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Table Manners 2

Last weekend I was thrilled to pick up a copy of Vitamin D’s Table Manners 2 on wax at The Big Dig event at Vermillion. Here’s a truly unique gem in the long canon of Seattle hip-hop: It’s from 1999 and it plays like one long, uninterrupted 45-minute jam, Vita on the decks sampling and scratching his way through the crates, while a revolving door of late-90s emcees takes turns freestylin’ over top. (Are there any other Seattle hip-hop record so devoted to the art of Turntablism?) Many of the Tribal gang are featured on this record: Samson S, Silas Black, B-Self, H Bomb, Wordsayer J. Moore, and there’s even a short segment of rival scratching, called “Jake’s Breaks,” starting Tuxedo’s Jake One. Table Manners 2 is such a fun record from start to finish. It’s easygoing and raw and loose. You feel like you’re in the studio, hanging out with our Town’s top talent at the turn of the millennium. Local music rag The Rocket said this album “breathes new life into classic breaks like the Headhunters and Kool & The Gang, and still manages to mix it up with lesser-known gems for the record nerds… featuring guest MCs busting over the breaks.” In their review, The Stranger described Vita as “a compulsive scratcher who is inclined to funk and soul beats… Table Manners 2 is like being taken for a wondrous tour through a museum of sounds.” This record is a uniquely rare treasure in the lineage, and everyone should own a copy. It’s a joy from start to finish.

Here’s another take:

Table Manners 2 is a NW classic: One of the few examples of exemplary turntablism to come from Seattle. It’s a Robin Williams-style “come into my mind” for local hip-hop legend Vitamin D. Vitamin invites the listeners to get on a roller coaster full of old soul, jazz, and funk breaks. Table Manners 2 is a history lesson with dozens of classic musical arrangements from every decade flawlessly woven together by a hip-hop-scratching real-live human DJ. Mixed throughout the melodies are several freestyles from local Seattle rappers such as Samson S, B-Self, and the true legend: Wordsayer from Source of Labor. Vitamin has an encyclopedic knowledge of breaks and the history of hip-hop sampling, which makes this record such a fun listen. He knows just which parts of the track to use in order to let the famous sample sneak up on you. If you want to get a picture of what it looks like inside Vitamin D’s head, all you have to do is pick up a copy of Table Manners 2 and you can find out. It’s a pretty cool place. (Written by Novocaine132.)

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Freestyle Demo Tape

I came across this often-rumored, seldom-heard tape today when I visited Tribal’s Bandcamp page, and couldn’t believe my eyes. I instantly downloaded it, but there was work to do and guests coming over and it had to wait there on my desktop until everything else quieted down. It’s just after Eleven at night and I have now finished listening to this for the first time and the euphoria and dopamine is still circulating in my head, so my apologies in advance if I dork out. But what am I supposed to say about this? To convince you of the value of this work? I tend to gush, and I have been called a Seattle hip-hop Stan by more than a few, and I readily accept the label – after all, have I ever posted up a negative write-up, or had anything less than stellar words to say about who I choose to post about? I can understand that what I have to say has to be taken with a grain of salt because I have an undying love for the Town and the artists in it and the music it shapes. When I was 13 years old Nirvana broke out, and a few short years later I first heard Tribal Productions’ Untranslated Prescriptions, and the rest is history. I’m a lost cause; for me Seattle was, is, and will continue to be the coolest city on the face of the Earth. In short, I know I’m biased. But, the memory of driving around in a car with my friends after school, listening over and over to Sinsemilla’s “Confrontations” and PHAT Mob’s “P.H.A.T.” above the grind of the heater – those are oddly some of my most cherished mementos I have of the heady, emotional roller-coaster ride that is adolescence. Out through stock radio speakers from a warbly tape came rough, beautiful music made by kids not much older than myself, living a few short miles away, that was unlike anything else out there. There was East coast and West coast, and then after Untranslated there was Seattle. To this day when I listen to that tape or Do The Math and hear those young voices over thin, scratchy, heart-wrenching instrumental tracks, it gives me a feeling of pride for my home – and also that the world can still be surprising, and as full of promise and terrifying opportunity as only a teenager can imagine. And now with the Freestyle Demo Tape, I have something else to invoke those emotions in me, even though I never got the chance to listen to it back then. But those young voices are still there, as is the atmosphere of that wonderfully familiar 4-track – and even without the nostalgia I chain it to, it still sounds fresher than fresh. And that my friends is why I’m all bubbly about this release – and actually everything else I post up about Seattle music. Tribal’s vibe is understated but it extends deep, throughout the Northwest and outward. That sound crafted by Vitamin D and Topspin has soaked into the Town and set the mood and tone of its music to this day, whether you like it or not. And I for one love the hip-hop of Seattle because of that mood – the whole genre in this neck of the woods has become part of Tribal’s legacy. That grey jazz, the substance of the lyrics, you can hear it all over the 206 – it still gives me a thrill whenever I catch it. And to be honest I’m here writing on this blog because of Tribal. I want people to hear this largely unknown music and understand its greatness and influence, in the hope of conveying that spark. Who I choose to write about are those that give me that same thrill, that child-like wonder, that sense of excitement that is, unfortunately, more and more rarely found as I get older. I don’t know what listening to this will do for you, as I’m sure very few of you have the same experiences with Tribal Productions but listen to it anyway. Use it to think about the music that you’re passionate about, and to think about what artists helped move you and shape you into who you are now. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Do The Math

Here’s one of many local archeological gems: Tribal Music’s Do The Math, from 1996, is an appropriate start, with collegiate cover, that is an essential part of any Seattle musical education. Damn is this record great.

This compilation was primarily compiled and produced by Vitamin D. It also features several cuts from his underappreciated supergroup, Ghetto Chilldren. Tribal Music was an important ’90s label that we should thank for cataloging our city’s golden boom-bap era, all those jazz samples and scratching, at a time when Seattle was awash in grunge hangover. Do The Math arrow-points to the origins of our uniquely laid-back upper-left sound, summarizing the underground roots of today’s scene. You can find this record for free on Bandcamp. If you have any interest or involvement in local hip-hop, you owe it to the many Duwamish ghosts to go listen to this today. The cover photo was taken by Diana Adams of Vermillion fame.

Here’s another take:

The giant that all Northwest acts have had to measure up to: The Do The Math compilation. Sounding only marginally more professional than their earlier tapes, the Tribal artists deliver with track after track of murky, jazzidelic perfection. Vitamin D and DJ Topspin are the obvious stars of the show, setting the gray, rainy tone for an expanded array of talent to rhyme over. Phat Mob, Ghetto Children, Sinsemilla, Union of Opposites, and the rest of the Tribal family are joined by such artists as the Silent Lamb’s Silas Blak, Source of Labor’s Wordsayer, and the Elevators’ Specs, rounding out the sound more than on Untranslated Prescriptions. I kid you not; this is a heavy release. To put it into perspective, this is to Seattle what the Project Blowed comp is to LA. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Untranslated Prescriptions

Untranslated Prescriptions is the original Tribal Music tape, released on Maxell cassette back in ’95 and re-issued on vinyl in 2019. Tribal Music was a small Seattle record label masterminded by Vitamin D and Topspin that put out cassettes, a few 12-inches, a couple of CDs, and then called it a day. But what was put out was absolute quality. Featuring nothing but local talent, the music was easily the equal of any of their peers at the time, but unlike Heiro, Solesides, and the Goodlifers (the most comparable crews in my opinion), the majority of the Tribal cats never made a splash outside their home town.

Back in high school some friends of mine who were cooler than me somehow heard about this and trekked out to Music Menu in Rainier Beach to pick this shit up. I remember hearing this tape over and over again with those guys, but I never actually got my hands on it to dub it. I never even knew the name of it – everyone just called it “the Tribal comp.” After getting the vinyl reissue, I went apeshit. I never had any hopes that I would ever hear this tape again, and listening to it now brings back some excellently hazy memories for me. This was the beginning of my appreciation for Northwest hip-hop. Phat Mob, Ghetto Chilldren, Sinsemilla – to me, it really gets no better than this. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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