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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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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Coolout Legacy

NYC filmmaker Georgio Brown moved to the Northwest in the early ’90s. In 1991, along with VJ D, he founded The Coolout Network, a public access show on cable television that would record the evolution of Seattle’s early hip-hop scene. As Georgio says at the beginning of this film, “we went to the community centers, parks, schools, clubs… Every place that hip-hop was happening… We wanted to cover it.” They certainly did. Coolout ran for 16 years on television, from 1991 until 2007. Various forms of the project continue online to this day.

This particular film, The Coolout Legacy was made by Georgio Brown himself. He narrates and reflects on the impact of the show and its importance to our local hip-hop community.

There’s vintage footage here galore: A teenage Funk Daddy shows off a trophy “taller than me” that he won at a DJ contest, before showing us some of the moves that earned him the victory. Laura “Piece” Kelley addresses the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated rap scene. She often faces the insult that “she can rap pretty good for a girl.” But she replies, “I rap good for the world… And I don’t rap good. I rap well.”

Rapper H-Bomb heaps some well-deserved praise on Specswizard: “Nobody’s been doing hip-hop in Seattle longer than Specs.” We then catch up with the ‘Wizard and he shares a book of graffiti sketches from ’93. The late, great J. Moore shares his wisdom for success and acknowledges the importance of that Coolout played in “coalescing a scene.”

There are numerous live performances and freestyles of Seattle legends in their early days, as well as national acts like Mary J. Blige and Leaders of The New School. Brown talks about encouraging young artists who bravely stand on a stage with a mic and bear their truths. It’s hard. But with Coolout filming you, “every little victory helps,” adds Ghetto Chilldren’s B-Self.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

BlakWizard

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Hear to Heal

On the song “Fly By,” featured lyricist Moka Only raps, “If vinyl could talk, it would probably say, what the fuck? Like why you put me through all the scratching and chops?” We throw around terms like “old school” whenever there are wax and jazz samples and turntable scratching. While those elements are all present here in abundance, there’s nothing old about Hear to Heal, a 2016 release from Ear Dr.Umz The Metrognome. I have OCnotes to thank for turning me on to this record, a 16-track prescription, where The Doctor collaborates with contemporary local cats to derive novel new approaches to boom-bap. This is a who’s who of the Seattle underground, featuring verses and beats from Able FaderSpecswizardSilas BlakMyka 9 and others. A standout track for me is “Whole ‘nother Level” with some special cool flows courtesy of Dex Amora and Zuke Saga, but really this whole record is solid from end-to-end, and a great response to “vinyl” on why all the scratching and chops.

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Chemtrails

Kung Foo Grip are a wicked band with an amazing live show, and so I’m damn excited they’re playing this weekend at Barboza. In anticipation, I’ve been spinning their EP Chemtrails, which I always connect with Kylie Jenner for some reason. There’s so much to like here—the epic percussive synth stabs of “Zerkin,” and the guest verse from fellow Cabin Games label-mate Silas Blak on “ANTI-Social,” where the spitting and the beats circle each other in the ring, sparring. “Goin Up, Lookin Down” expresses the band’s frustration with breaking through, repeating the mantra “Gas, Brake, Gas, Brake,” a theme that appears again on “Pyramid” in the lines “break it down and rebuild.”

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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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#Blak Friday: The Mixtape

The production and the beats from Kjell Nelson on 2015’s #BlakFriday: The Mixtape span a broad landscape. Find a comfortable chair and your best pair of headphones, and listen for the horizons. Spitter Silas Blak is Seattle hip-hop royalty: Summarizing our city in sentence fragments, somehow plainspoken and abstract, both at the same time. “The Exchange” is an unexpected club banger, that’ll leave you desiring crowds and lights, in a record that otherwise surfs in solitude: “Silas at the bus stop, barking at my shadow,” he recites as a mantra towards the end of “Bus Stop.”

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Editorials: (wartunes)

Been spinning Silas Blak’s Editorials: (wartunes) all weekend. Gorgeous production and deep thoughts. Great head-bobbing headphone tunes. He was recently nominated for a well-deserved Genius award by The Stranger.

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All Your Friend's Friends

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Möstly Crëw

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The Blank Canvas

Filmmaker and hip-Hop musician Rafael Flores spent six years making The Blank Canvas: Hip-Hop’s Struggle for Representation in Seattle. The film attempts to document the unique identity of hip-hop culture in Seattle, through interviews with over 100 rappers, producers, DJs, graffiti artists, break-dancers, fashion designers, and promoters from The Town.

It takes us on a journey that investigates the origins of Hip-Hop in the Northwest, the legacy of Sir-Mix-a-Lot, the notorious 1985 Teen Dance Ordinance, Clear-Channel’s dominance over commercial Hip-Hop radio, the increasing popularity of white rappers in Seattle, and hip-hop’s struggle for representation in a seemingly liberal city.

The full 96-minute film is available for rent on Vimeo for $5. Watch the trailer below.

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High Rhymes Smoking Jackets

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Talking Buildings

The freshest tracks to come out of the 206 in a minute, which is saying a lot. These three individuals have a lot of history between them. Through them, you hear the formation of Northwest hip-hop: You have The Fourth Party, you have Blind Council, you have Jasiri. You have Silent Lambs. You hear beats by Vitamin D, you hear beats by King Otto. These are some of the supreme rulers of 206 hip-hop, the originators of the style. And like the masters they are, they know how to mold raw materials into something new and unseen.

Black Stax manages to push the boundaries of hip-hop into unknown regions. This has been labeled “Avant guard”, and for lack of a better term, it works. For although the formula of mixed-gender, jazzy hip-hop has been played time and time again with similar results, the Stax turns it inside out and upside down, making it unrecognizable, and ultimately much purer than past experiments. Listen to the projects of some of the jazz greats – Ayler, Sanders, Coltrane – you listen to their albums and you don’t hear songs. You don’t get anything that structured. You get impressions. You get feelings, you get swept away by pure emotion.

With Black Stax’s music, you are left in similar care. This album isn’t a collection of songs. This is more a tapestry of sound and emotion, a Burroughsian cut-up experiment on the sonic level, taking what we knew, deconstructing it, distilling it, and ultimately bringing it back into sharper focus. There is none of the linear progression we’ve been trained to expect to hear. You are required to unfocus your ears and allow the music to rewire your mind. This is hip-hop reaching its maturity. Buy the record and let it wash over you. Put it on loop. Let it be your soundtrack. Listen to what they have to say and how they say it. With each listen, let it blow your mind a little more. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Town Biz Mixtape

No list of essential Seattle hip-hop compilations would be complete without the inclusion of Jake One’s 27-track opus, the Town Biz Mixtape. He dug deep into the crates, surfacing lost hits, deep cuts, and the finest local hip-hop spanning more than 20 years. (From 1989 to 2010, when this CD was released.)

The mixtape is an essential playlist that surfaces forgotten gems and unexpected bangers. My favorite track here is Vitamin D’s “Who That??” feat. The Note (from Narcotik), but there are so, so many solid tracks. Everyone’s on this, from Blind Council to Mash Hall, The Physics, Tay Sean, J. Pinder, and Shabazz Palaces. Listening to Town Biz will leave you realizing how blessed we are to have so much musical talent in our own backyard. But we knew that already, didn’t we? Thanks to Jake One for compiling this so we can spin it on a sunny summer afternoon and feel hella proud.

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Silas Sentinel

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

1986

What an intro it is! Silas Blak from (Black Stax, Silent Lambs Project, and Blind Council) spits the most brain-stimulating abstract metaphors you can imagine, in delivery so dark and jarring it causes hiccups. He leaves you hanging on to every grimy word he speaks, while your head-nod slows to nothing, and your feet forget to dance. He’s the rarest kind of poet; one that is able to speak the most eloquent stanzas you wish you could think up, but in plain rap, straight to your brain.

There’s nothing frou-frou here, no self-absorbed coffee-house spoken word crap or tired-out boasting. There’s no wasted space. Every word is what he means. On beats, Silas is joined by Specs One, King Otto, Dropcast Music, and Vitamin D (who also lends a verse on one track). From 2006, released on CD-R. A darker and heavier hip-hop record has yet to be heard. For now, listen to this and yearn. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Thee Adventures

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Red Scribe Pages

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Evolution of Hip-Hop

In 2004, Seattle’s hip-hop scene was in transition. Enter Tendai Maraire of the group C.A.V.E’. which had recorded their album Holy Haters a few years prior in 2000. Tendai, a virtuoso musician who would later join with Ishmael Butler to create Shabazz Palaces, looked around Seattle, pulled fifteen tracks from fifteen different DJs and MCs, and combined them into this amazing compilation.

Evolution Of Hip Hop is an unfiltered look at Seattle’s diverse hip-hop community in the mid-2000s, and the music is top-notch. Ghetto Chilldren’s track “Young Tender” shows how good Vitamin and B-Self are at breaking words down to their syllables and rearranging them into a roller coaster of inflection. “Peaches and Cream” by Merm and Mal snaps the funk so hard that it was also included on the Town Biz mixtape six years later. In a nod to hip hop DJ culture, there are DJ-only tracks by Funk Daddy, Topspin, and DV One, three of Seattle’s veteran party and club entertainers.

Evolution Of Hip Hop has so many great artists that it’s hard to believe. With names like Candidt, E-Dawg, Jace and Blak, Boom Bap Project, Skuntdunanna, and many others, there is something for every possible listener. “Yeah Yeah Baby” by C.A.V.E. is one of the most blazing tracks on the whole project, careening like a car chase loaded with drama.

When compilations are at their best, they can capture a moment in time like a Polaroid. Evolution Of Hip Hop allows you to see through the camera from the point of view of a young Tendai Maraire. Push the button! (Written by Novocaine132.)

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Amerika 911

Amerika 911 was a Northwest compilation that dropped in 2002 in response to the increasing hostilities directed towards the Middle East by the US. It’s a brave, gutsy little anti-war testament; as it examines the U.S. motives for engaging in war, and dares to point fingers in directions other than at the obvious motives (i.e. September 11th and Osama Bin Laden). Listen to Kylea’s verse on the first track, “A Call To Arms” for an apt summation of this record’s contents.

If it had been widely distributed it probably would have caused quite a stir among all those of us blinded by pain, bigotry, patriotism, and nationalism. But of course, it didn’t, since it was an unpopular view from an unpopular (at the time) corner of the hip-hop map–and that’s too bad in my opinion.

This compilation is dope on many levels, musically, lyrically, politically, and consciously. Bottom line, we’re all fam. Don’t let any of the powers that be tell you differently. Many notable acts contribute, including Khazm, The Flood, Yirim Seck, Castro, Specs One, Gabriel Teodros, Khingz (back when he was still calling himself Khalil Crisis), Kylea of Beyond Reality, Vitamin D, H-Bomb, Silas Blak, WD4D, E-Real Asim of Black Anger, Surge Spitable, and El Saba, who provides the defining moment with “God Bless Humanity.”

The album is an interesting mix of 2nd and 3rd wave Seattle hip-hop and captures the sound of the Town during that state of evolution. Executive produced by Khazm and G. Teodros, released in part through MADK. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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The Narcosis

Another Tribal 12″ from 2000. Tizzy T and C-Note are the sharp-edged Narcotik, one of the harder acts in the Tribal Productions collective. Lyrically they keep it streetwise, and their style is direct, which makes them somewhat of an anomaly when compared to Ghetto Chilldren or Union of Opposites. They represent here with two classic Vitamin D – produced tracks, “The Narcosis” and “Makes Me Wanna Bust”. Vita really demonstrates his versatility as a beatmaker with this release, as he puts his usual penchant for mellow, jazz-inflected tracks on hold in favor of a cleaner and more dramatic score. “Bust” features a sick verse from Silent Lamb Silas Blak. Another ill offering from the formative days of the 206. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Time Called Think

One of the sickest 12″s I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing, this is Silas Blak and King Otto’s “Time Called Think” b/w “How Obnoxious” and “I Know Why” from 2000.

As a lyricist and stylist, Blak is unique; a true artist unlike any other. His dark, abstract imagery is only made more vivid by his deep and off-beat delivery. Otto comes with a set of beats that are equally impressive. “Time Called Think” is haphazardly carried along by a chopped, stumbling bass loop with little else to fill the empty space; while in contrast, “How Obnoxious” utilizes a big band. Always a fan of the b-side, my personal favorite is the epic and atonal dirge “I Know Why”. If ever a track was too short, it’s this one.

These tracks were meant as a sampling from the forthcoming album Slowburn that apparently never made it to the store shelves. If this 12″ was any indication of the quality present, it’s truly a shame it never materialized. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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H.O.R.

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Soul Liquor

I always thought that if this album dropped in any other city it would have been a huge, huge hit. Likewise, if it had dropped a couple of years after its release. But in 2000, Seattle was still off the hip-hop radar, and The Silent Lambs Project (Jace and Blak) was unfortunately just too far ahead of their time.

You can hear their voices on the early Seattle compilations, over the grey, murky, rainy musical backdrop, but when they joined forces as The Silent Lambs, they took that bleak, damp atmosphere to a whole new level.

Soul Liquor is a dark album. Dark and ominous. Jace’s rhymes are sedated and deadpan like he hasn’t seen the sun in months, while Blak’s deep-bass voice growls and stutters on the offbeat like some sick troll under a bridge.

Producer King Otto (along with Mr. Hill and Bean One) provides the perfect sonic backdrop. Listen to the string section straining for a resolution that never comes on “H.O.R.”, or the disjointed piano loop from “Original Conviction.” Or the empty, cave-like quality of the live cuts. This is a dark record.

Whereas Seattle compatriots Oldominion tend to glorify and romanticize the dark side of existence, The Silent Lambs give it to you straight. There’s no glorification here. Every metaphor is spoken in a monotone, like a grocery list, making the blasted aural landscape even bleaker. So I guess this album wouldn’t have been a hit in another city, as it is so definitely a Northwest record. And if it had come out later, it might have just been dismissed as another act cashing in on the “Northwest Sound” credited to Oldominion. It’s too bad because The Silent Lambs Project deserves to be recognized as one of the great inspirational acts in the underground hip-hop constellation. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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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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S.E.L.F.

“S.E.L.F.” was released in 1998 by one of Tacoma’s greatest hip-hop groups, Bedroom Produksionz, the duo of DJ Sayeed and Kindu Shabazz. (The two would become Black Anger on tracks in collaboration with MC E-Real.) Personally, I love this group, their music, and their overarching philosophy. Let me explain why: Each Bedroom song was released with an instrumental version. Listen to the instrumental first: You’ll hear a kaleidoscopic soundscape, groovy, unexpected, shimmering. This base is an obstacle course, constantly testing Kindu’s lyrical parkour on the vocal track, but he nonetheless conquers it victoriously. The interplay between beats and vocals is mesmerizing, a little reminiscent of Kung Foo Grip. The songs themselves celebrate Black liberation, self-empowerment, and supporting and nurturing local communities. “S.E.L.F.,” is an acronym for “Supreme Ever Lasting Foundation,” an effort to decontaminate decades of colonial programming: The system wants to keep Black communities poor so they can be a useful prop for spotty government aid. But by knowing and taking care of yourself, seeing the world with open eyes, this is the “knowledge that is key to free the black nation.” They started their own record label, Du4Self—as part of their own self-empowerment—which inspired Blue Scholars to do the same, as referenced in their hit, “Fou Lee.” When interviewed by The Rocket, Kindu questioned what success we were all striving for: “…The Northwest is so overlooked that our form of hip-hop is not yet corrupted by big business, but that’s bad because we don’t get exposure. We still have a little bit of integrity in our art. Sometimes I wish that the 206 can remain invisible, because the industry has got hip-hop miserable.” Sayeed and Kindu moved to Virginia in 2000 bringing a close to their important impact on our local scene.

Here’s another take:

More greatness from the Northwest, this time coming from Bedroom Produksionz. Consisting of two-thirds of Black Anger, BP drop consciousness and Afrocentricity like their hometown counterparts Source of Labor, but with a distinctly harder edge. Sayeed’s beats are tight, driving, and prominent in the mix, while Kendo’s delivery is equally intense and raw. “I Know Ways” features a signature verse from Silent Lamb Silas Blak. Once again, here’s an act that probably would have been a whole lot more successful if they had come from a different city. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Comrade

Most people ’round these parts don’t know it, but Washington ranked right behind New York and California on the list of most-prolific states for underground hip-hop releases in 1998. True, most rap fans probably couldn’t name three or four Northwest groups to save their lives (Mix-A-Lot doesn’t count, dude), but we’re coming up, slowly but surely, building a track record with consistently good releases and the label infrastructure to support.

One such label is Olympia’s own K Records, which, along with Impact Entertainment, has dropped critically acclaimed releases from Black Anger, Bedroom Produksionz, and a whole slew of Northwest talent on the 1998 compilation, Classic Elements.

The Silent Lambs Project represents a collaboration between MCs Blak (of Blind Council) and Jace. The duo’s abstract lyrical style is fueled by production from DJ Sayeed, Mr. Supreme, King Otto, and Specs. Though the songs all stand out as individuals, “No J.R.,” “Stand Over Him” and “S.L. Shit” particularly beg to be blended into a soundtrack for your walk through the streets as gray clouds loom ominously overhead.

“Comrade” is the EP’s single, featuring guest vocals from Kendo of Black Anger and a mellow, CTI Jazz-sounding flute loop courtesy of DJ Sayeed. But the stand-out cut of the record is “Paid Poet,” produced by the Northwest’s most underrated beat miner, King Otto. Given a little more bounce and bassline, Otto’s work here could easily transform into mundane jigginess for some type-shallow MC to spit over. Lucky for us, he keeps it more mysterious, presenting a nice complement to Blak’s sedately frenetic flows.

All in all, Comrade is a very Northwest-sounding record. Who knows if the rest of the world can identify with those rain clouds overhead? As long as you have your soundtrack, it really doesn’t matter. Pop the Silent Lambs’ joint in your Walkman and leave your umbrella at home. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by Strath Shepard.)

Here’s another take:

Few acts come out the gate as strong as The Silent Lambs Project did here. This debut EP from 1998, with the signature abstract, cerebral, and head-scratching poetry from Jace and Blak, devastates from beginning to end. But nothing less should be expected from this duo.

In 1998, both lyricists were veterans of the scene: Jace as a part of Fourth Party, and Silas holding it down in Blind Council. But listening to this release, you’d think they’d been in the same group forever. Both are foils to the other: Blak’s delivery is edgy and filled with tension, while Jace’s floats smoothly and effortlessly over the beat. The two deliver perfection like yin and yang.

Joining them on the various tracks are some of Seattle’s top producers: DJ Sayeed from Black Anger/Bedroom Produksionz provides the title track and “SL Shit”, King Otto’s on deck for “Paid Poet”, Mr. Supreme from the Conmen shows up for “No J R”, and SpecsOne produced “Stand Over Him”. Kendo from Black Anger also shows up on the title track, “Comrade.” (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Classic Elements

Classic Elements was released by Olympia’s K Records in 1998. It contains tracks by sixteen Northwest hip hop artists, including some certified legends. The lyrics are consistently excellent throughout the compilation. These are songs for the mind, and many are vignettes in the true sense of the word, a good example being the captivating saga contained in “A.N.I.T.A.” by Nobody. The production on Classic Elements glows softly like a vintage Edison light bulb. DJ Sayeed (Black Anger) and Brian Weber (Dub Narcotic) both play a large role in shaping the sound of this compilation. Mr. Supreme drops a sublime Twin-Peaks-esque beat for Jace on “What’s Ya Definition,” and Topspin captures a tempest in a teapot with his beat for “Sleep” by Sinsemilla. Every track on this compilation is a genuine artistic expression, and that carries some risk because the performers put their feelings out on display which renders them vulnerable to misunderstanding, or worse, indifference. One of the highlights is “Hip Hop Was” by Ghetto Chilldren, which shines with professional polish among some of the dustier tracks. When you include a track by Source of Labor with Beyond Reality, “Aunt Anna,” and a couple of underground heat rocks from Silas Blak, “Only When I’m High,” and “Blak And Blind,” there’s every reason to make sure this compilation is part of your music collection. (Written by Novocaine132.)

Here’s another take:

Like the four leaves on a lucky clover, four ’90s era Seattle compilations showcase the diverse hip-hop collectives in Washington State and with them your windfall of sounds and explorations: Do The Math, 14 Fathoms Deep, Walkman Rotation, and here, Classic Elements (co-released by Impact Entertainment and K Records). Back then getting the handful of cassettes and comps was a great thrill, and the Seattle area offered up the best. Classic Elements was released at a time when the main place to hear local hip-hop was on the street at Westlake Center or on KCMU’s Rap Attack. Like the title, the classics here are Ghetto Chilldren, Source Of Labor, Black Anger, and Tilson, all offering hits that transcend national radio rap and bring a better class of words and thoughts. Some groups won’t be found outside of this collection – Nobody, Jaleel, 5E, Ski, and Arson have songs that play smooth and timeless. Classic Elements is as relevant today as it was twenty-some years ago. Released on cassette, CD, and on an abbreviated LP – Find it, get it. Good! (This review was submitted by reader Brett Sandstrom.)

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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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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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