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Everything is Nice

“The country’s losing lives while the leader’s out of touch… The shit that be happening… is what got me rapping…” These lyrics loop throughout the title track of Everything is Nice by Seattle hip-hop OGs Prose & Concepts (aka Six In The Clip) whose trippy self-released second album, from 1997, is perfect headphones music for these times. The production is inventive ear candy, while the lyrics continue to hold deep resonance 23 years on. Novocaine 132 wrote this review for The Rocket music newspaper back in the ‘90s about it:

The second album, Everything is Nice, from Seattle’s legendary Prose & Concepts, is as much a Northwest original as the neon Red Hook sign shown in the cover photo. Their debut record, Procreations, brought increased pride to Seattle rap fans through tracks like “W.O.T.R.” “Do You Know?,” “Allone in This Field” and “Roll Call on the 1 and 2’s.”

Everything is Nice continues to prove that literacy and hip-hop aren’t necessarily antonyms. From the cannabis-soaked “Tiny Bubbles,” to the poetic tactics of “Courting Miss Understood,” to the sweet, drifting chorus on “The Ballad,” the album stands head and shoulders above the recycled gangster releases pervading the charts. My personal favorite cut, “Turntable Rhapsody in E Minor,” had me asking turntablist DJ Ace why he didn’t “put that on something” (for instance, Return of the DJ Volume II, where it certainly belongs). I wish I could truly say that everything is nice, but like Goodie Mob said, “I wanna tell you that it’s all good but it ain’t”; one of the group’s MCs, Michael “Dub” Weltmann, died on the last day of 1996. His verse in the closing song “Loose Cannon” will, to many, always be an eerie reminder of just how fragile life really is. I think we need a moment of silence.

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14 Fathoms Deep

Exponential growth, part one: Woman gives herself a home permanent. Her hair looks so good that she tells two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on…

Exponential growth, part two: Andre “Dr. Dre” Young gets on with NWA, and goes on to make some of the best beats ever produced. On Dre’s Deep Cover track he employed the velvet-tongued Snoop, who hasn’t looked back since beginning his pursuit of Death Row domination. Once Snoop hit platinum status, he was quick to put Daz and Kurupt on a disc, and from there forward those two certainly haven’t done too shabbily. The point is this: Every artist has friends they want to help out once they themselves have safely achieved success.

Keeping this in mind, it is with eager anticipation that I await the exponential growth of Seattle’s rap/hip-hop scene following the long-coming release of the new Loosegroove compilation, 14 Fathoms Deep. This record is so heavy it could hang with Tad. Let’s face it: Its weight is just plain ridiculous. This is the kind of music that could inspire 14 empires, build 14 record labels, or, at the very least, boost 14 of Seattle’s hip-hop groups a little bit closer to well-deserved fame and fortune.

Allow me to break it down track by ahead-of-its-time track. Sinsemilla contributes the perfect opener for the compilation, a scherzando club track titled “Drastic Measures.” Verbal twists like, “Down with a criminal Jill we Jack together” can and will get you open extra wide. Next, 22nd Precinct barges in with the unruly honesty of “Great Outdoors”: “It’s a pity the way the city treats the poor” had me thinking of the forgotten and misplaced, huddling over downtown Seattle’s iron steam grates.

“Official Members” by Mad Fanatic (featuring Raychyld) will definitely catch you rewinding. It’s slow and hypnotic, and lyrics like “My rhyme’s deep in the dirt/ Worms can’t find it” beg to be heard twice. DMS furthers the slow groove on “Keep Da Change,” but spiky attitude is the key here: “The six is in the mix so domino motherfucker” rides a keyboard-funk beat.

A powerhouse Source of Labor dazzles with their track, “Cornbread.” It’s all about musical subtlety when lines like “How can you claim to be an MC/When an MC’s what you just can’t be/ You can’t be an MC and not freestyling” make the point undeniable. Ghetto Chilldren get their OJ on with “Court’s in Session,” and Pulp Fiction’s most enduring catchphrase becomes Forrest Gump’s threat to “get medieval on your buttocks.” The sparest of basslines and flute notes flutter prettily behind harsh words like “You stand accused of being wack in the first degree/ Premeditating slang terms for your hardcore soliloquies.” “All Up in the Mix” by Narcotik opens with the most breathtaking sample on 14 Fathoms Deep (“The 206 is in my mix”). The rhyme proceeds to kick some street philosophy with plenty of drinking and smoking thrown in for good measure.

Beginning vinyl side three is Jace (featuring Dionna), with “Ghetto Star.” Its catchy chorus and storyline lyrics ensure this track will be engraved front-and-center in your brain for weeks to come. Beyond Reality–who are listed on the album as Kylin–brings on the spirit of the Jasiri Media Group with their track “Can.” “Let me take your mind on a little mental journey,” invites lead MC Kylea. For the most metaphors per line, look for “Higher Places” by Prose & Concepts, a group that falls into the “survival of the fattest” category.

“Insomniack Museick” by NS of the O.N.E Corporation is probably the moodiest track on the compilation. Dark clouds of drifting keyboards become still more ominous layered behind introspective lyrics such as “Sometimes I’d even trade a nightmare/ Just for 50 winks.” The beat on “Interrogation” by Blind Council bubbles like the scuba gear on the compilation’s cover, and the rhyme is strictly for the connoisseurs out there. Union of Opposites (featuring Shonuph) put down a forward-moving track titled “Continuations”-its relay-style chorus is as fresh as the verses, and the melodic tone moves the disc into another direction entirely. “Wipe off the dust from your mind and recline in my oration.” It’s at once relaxing and educating.

The last cut, also by far the longest, is the most difficult to categorize. The group is the Crew Clockwise and their song, titled “A New Day,” is a heady mix of the many styles showcased on 14 Fathoms Deep. Now I know what Specs meant on Do the Math when he said, “Soon to hit wax I can’t wait.”

So now you know the deal. When these groups start putting their friends on future projects, it may mean more than some heads can handle. 14 Fathoms Deep is not just another hip-hop compilation. In actuality, it’s a promise of even lovelier things to come. Instead of talking about how materialistic and useless today’s rap is, these 14 groups are doing something positive and proactive. Rap music is not dead. Seattle has the Phoenix in the mix. (This review originally appeared in The Stranger in 1997 and was written by Novocaine132.)

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Procreations

There was a time in the mid ’80s when I loved rap like life itself because it was exuberant and out-of-control and made me wanna swagger down the street kissing boys I didn’t know (in my mind only, understand). But later on, rappers started getting cooler and cooler, and I fuckin’ hate cool people. They’re always telling the rest of us to mellow out and stop embarrassing them.

I liked Six in the Clip, though. They were a local, racially mixed crew of screwballs whose snotty rhymes could inspire entire roomfuls of jaded rockers to…actually move.

Now they’re called Prose and Concepts and they are serious. Uh oh…

Gone is the uneven feel of Six in the Clip; now all these guys rap like pros. Like most rappers who “get serious,” they’ve laid back a bit, but not everyone will see that as a problem. The DJ is superb, the samples understated-no real show-offy stuff, except in the lyrics, which are mainly the old school type raps about how great the rappers are, with some nonsense rhymes that sound good thrown in (“Knick knack paddy whack, give the fools a Prozac”). That’s all fine by me; I don’t need to hear any more about big butts or big guns for a while.

My fave here is the insanely catchy “P,” which is about pee. It’s one of the only moments on the album when the guys seem to really cut loose and have some fun. In fact, some of the songs have an almost sinister undercurrent to them; sampled minor chords throb hypnotically behind droning rhymes.

This is an impressive enough first effort, but now that these guys have proved they can rap, maybe they’ll go all out and throw us a party again. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by Dawn Anderson.)

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The Dotted Line...

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