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Leavings

Tay Sean has such a way with beats, and the variety of ways he moves a song forward, rarely what you’d expect, yet ideal in hindsight. While listening to his masterwork Leavings, I found myself semi-unconsciously cataloging all the percussive sounds, their variety and range, and all the off notes and the ones that are right on. (And losing count…) Find the groove and you’re bobbing your head throughout. When I first heard “Supramundane,” I kept picking up the needle, putting it back a track, and listening again and again. The interplay of rap and singing and vocal samples deepens further, particularly when the voices themselves are providing the momentum. Gorgeously dense, there are many more layers yet to peel from this alien onion.

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EarthEE

EarthEE from THEESatisfaction is quite possibly our favorite record of all time. Writing about favorites is hard because of how much you want to say and how so much of what connects you to music is hard to define. Political, environmental, and human, this record approaches its themes in ways sublime and profound: It dives down and plumbs the vast depths of the ocean and the mind. There’s so much happening on the bottom end that this music pours out of your speakers like thick molasses, pooling on the floor.

SassyBlack and Stas Thee Boss may have ended their creative partnership, but we’ll always this magical sequence: When the dense vocal layering at the end of “Fetch/Catch” gives way to the punch-in-the-stomach drum kick of “Nature’s Candy,” and then, after a few bars of rapping, the song performs alchemy, reversing motion, escaping time. (Also, gorgeous cover by Rajni Perera and Dusty Summers.)

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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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Kingdom Crumbs

The debut album by Cloud Nice’s Kingdom Crumbs is the long-awaited culmination of the Cloud’s experimental and forward-thinking sound, image, and attitude. Not so much a collection of songs as a loosely-knitted tapestry of impressions, Kingdom Crumb’s debut LP plays like a song-cycle from the Mad Hatter; it is whimsical and random but with elements a little edgy, and sometimes dangerous. Inspired insanity! With songs that rarely stay fixed in place for long, the album constantly morphs from style to style; from sleek, Chic-influenced soul, to ambient, dreamy washes of colorful tonality, to tribal chanting – often within a single song.

Production visionary Tay Sean’s trademark airy synths dominate the mix, accompanied by clean, stuttering beats and lots of reverb. Electronic rhythms and patterns fade in and out, sometimes ending abruptly, sometimes derailing, going where the wind takes them. Emcees Tay Sean, Mikey Nice, Jarv Dee, and Jerm masterfully fit every vibe. With so many talented lyricists it would be hard to keep ego out of the mix, but they do just that, combining their talents in the right way for the betterment of each song and the album as a whole.

With the ever-changing and experimental quality of the record, it comes as no surprise that the three most cohesive (and for lack of a better word, standard) songs are the ones already released as singles: “Pick Both Sides of My Brain” and “The Mezzanine” are two addictive head-nodding, groove-based gems, while “For The Birds” serves as a distilled vision of the album as a whole – sedated and dreamy, with unexpected changes and breakdowns in the music. However, when placed within the maelstrom of sounds that is the Crumbs’ album, these three tracks fit perfectly, bubbling up at just the right moment to link one passage with the next, or to gently wake the listener from a music-induced trance.

As a genre, this record is obviously difficult to classify. Certainly, hip-hop plays a big role – lyricism and stylistic techniques are present, as are the cultural references and the swagger – but other influences are nearly as dominant. Disco and soul play huge parts, and so do late-sixties-era electric jazz of Davis and Hancock. The ambient electronic music of Kraftwerk and Brian Eno can also be heard. Just as evident as the influences is the certainty that this is something entirely new and unheard of, something that might even not have a name yet. So I’ll call it as I see it: this is evolution. Check it and be amazed. This has been my most anticipated record release yet this year. Based on the three singles the Crumbs have released so far, I knew this was some future shit. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Adventures in a Helluvastate

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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Helladope

This week, I’ve been spinning Helladope, a 2010 self-titled sci-fi concept album from Tay Sean and Jerm D. Helladope’s space ambassadors are a funky, musical Bill & Ted, wending their way through an early ’90s action-movie musical landscape, phat synths, treble-positive snares. Throughout their adventure, our duo encounters amazing auditory aliens THEESatisfaction, Jarv Dee, Isabella Du Graf and others. Gorgeous cover art by War.

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2010,” saying that:

Helladope’s Tay Sean is far too young a cat to be making music with this much soul and expert tribute to the R&B and funk of yesteryear. Still, he accomplished the feat with ease. Along with emcee/vocalist Jerm, Helladope’s debut album offers a fresh take on the P-funk/G-funk rap amalgamation that originated in Southern California in the early ’90s. The sound is updated here with extraterrestrial gimmickry that amuses but isn’t essential to the album’s vibe.

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SeattleCali Fragilistic ExtraHella Dopeness

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2010,” saying that:

The album equivalent of a 2-0-6 hip-hop house party, by design SeattleCali wasn’t exactly an official debut LP for State of the Artist, but a showcase for much of the talent in the city. The three SOTA emcees were consistently outshone by their guests and a lot of times the lyrics didn’t seem to make any sense. As strictly a party album, however, there wasn’t one better.

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4 The Love of Music

Imagine a family reunion where everyone is there. I mean everyone. That means you get to see grandpa captivate people with his charm and wit, and you can hear a few of the aunts harmonizing a lovely new song they just made up, but you may encounter some not-so politically correct language from certain relatives. 4 The Love Of Music contains 17 tracks from across the family of rap and hip hop in the Emerald City as it existed when this comp was released in 2010. The expert curation by Tendai Maraire places tracks by superstars like (his own band) Shabazz Palaces, Macklemore, and Sir Mix A Lot, alongside offerings by other artists familiar to fans of Seattle hip hop. Thee Satisfaction contributes “Queen Supreme” and The Physics give us “Booe’d Up.” Fresh Espresso’s “Sunglasses On” stands out for its synthwave aesthetic, while “What Up Pimpin” by Draze is impossible to dislike, it’s simple and catchy. Unfortunately, there are too many more artists to name them all, but I must mention “Can’t Stand The Reign” by Mash Hall. Clocking in at five minutes and thirty-six seconds, this track is mysterious and inventive, calling to mind a hallucinatory Harmony Korine movie soundtrack. 4 The Love Of Music is one of the most complete assemblies of Seattle’s diverse rap community, and this compilation is a must-own. (This review was submitted by reader Novocaine132.)

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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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They L.A. Soul

Any B-girl worth her salt knows of the mighty DJ blesOne. A true Northwest original, blesOne has been making popular DJ mixtapes since the mid-1990s. He boosted his prolific recording career in 2004 with a six-song EP by his new hip hop group “Mash Hall.” Two years later in 2006, (Cancer Rising band member and local rap journalist) Larry Mizell Jr. wrote about Mash Hall for The Stranger saying, “Their boastful, hilarious don’t-give-a-fuck stylings are in full effect on their first proper debut LP, Mash Hall Love Family Thicker Than Blood.” In 2007 blesOne produced half the tracks on the final Cancer Rising album, and developed a creative relationship with Mizell. When Cancer Rising broke up, Mizell was looking for a new band and before he knew it, he was not just a fan of Mash Hall but an actual member of the group!

All the history leads us to this epic Mash Hall album They LA Soul which came out in 2010. DJ blesOne (as Bruce Illest) and Mizell (as Gatsby) unplug from the traditional rap Matrix and go completely off the grid to a secret magic world. Mash Hall creates a bizarre universe where funky drums are paramount. DJ blesOne assaults the listener with break after break after break. Some tracks change drum signatures multiple times within the span of several minutes. It is confusing and schizophrenic, and lots of fun too. Songs are jarringly derailed by random audio samples, only to restart immediately with a new beat. The lyrics are laugh-out-loud witty, downright peculiar in places, but be prepared for rampant objectification of women’s bodies. The fantasy character of Bruce Illest is an unapologetic nymphomaniac who loves to talk about “titties” and “ass that is fat,” while he frequently brags about how many women he has slept with. Gatsby provides a bit more rough and rugged realism in his lyrics, which are all about establishing the superiority of Mash Hall above all other rap groups. The group is defiantly West Coast, and they have the laid-back horns and funk to prove it. Fellow Seattleites THEESatisfaction came aboard They LA Soul appearing on two of the album’s strongest tracks, “Whitney,” and “Get Yo Ass To Mars.”

Shortly after They LA Soul, blesOne and Mizell decided to end the group. They had already tried to end Mash Hall once in 2008 when they changed the group name to “They Live” and released The Dro-Bots Saga. In fact, They LA Soul was conceived and originally released while Mash Hall was still performing as They Live. However, a different band called “They Live” sued them for usage rights of the name, so blesOne and Mizell had only just returned to the name Mash Hall before shuttering the group. But the party wasn’t over! In 2011, Mizell and blesOne teamed up to form a new band called Don’t Talk To The Cops with third member emecks and released their debut album, Regular Show. “Get Yo Ass To Mars” is the most interesting track on They LA Soul to me, because it shows the eventual direction of the group like a peek into the future. The track would actually be more at home on the Regular Show album than it is on They LA Soul. Mash Hall is a key part of Seattle hip hop history, and this 2010 album is a must-have. (Written by Novocaine132.)

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