Spekulation’s name is known outside of the Puget Sound region because of two giant claims-to-fame, both of which found the rapper/producer more getting caught up in the fractious waves of meme-ification created by social media than a surreptitious manipulation of those same channels for personal gain. The Bitter Barista and “Bout That Action” were tossed-off, this close to subconscious afterthoughts driven by boredom and absent-minded digital noodling. The other side to Spek’s creative coin is far more calculated.
His newly released album, Nine to Fives & Afterlives, is a cogent attempt to speak universally at a community level. To date, that hustle is working. Last week’s Block Party at The Station, which the rapper co-organized, functioned as both a peace-minded middle finger to a similarly-named annual music festival that has forsaken its community origins and a showcase for local artists that arguably deserve a bigger stage and a more prominent seat at the political table. Indeed the humble Block Party even got the biggest fish in City Hall to bite when Mayor Murray’s staff reached out in hopes of a photo-op. The Block Party team’s response was — fittingly — democratic, if not refreshing.
Nine to Fives & Afterlives is a companion piece to the Block Party at The Station and a professionally-crafted musical summary of Spek’s social viewpoints which are on constant, public display on his Facebook and Twitter feeds. The irony of Uncle Ike’s rise to (legal) weed prominence in the Central District gets dealt with on “Uncle Ike” (see, also: “Irony on 23rd,” Draze’s similar critique). The critical failures by our elected officials to take care of their most vulnerable constituents is lamented on “This Is America” (featuring vocalist Michelle Khazak). These songs are examples of where Spekulation’s head is at in most moments. It is not lost on him that the well-being of his community is endangered by the same society that would rather make him famous over a few passive-aggressive (although hilarious) barbs at difficult customers instead of more meaningful work that brings critical issues to light.
Catch Spekulation with guests The Bad Tenants, Sleep Steady, Travis Thompson, and DJ Absolute Madman, at the Nine to Fives & Afterlives album release party at Barboza tonight.