Words by Luke Wigren


If you want to see where the sound of our city is headed look no further than the EMP Sound Off!, a renowned Northwest 21-and-under music competition now in its 15th year. Performances wrapped up back March and hip hop and R&B came out sitting on top. The final round gave the title and runner up to COSMOS and Paris Alexa, respectively, while Renton hip-hop outfit Dre’zy and Too Smoove received the audience favorite award. I enjoyed the funk-hiphop-futurism of COSMOS, but it was the song “Cashitis” by Paris Alexa, a 17 year old wunderkind, which stole the show with layered vocal melodies and clever lyricism, destined for radio or streaming success.

Town favorites Raz Simone, Dyme Def, Dave B, Scribes, Kung Foo Grip, and Sam Lachow have all shared the EMP Sky Church stage over the years and Sound Off! alums Sol, Brothers From Another, and Otieno Terry recently finished a nationwide tour together. With that kind of track record, make sure you follow the 2016 winners and catch them this summer performing at local music festivals, including Paris Alexa at Timber! Fest and COSMOS at Bumbershoot.

Lastly, if you had any doubt about the scene’s direction, with this year’s artists citing influences such as Thundercat, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, A Tribe Called Quest, Robert Glasper and Erykah Badu, I think we can safely say the kids are alright.

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