THE SIX is a regular Q&A feature on 206UP with a simple format: One member of the local hip-hop community and six questions. For past editions click here.
Araless and his Black Magic Noize collective fly relatively under the radar in the Town. That might change however with the release of the rapper’s new album Symbiosis, a salute to hip-hop’s traditionalist value system of straight-forward beats and rhymes. That type of descriptor can often be a death knell for an MC who’s not up to the task of waving the heavy Golden Era revivalist flag, but this MC — and this crew — lean head-on into the challenge. Ara and BMN are responsible for the monthly hip-hop showcase and cypher Spitfire Saturdays at Dante’s in the U-District. BMN’s de facto team leader hopped on the latest edition of The Six to discuss his hustle and flow.
206UP: For those that aren’t familiar with you, tell the readers a little about yourself.
Araless: I started writing and producing tracks when I was 12 or 13 in Granite Falls [WA], and busing to Seattle to spit or beatbox at house parties, parks, wherever I could find a cypher circle. I spent a little over a week in St. Lucia when I was 18, and that changed everything for me. I saw how a lot of the rest of the world lives, without much for infrastructure, while tourists come in and out without much benefit to the locals. When I came back I moved into a spot with my homie that had a studio in Everett, and met up with some like-minded cats. We formed Black Magic Noize and have been grindin’ ever since.
What (and who) are the Black Magic Noize collective?
The four primary members of BMN are myself, Madshroom MC, Nocturnal Beats, and DJ Corndogg. We started with the intention of BMN becoming a label, but when we started organizing events, it got bigger than that; more amoebic. We’ve organized an overnight camping festival with two stages and a beer garden, art parties, poetry shows; we’ve put together live bands and of course booked filthy hip-hop shows. We also make it a point to mentor younger artists in studio production, organizing live shows and promotion. We’re basically a big creative family and network.
What are the three albums — of any genre — that have most informed your work as a hip-hop artist?
Dr Dre’s The Chronic 2001 has some of the tightest production and dopest features, and I listened the hell out of that album. Fugees’ The Score was another huge influence on me; it was so casual, like a basement hip-hop party, and no one is fuckin’ with Lauren Hill. A lot of albums shaped my mind from there, but I gotta say Immortal Technique Revolutionary Vol. 2 is one of the filthiest albums; the beats are so grimy, his style is rugged, the wordplay is on point, and the content is real as fuck.
What’s the last great book you read?
I’ve been reading a lot of fiction lately, but I re-read Cat’s Cradle [Kurt Vonnegut] a few months ago, and I don’t think there’s a better example of science fiction.
Tell us about Spitfire Saturdays in the U-District.
Landon Wordswell actually came to me and asked me if I wanted to partner up on a monthly. It turned out he wasn’t able to get too involved, but once the idea was there I wanted to build on it. I wanted its focus to be on real MCs and carefully curated — in opposition to some other events I’ve been to where anybody can get up there, no breath control, no enunciation, lazy lyrics. I got DJ Able from 206 Zulu, [and] also a resident DJ for The Jam at Vermillion, to co-host with me and I book a different Filthy Fingers United beatmaker to play live beats for the freestyle cyphers. [Spitfire Saturdays] is every second Saturday at Dante’s, nestled in between The Jam at Vermillion on Friday and what used to be Church! at Black Coffee Co-Op on Sundays.
How do you see the hip-hop scene in Seattle progressing from here (ie. in the post-Macklemore era)?
When I really came into the scene, it’s almost like everybody got jaded, all these beautiful networks kinda fell apart and everybody started doin’ their own thing. I’m starting to see this turn around, and when I talk to the older heads, they agree. I think there’s something big building back up. I think the beat scene is gonna blow way the fuck up soon and I’m paying a lot of attention to Black Constellation; groups like Shabazz Palaces and THEESatisfaction — they’re on some next level shit. It’s hard to say what’s gonna happen next, things change drastically so quickly.