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Checkmate

After recording three albums in six years, Save Me in 1999, Crown Royale in 2003, and The Rebirth in 2004, Seattle rapper Gangsta Nutt was ready to go even higher. He assembled a star-studded guest list and dropped the epic double-CD Checkmate as his second album of 2004. Coming in at 31 tracks, Checkmate might be the longest album ever from a Seattle rap artist.

Standout tracks on disc one include “Ten Toes,” which gives the listener a dramatic contrast, hard lyrics set to a soft and sweetly gentle beat. Nutt admits that life, “Got me heavy on some real s***, my mind on some meal s***, I’m living to die, so I’m on some murder, death, kill s***.” Somewhere around the halfway point in “It Goes Down” (featuring Yukmouth) I started involuntarily nodding my head and really catching the vibe.

“Heavy On My Mind,” “Bout That Drama,” and “Dangerous” are solid gangsta cuts which explain Nutt’s perspective through his confessional lyrics. His gravelly voice somehow captures the urgency of living in the streets day to day. “A petty-a** beef took him from his wife and kids,” goes a sorrowful line from “Heavy On My Mind.” One of Nutt’s achievements on Checkmate is the desperate conviction with which he performs his lyrics.

The pleasant and melodic “Listen To My Demo” (featuring Budder) describes how difficult it can be to get a foothold in the constantly shifting music industry, especially for someone trying to escape a former life of crime. “All I Ever Wanted” is a celebratory cut about material success. “All I ever wanted was a plushed out crib, with a super bad b**** in my plushed out whip,” dreams Nutt in the chorus.

The last track on disc two, “King Of 206” might be my favorite on the album. The beat has sinister bounce, while the lyrics brag and boast. Gangsta Nutt had accomplished all he set out to, but as he phrased it on one of his early hits, there is always “mo to grab.” I gotta give a shout out to RC The Trackaholiq who produced much of this album. The beats on Checkmate will rattle your trunk or your living room, and that’s a promise.

In 1982 according to legend, producer Quincy Jones considered almost seven hundred different songs for Thriller. Eventually Jones recorded thirty songs and then picked the best nine for the final record. To me that’s more fair to the listener. To be honest, Checkmate is a little exhausting, and a few of the songs probably could have been left off. But for those who have an unlimited appetite for gangsta tales, this double album will be the answer to their prayers. Written by Novocaine132

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Finally

Finally was manufactured in 2001 by Sea-Sick in Seattle, home to releases by RC Tha Trackaholiq, Skuntdunanna, and Central Intelligence. However, the album is not technically on Sea-Sick, but rather Emerald City Records, which also worked with local group Dividenz. In fact, the credits of Finally tease an upcoming Dividenz album which eventually came out on Street Level Records.

Label details aside, Oxagin consists of two members, Sli and Loe. Their debut Finally is predominantly a story of hustling, street life, and crime. For example, in the skit “Tha Jack Move,” they steal a car from a hapless fellow citizen. “On A Roll” continues the carjacking story, “I can’t blame him, I would have shot him, I spot him, and if you would have missed, I would have got him.”

The sultry track “I’m Chok’in,” featuring singer Francci, is all about the large quantity of weed smoked by the group. Vampire movie fans will like “Lost Boys” which repurposes the eerie choir-boy chants from the movie’s soundtrack. “Thou shalt not kill…” For a taste of Barry White, check out “Realer Than Real,” which flips the famous ascending bassline from “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More Baby.” “Takin Over” featuring DMS is a solid effort by both groups.

To me, the most interesting track on Finally is “Send Me An Angel,” produced by Scott. Australian synth-pop band Real Life had a worldwide hit in 1983 with their emo song of the same title. Oxagin repurposes it here for a dirge-like tale of a character killed in a drug deal gone bad. “You should have known that life falls just like rain, you should have known they killed you for that cocaine.” This track captures the despairing, helpless tone of the original, and shows the ability of hip-hop to basically reintroduce us to songs that are already familiar. Music never dies, it just whistles a new tune. 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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A Hustlaz Livin Hell

Self Tightld put out their first album Hustlin-N-Hell in 1998. On tracks like “Pleasure Pouches,” “Watch That B/N,” and “Growth And Development,” the five MCs showed their talent at the rap game. 1998 was a bittersweet year for the group, according to group member Maine 1’s Soundcloud page, which explains that the group lost member Rob Doe that year when he passed away. In 2000 the remaining four members, Maine 1, Popsykle, 2Elevn, and Sikface released their sophomore album, A Hustlaz Livin Hell. Many of the beats are handled by RC The Trackaholiq, with others by Beezie and Wingo. Star guest appearances include Mac Dre, Yukmouth, and B-Legit.

“Work” is interesting, and stands out for its bouncy, unusual style. “Guaranteed Profits,” produced by Seattle legend Mafia aka Skuntdunanna, has lots of open space for the Self Tightld rappers to do their jobs. Other highlights include celebratory track “Da Hustle Continues,” and the stark warning, “Don’t Enter My Domain.” One of the standout tracks on Hustlin-N-Hell, “Pleasure Pouches” featuring the aforementioned B-Legit, is also featured here on A Hustlaz Livin Hell.

This would be the second and last album for Self Tightld. Maine 1 has been a conscious MC since 2005 with the murder of his big brother, and now tries to educate people about the dangers of gang life. His recent tracks such as “Silent War,” Fake Love,” and “I Can’t Breathe,” are worth checking out. Rappers 2Elevn and Sikface also remain active in the scene. RIP to Popsykle, who passed away in 2018. Written By Novocaine132

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