Circle

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I Am Mark Womack

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The Cause & Effect

Today, I’m sharing the history of the 2007 G-Funk debut of D.Black, The Cause & Effect. It dropped descended from a line of hip-hop royalty: The son of James Croone (aka Captain Crunch J Croone) of Emerald Street Boys and Mia Black from Emerald Street Girls. As a youth, D.Black was mentored by Vitamin D, then co-managed by Sir Mix-A-Lot’s manager Ricardo Frazer and Source of Labor’s J.Moore (RIP).

At age 16, he was a co-founder of legendary Sportn’ Life Records alongside Devon Manier, and a driving force behind one of our town’s most important hip-hop artifacts, the 2003 Sportin’ Life compilation featuring Oldominion, Narcotik, Silent Lambs Project, Frame, and others. The label also launched the careers of Fatal Lucciauno and Spac3eman.

So in the middle of this tornado, 19-year-old D.Black released The Cause & Effect, a debate-ending anvil from a talented prodigy. It features production from hip-hop heavyweights: Bean One, Jake One, Supreme La Rock (as part of The Conmen), Fearce, and Ryan Croone (famous for the funky gangsta sound of Squeek Butty Bug’s excellent Really Cheatin’ from 1997). A bunch of cuts were produced by D.Black himself. Every track oozes confidence and certainty. There are so many gems here.

Like most mid-00 CDs, 19 tracks fill the full 72-minute capacity, and there are features galore from Fatal, Choklate, J. Pinder, Dyme Def, and The Parker Brothaz. This a true Seattle classic available on Spotify and Bandcamp. Go listen today.

Here’s a curious twist to the story: Shortly after releasing this record, D.Black abandoned his gangsta roots and cut ties with this project. Years later, he finally returned to the mic under a new name, Nissim, and a new identity as a black Orthodox Jewish hip-hop artist based in Israel.

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The Rebirth

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Checkmate

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Hollow Point Lyrics

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The Streetz Iz Enough

Skuntdunanna dropped his CD, Trapped In Da Hatrixx, on Sea Sick Records in 1998. By the time his next album The Streetz Iz Enough came out in 2003, Skunt had joined D-Sane’s Street Level Records, home to Syko, IK, Byrdie, and the label’s marquee group Full Time Soldiers. The Streetz Iz Enough is a tour de force from one of the slickest rappers to ever emerge from Seattle. Spending all his time and effort in the studio paid off, allowing Skunt to develop a unique personality and character on the mic in real time, and the listener can hear him shifting gears between gangsta, hustler, pimp, comedian, and stone cold MC.

To me, one of the best things about Skunt’s material is the steady flow of truly hilarious punchlines. “Must have got help from the Post Office, because they turned thug overnight,” is one that always makes me chuckle. He makes joke after joke, using wordplay and insults, generally staying three or four steps ahead of the listener. Because his flow is so asymmetrical, there’s no way to know what he’s going to say next. Guest appearances enhance many of the tracks here. Wanz sings the groovy hook on “All I Got,” rap veteran Silver Shadow D lends some ragga chanting to “Soundproof,” and golden-voiced Byrdie drops a delectable verse on “Shake It.”

My favorite cut on this album is the title track, “The Streetz Iz Enough,” featuring underground Seattle rap hero Framework. This song goes so hard with lines like, “Memories of childhood days, but now instead of playing ball, I’m dropping flowers on graves.” Another hot track on this CD is simply titled, “Skuntdunanna.” “Pronounce the f***ing name right, dog,” he exhorts the listener. “Crazy Life Pt. 2” is an autobiographical piece which tells Skunt’s story of coming up in the Seattle rap game. There are even a couple of skits, “Rap Right Commercial,” and “Rejection Hotline,” which add to the entertaining vibe of the album. The cover artwork says this is the first official Skuntdunanna album, and the musical partnership between Skuntdunanna and D-Sane continued to grow throughout the 2000s and 2010s. Written by Novocaine132

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The When It Rains Compilation

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Chapter II: A Hustlaz Livin Hell

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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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Save Me

Seattle’s Point Side Records entered the hip-hop game in 1998 with the release of Self Tightld’s Hustlin-N-Hell album on cassette and CD. A promising West Seattle raised MC named Gangsta Nutt guested on two Hustlin-N-Hell songs, “Problems,” and “Negatives.” Nutt had the fire in his gut, and he recorded his own solo album Save Me on Point Side the following year in 1999. Save Me is all about gangster life and hustling. According to Nutt’s ReverbNation page, “Even though Gangsta Nutt’s “ghetto experience” has seen its share of adversity, he says he doesn’t regret any of its negative elements, because it has made him the Man, the Father, as well as the MC that he has become.”

Some of the cuts on Save Me don’t quite come together. For instance, opener “The Twist” is muddled by the persistent beeping sound of a truck backing up. “Letter To The Pen” features a distracting off-key melody in the chorus that pulled me out of the vibe. Despite small missteps, the album on the whole is a strong debut. Gangsta Nutt was a practiced rapper who knew how to tell a story and get his point across. “Love Clutch” and “Don’t Stop” tackle the subject of women and relationships. “Last Word” and title track “Save Me” both illustrate the bleak choices that many young people face growing up in America. I have to admit that I like the multiple meanings of the album title. Does he mean save his soul for Jesus? Save him from a life of crime? Save this album to my iTunes list?

Highlights include track five, “Criminal Life,” with a slinky beat produced by RC The Trackaholiq. “Criminal Life” features singing by Francci and raps by legendary Los Angeles veteran King T. Another strong cut is the sentimental “My Micasa,” which is a look back at how Nutt fell into a life of hustling. After a long and successful rap career, Gangsta Nutt passed away in June of 2021, rest in peace to an OG. Written by Novocaine132

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Come Fi Love

One could say that 1996 was a good year for Silver Shadow D. He produced “Keep Da Change” for DMS, which appeared on the 14 Fathoms Deep compilation. Then he helped Southend rap duo 46th St. put out a promo single titled “On Tha Run.” In addition to these accomplishments, he completed his debut solo CD and cassette titled Sleepless “Tha Brickkks” on his new label with Gene Dexter called Lost & Found Recordings.

This ragga twelve-inch single “Come Fi Love” from Silver also dropped in 1996, but the track doesn’t appear on the Sleepless album. Silver Shadow was heavily influenced by Jamaican dancehall and ragga style music during the mid-1990s, and this Patois-filled song is living proof. “Come Fi Love” is a sexy track and the beat is produced by RC The Trackaholiq, one of the hardest working producers in the Seattle rap game. The B-side is Silver’s self-produced mixtape cut “None Want Test,” which is also not found on his full album.

In 2007, RC included “Come Fi Love” on his Hood Classics Vol. 2 compilation, giving the song a new audience. Spin it today and get a dose of Silver Shadow D. Written by Novocaine132

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Really Cheat'n

Here are some car-stereo-shaking Central District tales of murder, violence, romance, and good weed: Released in 1995, Really Cheat’n from Squeek Nutty Bug is grooving G-Funk at its finest.

After spending his early years in the Midwest—and in jail—Squeek made a big splash on the Seattle scene in the mid-‘90s, named so because of his distinctive high-pitched vocal delivery. He released a catchy first single called “ILL HETCHA HY”—you should sound this out. The song also appears on this full-length, this all-too-short, nine-track Really Cheat’n. The whole album is funky hop fantastic with live instrumentation courtesy of producer Ryan “RC” Croone, who, after this project, launched a production empire. Together, he and Squeek are bringing that “hydroponic do-do-funk type shit” as he says in the opener. Squeek himself saw his verses as education, once saying to the Seattle Times, “I’m takin’ hip-hop to the vegetables and the vitamins.” The closing track “Outro” is almost three full minutes of thanks to town talent and favorites delivered in a most amusing style. Overall, this is a hella fun record, reminiscent at times of Gifted Gab, who’s one of the main players who turned me onto it. Really Cheat’n was also one of the first releases from CD Raised Records, a Central District record label started by Captain Crunch, a member of the once mythological Seattle hip-hop group the Emerald Street Boys, and father of D.Black/Nissim. That fact, plus one that Squeek was a headliner on Nasty Nes’s “Best of Northwest Hip-Hop” stage at Folklife Fest that year, connects this record to a host of this town’s amazing first generation of hip-hop legends. Dee.aLe from DMS is featured, as are Young K, Lil Mafia (AKA Skuntdunanna), ROK, BG Bari, & Kevin Gardner.

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