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The Residency Presents: The Town

In the early weeks of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, when the music scene was knocked sideways by the cancellation of live concerts and “stay-at-home” orders came into effect, Macklemore’s The Residency and Crane City Music organized an hourlong cross-generational Zoom conversation between some of the biggest-ever hip-hop artists from Seattle’s past and present. The event was hosted by Town legend Jace.

Each of the participants was invited to offer up their individual perspectives about the past, present, and future of Northwest hip-hop, as well as talk about how the pandemic was personally affecting them and their music. At one point, Sir Mix-A-Lot says he hopes Seattle’s up-and-comers will “get on my shoulders and jump!”

The event was streamed live on April 18, 2020.

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The Town Love Hip-Hop Awards

At the start of January 2019, Crane City Music invited Seattle’s hip-hop community to pick their favorite WA state hip-hop records from the past year in a public vote. A total of 267 records were in contention for the top prize. A total of 5,498 votes were cast. Parisalexa’s Bloom took home the top prize, narrowly beating out Kung Foo Grip’s 2KFG and Travis Thompson’s YOUGOOD?

The top 20 winners were revealed via an elaborate laser show countdown event held in February at the Pacific Science Center Laser Dome in Seattle. The laser show itself was choreographed by Joseph Reid and Gary Campbell. The event opened with a playlist of ’90s Seattle hip-hop and a short tribute to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s legacy and the 30th anniversary of his debut, SWASS.

A 14-minute film was made by Taylor Hart that captures highlights from the night.

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Reckless Endangerment

In their annual year-end critics’ poll, The Seattle Times ranked Reckless Endangerment as one of the very best Seattle albums of 2019, saying:

With his major-label follow-up to last year’s confessional YOUGOOD? the unofficial mayor of Burien steps up the swagger on his first album with Epic Records. There are still plenty of easy-swinging reflective moments, like the strings-laced title track and the Ben Zaidi-assisted “Malice.” But where the darker YOUGOOD? delved into the head trip he experienced facing pressure to keep his momentum going, here Thompson channels those emotions into more upbeat heaters, ready to blow car stereos from Ambaum Boulevard to Aurora. Thompson’s syllable-stuffing bars and effortless melodies are strong enough to bridge hip-hop’s generational divide, solidifying his place in the Seattle rap canon. While tacitly welcoming Thompson to the club, guest verses from mentor Macklemore, Sir Mix-a-Lot, and Geo of Blue Scholars on the mic-passing “Glass Ceiling” contribute to the hardest-hitting Seattle anthem since “Posse on Broadway.”

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YOUGOOD?

YOUGOOD? has registered millions of streams on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube since its release only a few short months ago. And then there was the 40-minute short film version, screened to accolades at SIFF. CityArts calls the project “a wildly ambitious trip through a young man’s confident, conflicted mind.” The Seattle Times says “this Burien emcee makes it look easy on his cohesive new album. It’s mellifluously dark and arrestingly human in moments, but still slaps when the timing’s right.”

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Gemini

Gemini is Macklemore’s self-released celebration of our town: Because of their features on this record, local talents Dave B and Travis Thompson were on The Tonight Show singing “Corner Store,” and representing our hip-hop community on national television.

But let’s start here: I’m headbanging in my car. It’s 1:00 am and “Firebreather” roars. It’s no surprise there’s a car on the cover. This is car music. You turn up the dial and you keep wanting to turn it up.

Macklemore’s devout honesty is found throughout Gemini, leaving you with the feeling that you need to reduce the hypocrisies in your fraudulent life. Despite our desire to make work and be artists, “waking up to a screen and watching TV, it’s easy.” On “Intentions” he begins, “I want to be sober, but I love getting high.” Rather than pursue our own dreams, we choose to “live on social media and read other people’s thoughts.”

Recorded at home, in the basement, the music is intimate. Every song is so thoroughly considered and contains the sort of details it takes dozens of listens to notice, both in the music and the storytelling. In lieu of usual producer Ryan Lewis, there are talented local and mainstream collaborators galore here: Budo, Tyler Dopps, Xperience, Saint Claire, Dan Caplen, Abir, Donna Missal, Reignwolf, Otieno Terry, Ke$ha, Offset, Lil Yachty, Eric Nally, and Skylar Grey, whose hook on the second track is truly “Glorious.”

For everyone out there hoping to one day to have the worldwide stadium-level fame that Macklemore has achieved, may this record be your textbook for success.

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Hodgepodge

Hodgepodge is a 2017 album from Samurai Del that came out back in February. It’s a polished showcase—a wide-ranging mix that demonstrates the versatility of “The Samurai” as a producer, while also featuring some of the top singers and rappers Seattle has on offer. This album was included in KEXP’s picks of the year which comes as no surprise. You’ll find sweeping synths, smooth EDM/hip-hop crossovers, and inventive sampling, like the vocals treatments towards the end of “Sailing to Japan on an Air Mattress” or the gorgeously sensual “Weightless” (featuring Kristin Henry). “What You Need” is a delightful surprise with Travis Thompson on the mic and also a banging dance number. The collab with J’Von contains one of my favorite verses of the whole year: “She’s like a breath of fresh oxygen, but if the concept of oxidization holds true, then over time I’m breathing toxins in.” (Damn, what a line!) I went to the launch party for this at the Croc 10 months ago and since this record has rarely been out of my rotation. Rappers and singers: Samurai Del is THE producer you want to work with on your next project. Hit him up. Hodgepodge is a treasure-trove of top talent.

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Ambaum

It’s been quite the year for 21-year old Travis Thompson: Last week he had a Li’L Woody’s burger named after his delightful 2017 record Ambaum. As a result of his involvement with Macklemore’s Gemini album, last month he performed on a little-known late-night TV show called The Tonight Show, and he’s been a regular sidekick on ol’ Mack’s North American tour, playing stadium shows across the country, including this Friday at Key Arena, where he’ll be standing in front of 17,459 people.

Not that long ago I saw him perform at the Crocodile back bar, in front of a dozen people, so congratulations on the big step up to these much bigger stages.

So let’s talk about Ambaum, his mixtape from August 2016. The Tyler Dopps production on the early tracks, and the pop hooks, and the earnest lyrics might leave you the impression that Travis is a worthy Mack-lite protégé. While I suppose he is—three tracks in, during “Born in ’96,” this record begins to defy those expectations. There’s a tonal shift where Travis repeats a self-aware comment that, while this may be his moment to shine, “every day they make another one.”

Indeed, at 21, he’s already questioning when the next generation will be nipping at his heels. And it’s an inflection point that pushes this record in a completely different direction, more serious and inventive, one of proud underdog autobiography.

Here are a couple of moments I love: When on “Candy & Corner Stores” he raps, “Them kids from the back of the class know a lot more about living than anyone.” Any time there’s a smart, sexy guest feature from MistaDC, Nyles Davis, or Parisalexa. The inventive house beat (courtesy of Nima Skeemz) that closes “Party Favors.”

Also on this closing song, Travis jokes that his music covers the “Lifestyles of the broke and rapping.” Perhaps a little less so after this year of success. Hats off to you, man. That Ambaum burger was solid.

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7 Slaps In The Sack

7 Slaps In The Sack is a video interview series created by Carrick Wenke. Shot between 2014 and 2020, the show has more than 50 episodes, each of which involves going record shopping at Everyday Music on 10th in Seattle with “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.”

Everyday Music is sadly gone now, but you can view all the episodes from the series on YouTube. A wide range of Town talent has spent the day shopping with Carrick, talking about favorite records, influences, and craft, including Jarv Dee, Keyboard Kid, Nacho Picasso, Romaro Franceswa, Travis Thompson, and many others.

We’ve embedded a few of our favorite episodes below.

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