A film about Northwest hip-hop from

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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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Ethiopian Tattoo Shop

This is a rare treasure: A document of a singular moment in time, fueled by wild creativity with the force of a pressure cooker. Beauty made under the gun. Phreewil, Nathan Wolfe, and Graves33 wrote and recorded this album, inspired by the book by the same name, in a matter of weeks.

Each track represents a different story or parable from the novel, and therefore the songs play out in a connected fashion; not linearly, but philosophically. Raw and brilliant work, at times jaw-dropping in its psychedelic urgency.

Despite the other-worldliness, this is not some Piper At the Gates of Dawn, “Listen To What the Flower People Say” sort of album. This is vehement and craving, conscious of its mortality. Which makes the hurried and inspired beauty found in each song all the more poignant. Phreewil noted that this is his favorite contribution to music, and although I’m not familiar with all his work I would be duly impressed to find another such passionate, metaphysically connected contribution to the art, from him or anyone else. Quite generously, the ETS crew opened their doors to several of their friends for contribution, including Asun/Suntonio Bandanaz, Leland Jones, Tru-ID, Milo, Khanfidenz, Audiopoet, and Page1. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Hidmo Next

Between 2006 and 2010, a Central District Eritrean restaurant called Hidmo served as an important hub for Seattle’s hip-hop scene. Its location at 20th and Jackson was “a community center masquerading as a restaurant,” according to Gabriel Teodros. It was run by two sisters–Rahwa and Asmeret Habtes–community organizers, activists, chefs, and entrepreneurs who offered up a safe space for artists, musicians, youth groups, nonprofits, and activists.

This 21-minute documentary from Scott Macklin captures the final closing night party for Hidmo. It’s “the place that fostered my art,” says JusMoni, before launching into a stunning acapella. Felicia Loud, Suntonio Bandanaz, THEESatisfaction, and OCnotes also share acapella songs and raps. The latter three crowd around a single microphone, for some “do-wop shit,” adds OCnotes.

There’s a real feeling of family throughout this film. Toddlers dance in the background during freestyle raps. You really get a sense of how special Hidmo was to the community. At one point, the camera veers away from the action and visits the kitchen staff and other people working behind the scenes. The director, Scott Macklin, makes a brief appearance in front of the camera to remind us that “Hidmo is about the we,” while addressing apprehension about what comes next.

This wonderful portrait is a beautiful testament to what culture can be fostered when “people just got together and did it.” Watching Hidmo Next in 2021 hits a little different: We lost Rahwa in August 2020 during our pandemic year. In a memorial tribute in The Seattle Times, Hollis Wong-Wear tried to sum up her impact: “Rahwa was the engine, the nucleus, the crucible of that space — I saw her as a titan.”

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Love or Fate

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!

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Think Tank

Seattle collective the Mind Movers released this ambitious record in 2008. City-wide in scope, the talents of over 30 Town emcees, vocalists, DJ’s and producers were utilized in the creation of this solidly underground compilation; probably exposing many of them to an audience that may have not heard them before, thus making it somewhat of a Do The Math for the Northwest’s third wave of hip-hop.

Think Tank is 21 varied and energetic tracks in length, and each song has multiple contributors. Crew cuts! I for one had only known of a few of the collaborators when I picked this up; it certainly opened my ears to a ton of great talent. The Mind Movers are made up of emcees Khanfidenz, Inkubiz, Mic Flont, Open Hands, Phreewil (who also handles production, and now resides in Hawaii), and producer/DJ Dead Noise. Besides those cats, the massive Seattle crew Alpha P/First Platoon represents as well, with features from emcees Jerm (also of Cloud Nice), Inkubiz and Phree Wil(again!), Kasi Jack Gaffle, Diez, Asad, Rajnii Eddins, Rufio, Jerz, Julie C, Yirim Seck, and Asun, who especially kicks it all over these tracks. Other names appear as well… It’s a huge who’s who.

Musically the beats are heavy, dusty underground gems. With six beatmakers in attendance, the tracks are surprisingly cohesive, although the ranges of styles are vast. Drum-heavy, broody, atmospheric tracks are heard in abundance (thanks mainly to Phree Wil), alongside upbeat soul samples, and mellow jazz piano loops. Whatever, it’s all nice; no beats out of a can here, this is artistic craftsmanship from the bottom up. Despite the huge undertaking, only the surface of the last decade’s hip-hop scene has been scratched with this release. The Town is bursting at the seams with talent. This is just a decent slice of it. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

5 Bux Aint Shit

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

2003

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.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Saiyan of Earth

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.

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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.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Titanium Buttermilk Rhinoceros Briefcase

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!

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