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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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Supa Dupa (Love Affair)

Do y’all mess around with 7″ 45s? I normally can’t be bothered with them, mainly because by the time I drop the needle and get comfortable, half the side is already over. But I do have a small stockpile, and many are very weird, or rare, which makes them fun to put on when I can’t decide what to listen to next. Pictured here is one of my favorites: Supa Dupa (Love Affair), a 2015 B-side of a 7″ from THEESatisfaction. In tiny blue type, in the middle of this cover, it says “front” and on the back it says “back.” (This is the back.) The A-side is the booming bass downbeat “I Don’t Like You.” This came as a bonus release with the EarthEE vinyl. “Supa Dupa” is a gem of a track, with a danceable driving disco vibe.

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riZe vadZimu riZe

Years ago I bought a multi-track cassette recorder, and for a while, I became obsessed with recording four different, unrelated songs on top of one another. The results were mostly tortured audio chaos, but occasionally some unexpected beautiful musical serendipity would emerge. Listening to 2014’s riZe vadZimu riZe from Chimurenga Renaissance I’m reminded of those early experiments–this album contains similar auditory chaos. A project from Shabazz Palaces instrumentalist Tendai Maraire, songs are densely layered, with multiple melodies moving in multiple directions all at once. This is the sound of multitasking and the first few listens can be overwhelming. But commit to an active listing experience and this record will reward with much serendipity. Beautiful cover design by Civilization.

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awE naturalE

The silhouettes moving through the jungle evoke the strongly primal and sensual emotion you feel when listening to THEESatisfaction’s 2012 Sub Pop debut, awE naturalE. This is music you not so much listen to as you hear deep in your ancestral DNA. Track 3, “Queens,” is a song so sultry, so belly-warming, and twitchy, it makes the repeated line “sweat on your cardigan” sound like pure sex. A later track contains the line, “try to deny the funk.” Settle into a comfy chair and listen to this one loud enough that you can feel the enormous bass. It has a physical presence here. Tendai Maraire and Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces make an appearance on a couple of songs, too.

The Stranger picked awE naturalE as the very best hip-hop album of 2012, saying that:

“QueenS”—one of the three tracks arranged by Erik Blood on awE naturalE (he mixed and recorded the whole album)—is not only the best hip-hop track of the year, but also the most seductive. The genius of “QueenS” is how it draws you into its world. You first hear it from the outside, like a party in some house or apartment you are approaching. Upon reaching the door of this place, it magically opens for you—you enter and become a part of what’s really happening. This is why the video for the track, which is also the 206 video of the year (though it was shot in Brooklyn), captures the essence or the feel of the music so perfectly. Directed by hip-hop journalist and culture critic dream hampton, the video leads us into the warm core of a party in an apartment. The women at the party are all black and dreamy. This is their world. This is their music. This is how they party.

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Loves Anita Baker

Tonight I’m spinning THEESatisfaction‘s Loves Anita Baker, a 2012 eight-minute EP. These are five glamorously positive songs, the ’80s-esque “Pressed” in sequence promptly followed with “Cabin Fever Sweet Love,” a foot-tappingly sensational standout track. (And now I’m off listening to Anika Baker’s “Rapture.”)

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Sandra Bollocks Black Baby

Sandra Bollocks Black Baby is a 2011 five-track live jam mixtape from THEESatisfaction. It’s a fine example of pulling back the curtain on production and composition to reveal the direct interplay between two creative minds. Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges, but that’s part of what makes this EP such fun — hearing the songs slowly take shape while they’re being played. Great cover, too.

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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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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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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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Magnetic Blackness

I recently picked up a copy of the rare Magnetic Blackness EP from THEESatisfaction & Champagne Champagne, circa 2010. It’s a 7” two-song single. And while it’s only like three-minutes per side, each song is so wild and alien and trance-inducing, I find myself routinely flipping it over six or eight times, listening to these two tunes on such infinite repeat until they form grooves. Solid listening here, but also a little hard to describe… You put this on and feel the vibrations of the planet and the universe around you.

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Loves Stevie Wonder Why We Celebrate Colonialism

Seattle Times music critic Andrew Matson picked this record as one of the best of 2010, saying:

This EP includes some of Seattle jazz-rap duo THEESatisfaction’s most straightforward songs to date and also their most psychedelic ones. Collage-style beats underpin super-controlled singing and sharp, hallucinatory rapping.

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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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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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