State Of The Artist play it nonchalant-like on their latest single, “Unfazed” (produced by Aaron The King). Catch SOTA opening for LA’s Dom Kennedy at the Showbox in the Market on April 14th.
Members Only; 2012
Of the three MCs in local crew State Of The Artist, it’s likely Thaddeus David (or Young TH as he’s known in assembly) is the only one capable of holding down an entire album’s worth of solo material. Parker is an adequate rhymer but his true gifts lay behind the boards and Hyphen8d’s butter soft register just isn’t commanding enough to stand alone despite a charming wit that supersedes both of his teammates. One of the best things about the SOTA boys is how well they share the mic, with each MC getting a turn to shine on virtually every track they do together. Thaddeus is clearly their #3 hitter: the most well-rounded, the most consistent and the most interesting. Maven is his recent outing for dolo, a 16-track LP that’s definitely nice on the ears, but suffers from a partial lack of focus that hinders the MC’s hunt for a more distinct individual rep.
It’s hard to criticize Maven when all of the separate elements of a high quality album are present. Start with Thad’s flow which is natural and well-practiced. He sounds great positing on subjects like street politics (“Block Business”), succeeding in the rap game (“By Any Means”), and old fashioned shit talk (“Aww Sheit”). Part of his appeal lies in his raspy vocal aesthetic, a natural gift that allows him to swagger without trying. You can’t teach or learn that quality — it just is. The other remarkable thing about Maven is the beat choice: every single one succeeds. Provided by local suppliers (Jester, Kuddie Fresh, DJ Semaj) and anonymous internet beat mavens, there isn’t a weak gazelle in the bunch and the diverse sonics range from the dreamy wobble of “Never Never” to the jazzy shake of “Crown Royal.”
But while Thad’s beat selection is beyond reproach, his strategy for hopping on them is suspect. At least half of the collection would only qualify as interludes. Many of them are devoid of hooks that just start to build momentum before trailing off, like “Skyscrapers” which generates a nostalgic, grainy lo-def 70’s movie feel but then quickly rides out. As it goes with most hip-hop records these days, somewhere among the overflow of half-thoughts is a superior and more focused EP dying to get out. It’s a lesson Thaddeus should have learned from the title of Maven’s opening cut, “Less is More.”
In 206UP.COM’s recent interview feature, “THE SIX”, Thad informs us that another solo project is likely on the way, this time a for-profit venture with all original production. Here’s hoping “distillation” is on the MC’s to-do list for that go ‘round. Dude’s Town rep is very strong based on past musical collaborations — SOTA and Helluvastate (with Cloud Nice honcho Tay Sean) — and he’s shown it can only get stronger. The approach just needs a little calibration.
From SOTA’s Altered State, available here.
Well, here we are. 2012. Another year, another chance for The Town to makes its indelible mark on hip-hop music country- and worldwide. I would argue 2011 saw the widest range of quality releases since I started paying extra close attention (circa 2005). Just like college basketball, parity seems to be Seattle rap’s strong suit. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to properly represent all the styles being fashioned inside (much less outside) of the area code.
But I resolve to try, dear readers, and the immediate future will present many opportunities for me to do so. Let’s start with last week’s drop from Thaddeus David (aka. Young TH of State Of The Artist). His upcoming solo mixtape, Maven, drops on 1.27.12. TH is by far the most talented of the three members of SOTA, his gravelly flow and diverse range of styles runs the anchor leg of the trio’s party-rap relay. We’re looking forward to seeing dude get out on a solo sprint with Maven. “By Any Means” is the ‘tape’s clarion call, featuring a subtle bubbling beat by LA-based Ski Team, hook by SOTA teammate Parker, and guest bars from Onry Ozzborn.
Slopes, the new 12-song album from State Of The Artist makes it pretty clear that the fellas Parker, Hy and Young TH sound their best when rhyming over tracks by longtime production partners, LA-based Ski Team. Just saying. Much of the material here reminds me of the brief but very Pacific Ocean fresh Hank Moody EP which SOTA dropped post Cali-relocation 2009.
Breezy, wistful party jams where you can practically feel the sting of the salty Pacific Coast air in your nostrils is the order of the day on Slopes. The easy good-life-affirming flows of Parker and Hy settle into a nice balance with tracks like “More Than Fine” where the aim is to please the speakers in your ride as well as the ears of the nearest squad of mini-dressed breezies. TH’s more rugged delivery is the necessary shot of bitter in SOTA/Ski’s otherwise smooth Old Fashioned.
Seattlecalifragilisticextrahelladopeness was SOTA being generously inclusive but trying to please too many people. On the electro-oriented Altered State, the crew strayed too far out of their lane. Slopes, on the other hand, finds the trio sounding exactly as they should.
Been a minute since we’ve heard from State Of The Artist. Courtesy the good folks at Members Only, stream and download SOTA’s latest single, “High In The Air” (featuring Sol). A smoothed-out love jam to cure your end of Summer blues.
State Of The Artist dropped their new FREE EP today, Altered State. It’s a seven-track collection of anthemic electro-infused hip-hop. The title of the EP is appropriate as the album represents a shift in sound, away from the easy-going party rap of their debut LP, SeaCal, toward a moodier synth-heavy club aesthetic.
With all in-house production by group member Parker Joe, Altered State mostly rejects hip-hop’s traditional norms, so from that standpoint it doesn’t please the way SeaCal did. You can’t knock a group for growing, however, and there is plenty new to appreciate on AS.
SOTA will be heading out on tour with Mad Rad. Check the flyer below for your town:
Here we go rap fans! Thadwick Tristen Trevor III and Swan Coltrane present Adventures in a Helluvastate, a full-length collaborative endeavor between members of the Cloud Nice and Members Only cliques that feels as natural to the dome as caffeine buzzes and misty Puget Sound air.
From the group’s press release:
Seattle emcees Thadwick Tristen Trevor III (bka Young TH of State of the Artist) and Swan Coltrane (bka Tay Sean of Helladope) release Adventures in a Helluvastate, a starkly simplistic approach to hip-hop – two emcees rapping over beats – that comes off as oddly organic, stemming from spur-of-the-moment recording sessions in the Cloud Nice basement.
The duo isn’t apprehensive about their word choice or song structure. The thoughts flow freely from each artist’s brain to the booth with little filtration. Swan casually croons the chorus on “Star Stuff”: We tryna reach the stars so let us grow/ Not so much the body as the soul/ Don’t even think about it we just go…
The beats pulsate and morph, experimental and ever-changing, lent from a host of producers worldwide, only a few borrowed from in-house producers Tay Sean, Mikey Nice, and Seven Davis, Jr.
Rockwell Powers and Ill Pill hustle hard with their new track, “I Swear,” from the soon-to-be-dropping Kids In The Back 2. Help comes courtesy of those great “Connectors” (as Malcolm Gladwell would call them), State Of The Artist.
New drop from State Of The Artist: “I Think I Love You.” It’s available for the price of four clicks above and below. This electro-hip/pop banger grabs you like the over-eager girl on the dance floor. The SOTA boys spit PG-13 come-ons suitable for the bedroom or the club. The best part, though, is Janae Jones’ flirtatious contemplations. She sounds like the sexiest conflicted android since Rachael in Blade Runner.
Party purveyors Hi-Life Soundsystem and State Of The Artist (SOTA) knock you over the head with “Bounce,” a certified club track that requires you to fete. Ladies shake your stuff. Gentlemen return the favor in kind. Simple.
(Hi-Life album coming in February.)
Helluvastate is Tay Sean (of the Cloud Nice crew) and TH (of State Of The Artist). Get hip now before your friends do. This joint is dope and you can expect the entire mixtape to be, too. I can’t say any more than the homie Joe Gustav (of Posted In The Parking Lot and SSG Music) said in his excellent piece on SSG. Get with that here. And get with the free single by downloading below.
Check out the first drop of 2011 from State Of The Artist. “Chief Seattle” (prod. by Ski Team) is a re-up from the crew that brought you the best 2-0-6 party album of 2010. Will we see major growth from SOTA in the first year of the new decade? Only time will tell.
As a hip-hop and baseball obsessed youth, I constantly formulated Top 10 Lists. Athletes, shoes, songs, movies — if it was rate-able, I was Top 10′in it, practically weekly. This is probably why 206UP.COM’s year-end list is my favorite post to write. Last year I waxed not-so-poetically on how, in 2005, Seattle’s underground rap scene single-handedly renewed my faith in the music. This year my affinity for Town rap became even tighter knit.
The albums, songs, free downloads, and videos that originated strictly in Seattle were enough to keep my hip-hop appetite satisfied through the whole year. Not to say excellent new albums by nationally known artists (Big Boi, The Roots, Kanye West, etc.) weren’t heavy on my playlist, or that the underground movements in other cities weren’t relevant. It’s just that hip-hop in the 2-0-6 is so grown now, more than it’s ever been, and the voices, perspectives and spectrum of sounds in our Town are talented and diverse enough to keep my ears fully attuned.
While there were some glaring omissions in 2010 (the new Physics LP being the most significant, for me), there were some other big advancements and unexpected surprises:
The emergence of La (formerly known as Language Arts) as a force to be reckoned with (at least on wax). This cat blew through like a Northeaster on his two LP’s, Gravity and Roll With The Winners, spitting outlandish braggadocio unlike any other rapper in town.
Two career-defining performances by Blue Scholars. The first was at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City, which I wrote about, here. At this show, the Scholars proved to the hip-hop world that they could hang in the Mecca, legitimizing their voice on a whole new level. (Macklemore’s opening performance was definitely notable, too.) The other show folks were buzzing about was the City Arts music festival performance at The Paramount, the first time a local hip-hop group rocked the venerable theater’s stage. Blue Scholars made history, nationally and locally, with these two shows.
This year also saw artists better known for their previously established collaborative endeavors break out with successful new excursions. JFK and Onry Ozzborn both dropped excellent LP’s independent of their legendary Grayskul partnership — JFK on the straight-up solo tip and Onry Ozzborn in collaboration with Chi-town producer Zavala. RA Scion reinvented himself with his Victor Shade project with producer MTK. And Gabriel Teodros and Amos Miller connected in Brooklyn, forming the impromptu collab Air 2 A Bird after being rebuffed in London on the eve of their world tour.
But enough with the recap. The following list represents what 206UP.COM sees as the best Seattle hip-hop albums of the year. There was no real science to compiling the list and, when it comes down to it, these things are matters of pure conjecture, subject to debate and relentless criticism of the people who made them (which this blog always welcomes, by the way). Enjoy the list and Happy New Year!
JFK – Building Wings on the Way Down
LaRue – Saturn Returns
Avatar Young Blaze – Russian Revolution Mixtape
10. State of the Artist – SeattleCaliFragilisticExtraHellaDopeness
The album equivalent of a 2-0-6 hip-hop houseparty, by design SeattleCal wasn’t exactly an official debut LP for State of the Artist, but a showcase for much of the talent in the city. The three SOTA emcees were consistently outshone by their guests and a lot of times the lyrics didn’t seem to make any sense. As strictly a party album, however, there wasn’t one better.
9. Victor Shade – Victor Shade
The re-birth of RA Scion as the rap superhero Victor Shade saw a major shift in musical tone, but not a dramatic change in delivery or aesthetic. RA’s lyrics are still dense as hell and require close examination on paper in order to understand their meaning. It all sounded great, however, over MTK’s knocking production. RA Scion (aka. Victor Shade) remains the most professorial battle rapper in Seattle.
8. Air 2 A Bird – Crow Hill
A soaring achievement considering the bare-bones tools Air 2 A Bird (Gabriel Teodros and Amos Miller) had to work with when making this album in Brooklyn. In its creation, Crow Hill captured the very essence of hip-hop: eloquent poetics, masterful improvisation and a revolutionary spirit (albeit on a quieter and more reserved scale). This album proves that hip-hop executed with class and panache can be just as effective as the bombastic variety.
7. La – Roll With The Winners
This “debut” album from the emcee formerly known as “Language Arts” featured expert throwback production by an unknown producer named Blu-Ray, whose heavy soul sampling sounds like The Alchemist on his most nostalgic day. The highlight, though, was La’s take-no-prisoners lyrical work. Hearing raw talent like this is akin to watching Allen Iverson play basketball for the first time. At this stage in his career La is still all fearless potential, but on paper he might already be the most technically sound rapper in the city.
6. Helladope – Helladope (aka Return to Planet Rock)
Helladope’s Tay Sean is far too young a cat to be making music with this much soul and expert tribute to the R&B and funk of yesteryear. Still, he accomplished the feat with ease. Along with emcee/vocalist Jerm, Helladope’s debut album offers a fresh take on the P-funk/G-funk rap amalgamation that originated in Southern California in the early 90’s. The sound is updated here with extraterrestrial gimmickry that amuses but isn’t essential to the album’s vibe.
5. J. Pinder – Code Red EP
This star-studded EP by Seattle ex-pat J. Pinder had a professional sheen equal to most major label releases. And it was free, to boot. Unsurprisingly, the folks who built the foundation of Code Red are either consummate hip-hop professionals or quickly on their way: Vitamin D, Jake One and Kuddie Fresh, among others. Pinder’s easy flow and accessible subject matter made this album easy to ride for.
4. Dark Time Sunshine – Vessel
Vessel exists in the same category as the number two album on this list, The Stimulus Package. The lyrical work is quintessential Onry Ozzborn (here reborn as Cape Cowen) but the production is a masterful concoction of headphone-oriented beats that only a cold soul from Chicago could assemble. Producer Zavala cultivates a terrain of rich electronica that feels organic, as if grown and harvested with the precision of robot farmers. The most sonically progressive SEA hip-hop album this side of Shabazz Palaces’ 2009 masterpiece.
3. Jake One & Freeway – The Stimulus Package
At first consideration it seemed strange to include this release featuring an emcee so deeply associated with the city of Philadelphia. Fifty percent of the album artist credit is from Seattle though so how could it be excluded? The obvious truth is Jake One had as much (if not more) to do with the quality of The Stimulus Package as Freeway. Jake has a knack for creating fresh ideas while staying inside the bounds of traditional boom-bap. Stimulus is his best and most cohesive collection of beats, ever.
2. Candidt – Sweatsuit & Churchshoes
Candidt’s long-delayed Sweatsuit & Churchshoes is a refreshing and dynamic package of West Coast B-boy rap. Every local young buck in the game should take this album as the new hip-hop gospel for the way it connects Old School and New. Candidt doesn’t sound like anyone else in the city and his willingness to experiment with new sounds while keeping strict West Coast principles earns SS&CS major props.
1. Def Dee & La (fka. Language Arts) – Gravity
Producer Def Dee caught lightning in a bottle with his masterful production work on this album. Gravity pays direct tribute to NYC Golden Era boom-bap and is unapologetic in its revivalist ideology. It also manages to sound fresh and timeless, however, and is the most musically cohesive album of these ten. Emcee La officially established himself as one of the best rappers in the city. He plays it cooler than on his proper solo debut, Roll With The Winners, but that’s because the music requires him to. Gravity stands firmly to the side of Seattle’s so-called “Third Wave hip-hop,” a position that’s especially important to the purist set. All the current innovation in local rap is a great thing, but so is the creation of more traditional forms like Gravity. It reminds everyone that hip-hop made in our isolated corner of the map is inextricably linked to the region of its genesis.
Here’s a nice track from two budding emcees still building reps in The Six. The Good Sin (aka. Sinseer) and Young TH (aka. the most talented third of dem S.O.T.A. boys) both have engaging, capable flows that could take them to greater heights than where they currently fly. Preview the track below and click the image for the free D/L link.
Delightfully low-budget and mostly pleasing, Katie Kate’s video for “Constellation” annoyed me the first time I watched it. Upon repeated viewings, however, I’ve become amused and charmed. You might know Katie from her scene-stealing guest shot on State Of The Artist’s “Jealous.” (Come to think of it, all of the guest shots on SOTA’s album were scene-stealing. Hmm…) Listen to that track here:
And peep the “Constellation” video here:
August 10th, 2010 is The Day of The Video, apparently. Peep SOTA’s visuals for “Extrahelladope” (featuring Helladope and Jarv Dee from the Cloud Nice camp). Stephan Gray is the man behind the lens on this one.
Seattle hip-hop still hasn’t found its definitive “sound.” Artists over the last two years have, for the most part, taken a get-in-where-ya-fit-in attitude toward determining their particular place in the 2-0-6 hip-hop sphere. The closest Seattle has come to forming its own unique rap persona was the so-called “conscious boom-bap” stylings of Blue Scholars, Common Market and Abyssinian Creole way back in the mid-aughts. (And yes, I say “way back” with tongue planted firmly in-cheek. The South Bronx, Seattle is not.)
State Of The Artist drops their official full-length debut, Seattlecalifragilisticextrahelladopeness this Friday, 4.23.10, at Pravda Studios. Peep the flyer below. In the meantime, click here or below to download the track, “Hey Hey” (featuring P Smoov and Shaprece Renee) from the forthcoming album.
Any group that’s interested in properly representing Left Coast hip-hop should first take a trip down I-5 to the Golden State, the place where the West Coast sound was originally developed, nurtured, and fully realized. Something about the combination of fresh Pacific Ocean air, perpetually sunny weather, and other (ahem) “natural” remedies, fuse to get the creative juices flowing something proper.
Makes me feel like I’m in college. DIY-aesthetes, State Of The Artist, celebrate weed, Cali sunshine, parties, and hip-hop. It’s all good for these 206 up-and-comers.
I like this song right here. It’s Parker (of SOTA) and Sinseer rhyming over The Black Keys’ “Psychotic Girl”. Parker really finds his flow, Sinseer has mad personality, and The Black Keys further show their hip-hop influences. This sh*t belongs on BlakRoc. Somebody run ‘n tell Dame.
I don’t know who “Hank Moody” is the name of David Duchovny’s character on the show Californication. And if ‘dem boys from S.O.T.A. (State Of The Artist) continually find this kind of inspiration in the character, then they should start linking up with him on the regular. (I know, I know, “Hank Moody” is probably some sort of fictional character or composite manifestation of the groups’ alter egos. Whatever.)
Download S.O.T.A.’s The Hank Moody EP, here. Inspired by their recent time spent in California, this brief three-track collection feels like a warm Cali sunset and pulls inspiration from early to mid 90′s Golden State underground.