A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Top 10 Songs

Throughout the ’90s, writer Novocaine132 extensively covered the Seattle hip-hop scene. You’ll find his byline on feature stories and record reviews in both The Rocket and The Stranger, and he contributed to the marketing of several Tribal and Loosegroove releases, too.

Over the past few years, he’s been posting a series on YouTube called Top 10 Songs where he digs deep into the work of a particular Seattle rap legend, surfacing the not-to-be-missed songs from their catalogs. Whether or not you agree with the specific choices, each video provides a great overview of each artist’s career and there are lots of audio samples so you can hear what each song sounds like.

He adds, “The project began in 2017 when I heard that Wordsayer had passed away. At the time I was retired from music and print journalism, and I was concentrating my efforts on documentary filmmaking. When Jon died it hit me very hard, and I had to evaluate my life and my work. He and I were good friends in the 1990s, and he inspired much of my work in the area of hip-hop writing. I made a Top 10 Songs video of Source Of Labor at the end of 2017 to help deal with the pain of losing Wordsayer. Then in 2018, I made one for Ghetto Chilldren, and it started to become a series. I named my enterprise “Overstanding Seattle” to give tribute and honor to Jonathan Moore, one of the most truly amazing musicians I have ever known.”

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

50 Next: Seattle Hip-Hop Worldwide

50 Next: Seattle Hip-Hop Worldwide drops you into a literal roundtable conversation between Town legends old and young. James Croone of The Emerald Street Boys tells the story of discovering how “poetry on top of music” could carry a message. Spyc-E shares how she first learned to write rap verses, at age 11, and is kindly teased by the group into performing her first-ever childhood rhymes. Later, Khingz thanks Vitamin D for mentoring him early in his career, and for how it helped him achieve his own success. This half-hour documentary captures several charming, rambling discussions about the long history of Northwest rap. The whole thing is a delight.

Eazeman from ’90s group L.S.R. reflects on how major-label rejection shaped the scene early, saying “If you don’t want to show us for who we really are, then we don’t need you. We’re going to make our own party.” Rapper Candidit adds, “Don’t come if you’re not prepared.”

The group passionately rails against the evils of what they describe as “capitalist hip-hop,” which divides communities and makes local artists into commodities to be bought and sold. There’s a need today for more love and mutual respect and not so much focus on money and fame and numbers. Instead, they explain how everyone making art in the Northwest has a responsibility to fight back against the mainstream, “intended to pacify society” adds CPS da Scientist. Rapper DICE encourages artists to follow their imagination, saying “who cares what is new and cool now. Figure out what it’s going to be cool next, and then be the first to do it.”

50 Next was released as part of a larger online interactive experience by Aaron Walker-Loud and Avi Loud, “a multi-media time capsule of what was, what is, and what’s next…” The whole project is still online and is viewable here.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

As far as Eye can See

One of the earliest modern usages of the word ‘woke’ came in a 1962 New York Times article titled “Phrases And Words You Might Hear Today In Harlem.” Now in 2021, the word has developed to mean essentially alertness to racial or social injustice.

In 1994 Seattle poet and rap artist Spyc-E released her first album titled As far as Eye can See. This album is a collection of the most woke ideas from across the spectrum. It succeeds as a proto-dissertation on gender studies, power dynamics, racial hegemony, and a host of other issues. Spyc-E was very young when she put this album together, and she displays a student’s curiosity for history and explanations.

As far as Eye can See is a groundbreaking work of intersectional art, and Spyc-E candidly raps about her experience as a woman, a person of color, a revolutionary, a hip-hop artist, and a multitude of others. Tracks from talented producer Greg Fields perfectly accentuate her lyrics, and together they came up with a rap sound that was new to Seattle.

Spyc-E raps in a hurry-up-slow-down cycle, suddenly blasting words at a million miles per hour, and then pausing with barely a whisper, before rapping some more. Words pile up, tied with strings in express mail bundles. The density of this release cannot be overstated. One primary lyrical topic here is how 400 years of slavery created a stamp on America that generations have struggled to erode. She wants people to take power over their destinies by knowing who they are inside. Her vocal dexterity could easily be compared to the legendary E-40, whose dips and dives make his raps so much more layered with emphasis. Many of the tracks on As far as Eye can See take a big-picture look at social and political issues from 30,000 feet. In “And We Mad” she prophetically raps, “dissatisfaction leads to social action,” and we just have to look at the unrest in 2020 to see that this is true. This release should be considered among the top hip-hop albums in 1990’s Seattle. (Written by Novocaine132.)

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