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WTF Happened

A menacing synth chord opens WTF Happened, this 15-track comeback thunderclap from Fatal Lucciauno, who returns to the top chair after a five-year hiatus from the scene. The chord hovers, and swells, as Fatal begins rapping, slowly at first, building the intensity, growing in agitation and delirium. The videos from this record, “Sacrifice,” “Speaking in Tongues,” and “WTF Happened” all feature him staring directly at the camera, dispensing with adornment… In the case of the latter one, he’s shirtless, marching down an alleyway, half-naked and powerful, just a man spitting with that strong, unmistakable rapid-fire wordplay. Fav track “Power Play” is lyrical and hypnotic. There’s an elegant way that these songs unfold, downtrodden, but hopeful, deliberating choices or lack of choices, with songs like “I’d Rather Die,” contemplating time and mortality. This record is supported by the weight of the Black Umbrella collective, with guest verses from Sam Lachow and Malitia Malimob, along with epic string-heavy production that’s become something of a signature for that label. It’s good to have you back and bold, Fatal Lucciauno. WTF Happened, indeed.

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In Tha Name Of Game: Volume 2

Seattle rap artist Twin-G put out his first album on Wet City Records in 2001, titled In Tha Name Of Game. It included diverse tracks like the braggadocious “Peanut Butter Guts,” the reflective “What Can I Do,” and the party cut “Show Me The Money,” featuring rap stars Spice 1 and Kokane. In fact, the album featured a long roster of guest performers, including the “J.R. Ewing of Seattle,” the one and only Sir Mix-A-Lot. Four years later in 2005, Twin-G returned with In Tha Name Of Game: Volume 2 on D-Sane’s Street Level Records.

In Tha Name Of Game: Volume 2 includes a remix of “Show Me The Money,” which replaces the original’s feathery, laissez-faire beat with something a little more substantial and hard-hitting. Similar to the debut album, there are a bunch of guest appearances on Volume 2, perhaps too many to list in this review. Two songs here, “We Bang” and “Cocc It N Shoot” feature Twin-G’s group Lac Of Respect, which put out a solid album in 2004 called Game Members also on Street Level Records.

A good Volume 2 standout track is “Pros,” which sets down a unique guitar-jam beat produced by the talented John Silva, and then swirls Twin’s lyrics around it like stripes on a barber pole. “Pros” is compact and balanced, with a very catchy chorus. “Swisher Heat” is a slow cooker which interpolates the melody to The Gap Band’s classic “Yearning For Your Love.” Another perfectly framed song is “Respect” which leaves lots of space for the beats and quotable lines to stand out. To me, some Volume 2 tracks feel vocally or sonically overloaded, but “Respect” pares it down and gives you “just the facts, ma’am” as the famous Dragnet catchphrase put it.

My favorite track on In Tha Name Of Game: Volume 2 is the most confessional. “You Don’t Know Twin Game” is the title, and the song is extremely meta. I especially appreciate the way the arrangement comes together right in front of us during the first 30 seconds, and then settles into a platinum-sounding vibe. In “You Don’t Know Twin Game,” Twin-G tells his life story with extreme detail. “He gave me twenty G’s and said give me an LP, I f***ed off most of it, bought a Caprice, and fed my family,” is one example. The emotional beat is by Todd Brown, who incidentally also produced “Swisher Heat.”

Hats off to all the producers on this album, and to all the guest stars. Overall, In Tha Name Of Game: Volume 2 is a strong sophomore effort from Twin-G, and it shows that gangsta rap is alive and well in the 206. Written by Novocaine132

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Reigncraft, Volume 5: Process of Progress

In 2003 and 2004, executive producer KNDNM assembled and released four Seattle rap compilations under the title Reigncraft. In 2005, the fifth volume in the series stepped up to the plate. RC5: Process Of Progress shows that there was no shortage of hungry hip-hop fiends who wanted exposure. “Real Life” by Grynch is clever, as producer Referenz uses the (hot at the time but now quite vintage) sped-up soul sample technique to bring emotion into his chorus. “You don’t gotta be in jail to be doing some time,” raps Grynch, meditating on the power of a positive or negative attitude to change our outcomes.

Two tracks on Process Of Progress are produced by Northwest stalwart Bean One. “They See Me” by Framework is outstanding, listen for the Ofra Haza accoutrements. The song appeared on Frame’s terrific 2005 album Hello World. On “They See Me,” he employs concise, descriptive phrases for his verses, and even tosses in references to other rap songs. “Girl was in the cut, backing it up to Joey Crack’s Lean hit,” and also, “baby shaking it fast like I was Mystikal.” The other Bean cut is “Make A Hit,” by Damian Black who effortlessly distributes the smoothest rhymes ever, like a poker dealer whipping cards around the table. “Well, go ahead and say I’m cocky, but nothing you say will ever stop me, nothing you say will ever top me, nothing you do will ever drop me, just sit back go ahead and watch me, take some notes go ahead and copy.”

For explicit sex talk, look to “Don’t Front” by Twin G. I must admit that the chorus of Aquino’s “Left Coastin” gets me every time. “We pop shots cause we got to, I guess that makes us a pop crew,” with cutting and scratching to enhance the effect. I would have leaned in and titled the song “Pop Crew.” The Block Burners drop a serious heater titled “Big Bank.” At first the song seems overly basic, but different elements weave in and out while the MCs rip the mic. By the end of “Big Bank” you just want to rewind and listen again. Five volumes is a huge accomplishment for Reigncraft, and they weren’t even done yet. Written by Novocaine132

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The Streetz Iz Enough

Skuntdunanna dropped his CD, Trapped In Da Hatrixx, on Sea Sick Records in 1998. By the time his next album The Streetz Iz Enough came out in 2003, Skunt had joined D-Sane’s Street Level Records, home to Syko, IK, Byrdie, and the label’s marquee group F.T.S. The Streetz Iz Enough is a tour de force from one of the slickest rappers to ever emerge from Seattle. Spending all his time and effort in the studio paid off, allowing Skunt to develop a unique personality and character on the mic in real time, and the listener can hear him shifting gears between gangsta, hustler, pimp, comedian, and stone cold MC.

To me, one of the best things about Skunt’s material is the steady flow of truly hilarious punchlines. “Must have got help from the Post Office, because they turned thug overnight,” is one that always makes me chuckle. He makes joke after joke, using wordplay and insults, generally staying three or four steps ahead of the listener. Because his flow is so asymmetrical, there’s no way to know what he’s going to say next. Guest appearances enhance many of the tracks here. Wanz sings the groovy hook on “All I Got,” rap veteran Silver Shadow D lends some ragga chanting to “Soundproof,” and golden-voiced Byrdie drops a delectable verse on “Shake It.”

My favorite cut on this album is the title track, “The Streetz Iz Enough,” featuring underground Seattle rap hero Framework. This song goes so hard with lines like, “Memories of childhood days, but now instead of playing ball, I’m dropping flowers on graves.” Another hot track on this CD is simply titled, “Skuntdunanna.” “Pronounce the f***ing name right, dog,” he exhorts the listener. “Crazy Life Pt. 2” is an autobiographical piece which tells Skunt’s story of coming up in the Seattle rap game. There are even a couple of skits, “Rap Right Commercial,” and “Rejection Hotline,” which add to the entertaining vibe of the album. The cover artwork says this is the first official Skuntdunanna album, and the musical partnership between Skuntdunanna and D-Sane continued to grow throughout the 2000s and 2010s. Written by Novocaine132

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When It Rains

Ryan “RC The Trackaholiq” Croone has been down since day one. His older brother James Croone was a member of Emerald Street Boys, one of the earliest rap groups in Seattle. As a young man, RC got into rap production, and in the mid-1990s he teamed up with rhymer Squeek Nutty Bug. They went in the studio and subsequently dropped Really Cheat’n, one of the all-time, five-star Seattle rap albums.

There are more than two dozen different rappers on RC’s 2002 compilation When It Rains, it’s a prodigious project. Loosegroove put out 14 Fathoms Deep in 1996, and as a theoretic successor, When It Rains could reasonably be nicknamed “24 Fathoms Deep.” This is guileless rap, concentrating on reporting life experiences. Put it this way, you won’t find anyone here looking through the dictionary trying to find five rhymes for “illuminati.”

“They Never Knew,” by sibling team Twin-G and Skuntdunanna is excellent, “possibly the first song they ever did together,” remembers RC. “You’re a one hit wonder, like Young MC or Jody Watley,” says Twin-G mockingly. I especially appreciate the spacey half-minute instrumental flourish at the end. Actually, Twin shows up again on “Greedy Made,” this time joined by Chedder Hound, Culpepper, and “Drop Top” star E-Dawg. “Greedy Made” has unpredictable, punchy energy from the start of verse one. E-Dawg explains, “I bust a tight verse and make St. Helens erupt,” referencing the May 1980 ash cloud which blasted across the region.

The late Gangsta Nutt represents hard on the g-funk blazer “This Ain’t Livin,” which is a textbook example of true synergy between a producer and a rapper. Nutt’s cadence goes together with the Trackaholiq beat like Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. Another notable cut is the menacing “No Fabrikashun” by Crafty. Famous Seattle turntablist DV One does the scratches on the cut, and the beat creates drama and suspense. Meoshi drops a respectable verse on her edifying track “My Eyes.” “Some take the easy route, some take the pills to the head, because their problems overwhelm them y’all, they’d rather be dead,” she raps. But all is not lost, she reminds aspiring artists to, “strive to be the one immortalized from your hood.”

When It Rains is an ambitious project, it’s really a one stop shop to learn about the diversity of rap talent in Seattle. In 2022, RC celebrated the 20th anniversary of this release, and he recently told me that the compilation wouldn’t have been possible without the help of two key people, G Prez and DJ Kun Luv. G Prez ran Sea-Sick Records which put out the CD, and Kun Luv was the head of Seaspot Promotions, one of the largest media organizations for Seattle hip-hop culture. Thanks gentlemen! Written by Novocaine132

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In Tha Name Of Game

Seattle rapper Twin Gamer aka Twin-G dropped his debut CD In Tha Name Of Game in 2001. The album features a long list of guest star MCs, which is evidence of Twin-G’s hard work and dedication to networking and making connections in the fast-moving music industry. Skits set throughout the album, between the tracks, chronicle increasingly desperate phone calls from a man trying to incriminate his friends after being apprehended. But being a snitch is a big error in the world of hustlers, and by the final call the man begs for help which will obviously never arrive.

The one and only Sir Mix-A-Lot and scrappy rapper Chedda Hound both make appearances on “Peanut Butter Guts,” which refers to the luxury, golden-brown, leather interior of Mix’s pimped-out, all-white truck. “Show Me The Money$$,” featuring Kokane and Spice 1, recontextualizes the 1996 Jerry Maguire quote into a rhyme-heavy gangsta rap hit. The philosophical and introspective “What Can I Do?” includes the lyric, “On ‘the blade’ trying to feed my kids, wishin they would stop yellin, success in this town ain’t an option for a two-time felon.” The Blade, of course, is the street nickname for the area surrounding the notorious 3rd Ave block downtown between Pike and Pine. “Tha Thing To Do,” featuring Prevento, has a slinky, Pink-Panthery detective beat that almost sounds experimental at times.

After his debut, Twin-G followed up with his next project, In Tha Name Of Game Vol. 2, which came out four years later in 2005. Twin-G’s brother is an MC too, going by two different names, Skuntdunanna and Mafia. Written by Novocaine132

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