A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Criminal Nation Movie

During 2020’s Coronavirus pandemic, MC Deff (aka Wojack) set about to tell the story of his ’90s gangster rap group through video chats and a simple question: “When did you first hear about Criminal Nation, and what does the group mean to you?”

What follows is a series of touching video voicemails and personal stories from rappers and producers across the Northwest, including Silver Shadow D, J-1, Squeek Nutty Bug, Josh Rizenberg, and many others. This film has a real feel of hanging with the homies. Clearly, this music meant a lot to a lot of people, and this footage is intercut with photos of memorabilia and record covers.

Many of the interviewed artists were youngsters–only 12 or 13 years old–when they first heard the staccato synth opener of Criminal Nation’s mega-hit “Release The Pressure.” Each was thrilled to have hometown heroes on the radio. Awall Jones talks about the beats and his amazement that “they’re from Tacoma, too?!” Un The Rhyme Hustler says, “I was trying to be MC Deff,” echoing the sentiments of many. Several of the artists rap and sing their favorite Criminal Nation songs, too. It’s charming.

Wojack himself does a freestyle summarizing his thoughts on “Day 34 of quarantine.” Notably absent from this project is Wojack’s Criminal National collaborator DJ E (aka Eugenius), though he and the rest of the NastyMix crew–E-Dawg, High Performance, Kid Sensation–all get plenty of props for their roles in establishing the early Northwest sound.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

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.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Gab The Most High

This artist needs no intro. I’m assuming y’all already big fans of the self-proclaimed “queen of Seattle,” Gifted Gab. Throughout the year I’ve had love affairs with other records, but it’s Gab The Most High, released in May, that I’ve consistently returned to again and again. Few records have felt so confident, demonstrating such complete command of instruments, writing, rapping, vocal sampling, and on. Gab is a magpie, collecting threads from multiple genres: funk, R&B, and reggae; and then layering in new textures, including showing off a soulful singing voice. The album release party featured a full Motown-style backing band.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Gab The Most High Swishahouse Remix

I’ll confess that I wasn’t super hip to the whole Screwed and Chopped scene before Gifted Gab started hyping this record and the unique remixing style of DJ Michael “5000” Watts. Starting with Gab’s startlingly great release Gab The Most High, Watts slows down every track by 1/3, and then introduces skips and repeats and scratches. Anyone who knows me already knows how much I love the source material, and here, slowing the music down illuminates the tiny musical details, and the repeats put the focus on the nuances of Gab’s lyrics and wordplay. Listening to these remixes makes me love the original album even more. (And this isn’t just a few tracks—Watts remixed the whole damn album.) This Swishahouse remix confirms Gab’s right to serve as Queen of Seattle. Please give her the Royal Warrant pronto.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Cidewayz: Full Circle

Hmmm... There's not a lot of information about this project in the museum encyclopedia. We'd love your help! TOWN LOVE is maintained by an awesome community of passionate volunteers who keep it all up to date.

Do you know something about the history of this record? Do you have a favorite lyric or a favorite memory? Send us an email on why this is one of the great hip-hop albums from the Northwest. Thanks!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Coolout 18

This film drops you into the crowd at the 18th-anniversary party for The Coolout Network, in 2009. Show creator Georgio Brown says the event was something of a dare: When he proposed a showcase featuring 18 of the top talents from The Town, everyone told him, “18 acts in one night? You can’t do it.” Nonetheless, this party proves the skeptics wrong.

There’s some wild live footage here, such as Sinsemilla performing their 2000 hit “Destiny,” or Silver Shadow D showing off his ability to rap and beatbox simultaneously.

Gabriel Teodros explains how meaningful both Coolout and Georgio himself have been to his growth as an artist. He recalls being 18 and rapping at the back of the bus, and Georgio walked up to him, handed him his Coolout card, and said, “You’re tight. You should do your thing.” You hear similar stories from many of the other artists in attendance, shouting out Georgio for “holding it down and documenting the scene. Y’all seeing history right here.”

This movie captures those elusive feelings of camaraderie and casual socializing: Watching it, you really feel like you’re hanging out at a Seattle hip-hop show on a Tuesday night, and everyone’s here and nobody’s in a rush to get anywhere.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Reigncraft, Volume 4: The Labor

Hmmm... There's not a lot of information about this project in the museum encyclopedia. We'd love your help! TOWN LOVE is maintained by an awesome community of passionate volunteers who keep it all up to date.

Do you know something about the history of this record? Do you have a favorite lyric or a favorite memory? Send us an email on why this is one of the great hip-hop albums from the Northwest. Thanks!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Streetz Iz Enough

Hmmm... There's not a lot of information about this project in the museum encyclopedia. We'd love your help! TOWN LOVE is maintained by an awesome community of passionate volunteers who keep it all up to date.

Do you know something about the history of this record? Do you have a favorite lyric or a favorite memory? Send us an email on why this is one of the great hip-hop albums from the Northwest. Thanks!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Enter The Madness

Enter The Madness is an hour-long film from 2000 that provides an essential time capsule of turn-of-the-millennium hip-hop in the Pacific Northwest. It was directed by King Khazm and produced by DJ Scene, and includes flashes of late-’90s Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver, too.

The film adheres to the four pillars of hip-hop, devoting a roughly equal amount of time to riveting turntable battles, incredible, lengthy breakdancing sequences, freestyles, rap battles, and walls painted with now long-gone graffiti. The film captures many moments that even at the time were fleeting… That today would be forgotten were it not for the existence of this film.

There are some curious editing choices here–like, say cutting back and forth between graffiti and a peeing elephant–or the addition of picture frame borders, fisheye lenses, and inverted film negative effects, but there are also dozens of blink-and-you’ll miss cameos from Seattle hip-hop greats like Silver Shadow D, Kutfather, Asun, Khingz, and others. Sit back with your favorite accompaniment and enjoy this visual spectacle.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

On Tha Run

Hmmm... There's not a lot of information about this project in the museum encyclopedia. We'd love your help! TOWN LOVE is maintained by an awesome community of passionate volunteers who keep it all up to date.

Do you know something about the history of this record? Do you have a favorite lyric or a favorite memory? Send us an email on why this is one of the great hip-hop albums from the Northwest. Thanks!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Come Fi Love

Hmmm... There's not a lot of information about this project in the museum encyclopedia. We'd love your help! TOWN LOVE is maintained by an awesome community of passionate volunteers who keep it all up to date.

Do you know something about the history of this record? Do you have a favorite lyric or a favorite memory? Send us an email on why this is one of the great hip-hop albums from the Northwest. Thanks!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Sleepless "Tha Brickkks"

Hmmm... There's not a lot of information about this project in the museum encyclopedia. We'd love your help! TOWN LOVE is maintained by an awesome community of passionate volunteers who keep it all up to date.

Do you know something about the history of this record? Do you have a favorite lyric or a favorite memory? Send us an email on why this is one of the great hip-hop albums from the Northwest. Thanks!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!