A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Drop Top

When Sir Mix-A-Lot and his business partner Ricardo Frazer left Nastymix, they established a new label called Rhyme Cartel. According to Discogs, the first release on Rhyme Cartel was the lead single to Mix-A-Lot’s third album Mack Daddy, a track called “One Time’s Got No Case.” Throughout 1992, the label released titles by Mix-A-Lot, but Ricardo and Mix wanted to grow the business. They began to look for new artists, and E-Dawg was one of the first signees to join. E-Dawg wrote two songs which appeared on the Seattle… The Dark Side compilation, and those same two cuts, “Drop Top” and “Little Locs” were also released as a twelve-inch single.

A-side “Drop Top,” featuring smooth-voiced rapper Filthy Rich, is a local classic, and could be heard everywhere in ’93. Verse one sees E-Dawg talking about an average day, and what it’s like driving around the hood in his convertible. Filthy Rich raps verse two, and also sets the mood at the start of the track, “Just kickin it, got the dank, got the drank, got the bank, and it’s all good.” A slick video for “Drop Top” was produced for BET and MTV audiences, helping the track gain exposure.

The B side is “Little Locs.” It starts with the sound of a gunshot and proceeds with E-Dawg proving his gangsta bona fides. “I know two roads to life, the straight and the crooked, the crooked road is in the O, so I took it,” he raps, highlighting his connection to Oakland, California. Both “Drop Top” and “Little Locs” were produced by Eugenius from Homegrown and Criminal Nation.

In a 1993 interview with Billy Jam available on Youtube, E-Dawg talks about his plans for putting out a record in ’94 on “Def American,” then he remembers that Rick Rubin has stricken “Def” from the name and corrects himself. But that E-Dawg album on American never arrived. Years later, he released two albums, Platinum in 1999 for Spot Entertainment, and How Long in 2010 which was released on Hard Road. After putting out E-Dawg, Rhyme Cartel went on to release music by singer/spoken word artist Jazz Lee Alston, electronic artist Kia, and rap/rock act Outtasite. Written by Novocaine132

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Seattle... The Dark Side

BOOM! Here it is. The best rap and R&B coming out of this dirty-white, rock ‘n’ roll lovin’ Emerald City. So says Mix-A-Lot, the biggest rap act out of this area for hundreds of miles. (And sadly, that’s straight up the truth.) He damn near promised us a sure-fire, kick in the ass, hit-to-hit collection by putting this LP out on his own label. (And that’s more proof for my earlier statement.)

BAM. I’ll be dipped in jeri curl juice! There’s some fresh and creative “dark” music being hidden away in this town somewhere. Mix, his new label Rhyme Cartel, and American Records (Rick Rubin dropped the “Def” part) have put out a rough and stylin’ nine-song selection. Not all of this compilation would be banned by the late KFOX playlist, though. There are some mainstream artists on this CD; a good third of it is mediocre at best. But that just makes the best stuff really shine.

My favorite cut is newcomer Jazz Lee Alston’s “Love…Never That.” It sent shivers down my spine. This is probably the best example of how dark it can get in a young adult’s mind. It’s an abstract tale of a female struggling to deal with an abusive boyfriend and the father of her child. It’s delivered in a slow, deliberate spoken-word fashion to a shuffling jazz tempo and haunting keyboard samples — a style few female rappers have dared to try.

I’m a sucker for ’70s soul samples. Two songs, in particular, bent my ear for a funfilled tour to back when. Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Sunshine” and Con Funk Shun’s “By Your Side” make for instant grooving on Jay Skee’s “Menace Crook” and Kid Sensation’s “Flava You Can Taste,” respectively.

Not all of the cuts rely on trips to yesteryear. E-Dawg’s “Little Locs” brings this LP back to the ’90s in a big way, using production skills that have had city streets cracking all over the US.

Two of the artists didn’t get their start in Seattle. Jay-Skee is from the LA area and Jazz Lee Alston is from New York City. So is Seattle really putting out new good rap acts? Or are they coming to this area to make it big?

I’m serious! This area has more major label scouts sniffing around than espresso carts on its corners. It is probably easier to count the numbers who are actually from Seattle. This album could be a swan song for most of these acts, or it could be just the beginning of some good, dark music for the future. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by Scott Griggs.)

Here’s another take:

Times change. This comp dropped in 1993, which to me was the year of the Great Upheaval in Northwest hip-hop. At that time, gangsta had outlived its welcome and new acts like Heiro and the Pharcyde were grabbing the attention. Local artists like Mix-A-Lot and Kid Sensation had lost their cool and had become the stuff of middle school dances, so by the time I heard about this album, my ears were closed.

I was in high school, the future underground was in full swing, and local acts like the Elevators and Tribal had quite effectively turned the early-’90s gangsta and R&B industry into a joke.

Though I did not appreciate this record at the time, listening to it in retrospect, I can hear the value in it. Here is some top-quality hip-hop attempting to assert itself in the face of change, And more poignantly, this is a declaration from Seattle’s Afro-American community and a group of artists who were very much left out of the anglicized Northwest music explosion of the early ’90s (AKA GRUNGE).

Dark Side is a short record. But its 35 minutes effectively showcases an important time in the 206’s long history of hip-hop. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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