A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Earth Wind & Fire

From ’97, here is the lone single by Cuneiform and Sub-Zero (AKA Trust and Nickle Slick, at least according to the interwebs), collectively known as Fourfifths. I’m not sure where these cats are from, but this release was on Mr. Supreme’s Conception Records, so the chances are they were Seattle emcees.

Side A contains the Remix of “Earth, Wind & Fire,” with an early production effort by Jake One. Side B has the original version of “Earth” as well as “The Science,” both by Supreme. I’m struck by how different the two versions of “Earth Wind & Fire” are from one another. Jake One’s beat gives the track a slinky, nocturnal, and dangerous vibe, while Mr. Supreme’s trademark penchant for melancholia turns the song into a world-weary grind. Oddly enough, Supreme’s beat totally wins out. (In fact, I think it’s one of the best cuts he’s ever done.) It’s an infectious and beautiful track with a melody that sticks with you.

Apart from this 12″, Fourfifths can also be heard on two of the best tracks from the Sharpshooters’ Choked Up (“Analyze” and “Trust No One”). It’s a shame that they didn’t go further, because as their slender output attests, they were heat. (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

Choked Up

Here is an entirely terrific album of grooved beats, laidback flows, judiciously selected samples (lots of funky jazz), and first-rate production. The fact that it’s by two locals–Mr. Supreme and Sureshot–means that it’s the first album to offer the full scope of a Seattle hip-hop band over the course of an entire LP instead of a narrow glimpse, like those offered on recent Seattle hip-hop comps 14 Fathoms Deep and Do the Math.

Choked Up starts with an absolute wallop as “Lifted,” an organ vamp with a beat, intros the LP. The first real song, “Heavyweight,” features a fat, acid jazz horn chart squatting on top of strong percussion. There’s a taste of entirely palatable turntable work as the first impression hits like a bolt from the blue: Could this be jazz and hip-hop? Could this be really, really good jazzy hip-hop?

The third track establishes the legitimacy of Sharpshooters. They begin with “Analyze,” a drifting, underwater beat just long enough to set the stage for the boss rhymes of Trust (The Soul Trooper). At this point, the album is about perfect. Three fat tracks, not a dud. When Trust drops a thoroughly chilled line about our favorite hoops team, it seems just like hip hop heaven.

The LP rolls, moving easily forward instrumentals dovetailed perfectly wh the raps. The beats are brisk, the horns well-tempered, the flows right on production huge, and the guest appearances (Kylea, Wordsayer, and Mad Fanatic) add to the album while not subtracting from the band.

Presently, there is a load of overhyped hip-hop from which to choose. Much of it, especially from the big-name, big-image rappers, doesn’t measure up. This record delivers. The fact that they’re local and sending shoutouts all over town is just gravy. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by S. Duda.)

Here’s another take:

Choked Up was originally released on Conception Records and later reissued on New York-based Shadow Records. In the time they were around, Shadow managed to introduce some of the most memorable and enduring acid jazz records to the American audience. DJ Krush had his American debut with his album Krush, as did DJ Cam’s Mad Blunted Jazz. Funki Porcini, 9 Lazy 9, Dj Food, and Up, Bustle, and Out were just a few other notable names on Shadow’s roster. Shadow was distinctive and catered to a specific audience who was into trendy, late-90’s trip-hop and acid jazz. Although the Sharpshooters were a Northwest group, I probably wouldn’t have known about them if they hadn’t been part of the Shadow Records family… Even if I did live in the same city as them.

The Sharpshooters were a duo consisting of Seattle producers Mr. Supreme and DJ Sureshot. Supreme distributed their work on his own indie hip-hop label, Conception Records. And, although they were local, Conception at that time was just starting and had some steam to build still. So, it was through a distribution deal with a label that specialized in waking up American audiences to foreign artists that I heard about a group and label that lived a couple of miles from me. Their sophomore release, Choked Up, is a cool, blunted slab of jazzy hip-hop. Flutes, saxes, and vibes dominate the mix as much as the drum loops do, creating a smoky blend of coffee-house jazz hop. Vocal guests including Four Fifths, Mad Fanatic, and Kylea from Beyond Reality add flavor to a few select tracks.

I have an idea. Do yourself a favor; save this record for the summer. Put this on a playlist along with other like-minded albums of the time (Krush’s self-titled record, Digable Planets’ Blowout Comb, and Guru’s Jazzmatazz vol.2 are good recommendations). Find something pretty to look at. Then sit back in the evening, let the records play, and see where you go. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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