AUDIO: Nine to Fives & Afterlives – Spekulation

Spekulation - Nine to Fives & Afterlives

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.

Audio Audio / Video

AUDIO: THE FFUNK – Filthy Fingers United

FFU - The Ffunk

Words by Luke Wigren

When you see a song title like “Funky Blumpkin” you might not know what to expect. Yet the new Filthy Fingers release The FFUNK gets off to a grand start with Seattle MC Dex Amora delivering a breezy verse, setting the tone for the project as a whole. Together, the artists of FFUNK weave a rich sonic tapestry as eclectic as it is poignant. My personal favorite is the short sweet OK-produced track “NO LIMITATIONS.” Another by producer Able Fader, “With Respect to the Funk Fathers,” adds cohesion as he contemplates his place in funk history, geographically speaking. It’s a moment of pause for the project and a welcome point of beat-self-reflection at a time when producers are far too often faceless.

Filthy Fingers — a massive, widespread collective of producers, DJs, and beatmakers — whose bio reads more like a manifesto, not only promises an exciting future for its associated talents but it feels about time Seattle had something comparable to LA’s longtime musical incubator Low End Theory (which helped set the stage for Nosaj Thing, Flying Lotus, and The Gaslamp Killer) and the more recent LA-based label/podcast, Soulection (home to Seattle’s prodigal son Sango). Why, after Jake One, Ryan Lewis, Vitamin D and Sabzi, should town producers have to look outside the scene for recognition?

What’s truly amazing is that the 24-track FFUNK project, with artists hailing from as far as Florida and San Diego, is merely one monthly tape in a growing canon. (I’m already behind!) And, yes, if you were wondering, despite initial reservations, the song “Funky Blumpkin” is much better than it sounds.

Download this record. Put it on your phone and join the sonic kingdom of Filthy Fingers. Also, make sure you do your civic duty and like them on facebook to keep in the know, especially since a number of these guys are Seattlites and you can catch upcoming shows/dance parties.

PS. If you’re a beatmaker and you like what they’re giving, I’d strongly suggest getting on board. And if you’re a rapper, well, you know the drill…

Audio Audio / Video

AUDIO: The Golden Eagle EP – Specswizard

Specswizard- Golden Eagle EP

Words by Luke Wigren.

Longevity seems to be the elusive variable in rap these days. Staying power? Do not go there! I warn you… You will run out of fingers for the fallen. Luckily, we have artists like SPECSWIZARD, a Seattle veteran “rhyming since Reagonomics,” who is still crafting soul-stirring music more than three decades after he began.

The Golden Eagle EP‘s lyricism has the same playful world weariness which attracts me to the greatest verses of Shabazz Palace’s emcee, Ish. This is not surprising being that both started around the same time. In just the turn of a few lines, SPECS can brush off rap’s passing fads, while conveying an undying love for the culture and labor of hip-hop, all while avoiding condescension.

To savor a line from SPECSWIZARD means to reflect on just how many waves of rap music have risen and crashed. A song like “Shy” illustrates how lucky we are to have a scene mature enough to carry this type of inter-generational dialogue. Plus, his cartoon-ish stylings and idiosyncratic beat choices don’t hurt for those who like MF Doom or Flying Lotus.

As hip-hop enters its forties, the greatest triumph of all may not be in pursuing fame or fortune — something I hope should be fairly obvious — but in continuing to inspire the next generation, while magically and somehow impossibly staying under the radar. Shabazz Palaces does this by fabricating their own anonymity. Meanwhile, as his final track exclaims, SPECWIZARD seems to have done it by discovering “how to make himself invisible.”

Audio Audio / Video

AUDIO: The Headspace Traveler – Sol

Sol - The Headspace Traveler

Geared toward the headphone set and those with a tendency to turn inward rather than out when confronted with life’s challenges, The Headspace Traveler finds Sol untangling recent personal conflicts, particularly in the romance department. He’s still set on remaining positive (“Ain’t Gon’ Stop”) and takes up words as arms against those who criticize that ethos (“See The End” featuring vocalist Otieno Terry). The Headspace Traveler doesn’t please on the superficial level the way Sol’s past releases have (Eyes Open, Yours Truly), but it effectively paints the picture of an artist at somewhat of a crossroads. Creative and personal lines are dissolved here and raw emotion is laid refreshingly bare.

Audio Audio / Video

AUDIO: This Unruly Mess I’ve Made – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis


This Unruly Mess I’ve Made should definitely win the (mythical) Grammy for Most Aptly-Titled Rap Album.

Next year for that, though.

For now, tiptoe with the greatest of care through the online landscape lest your kicks become soiled with the mess of “White Privilege II” think pieces and — soon to come — album reviews of TUMIM.

Full disclosure: I haven’t listened to the thing in its entirety yet so I’ve no authority on making any sort of grand statement about the record. Suffice to say I was underwhelmed by the aforementioned “WPII” — it’s never interesting to watch or listen to white people struggle through their privilege, least of all when the catalyst for the testimony appears to be outside criticism and internalized guilt. It is possible for a pop artist to make a thoughtful, effective song about something as abominable as white supremacy that falls under four minutes and qualifies aesthetically for radio play. When it comes to provocation, I’ll take sneaky subversion over cheap scholarship six days a week and twice on Sundays. Our most interesting pop stars of the day pull it off with ease. Macklemore is not one of them.

He is, however, a capable rapper who, when relying on his natural humor and charm, can make truly fun songs. “Thrift Shop” previously, and “Buckshot” — featuring eyebrow raising guest appearances by DJ Premier and KRS One — here. Mack and RL are best when they stick to that formula.

One of my resolutions for the still relatively new year, is to try to reserve judgement against Ben Haggerty the human being; polarized energy is the last thing we need in our already overheated political environment. Instead, judgement should fall with impunity against a world that causes us to need to have these conversations. To be forced into a reckoning by a societal landscape in which the existence of a middling song like “White Privilege II” actually makes for a better place, is a much greater atrocity than seeing mediocre pop music dominate your Twitter feed.

Audio Audio / Video

AUDIO: “Touchdown” – Dex Amora (prod. by Goldenbeets)

Dex Amora - Touchdown

MC Dex Amora and the always reliable Goldenbeets on production with their first drop of the (still) new year. I listened to this track in my Honda, driving through my sunny new home of Los Angeles, and indeed I saw that it was good. See Dex and ‘Beets “Touchdown” tonight at Seattle’s Lo-Fi.

Audio Audio / Video

AUDIO: “100 Songs” – Sol (prod. by The Zillas)

Sol - 100 Songs

Earlier this month, Sol blasted back at Raz Simone’s dual indictments, “Same Problems”/”Charged Up”, with a dramatic reminder of why the positive-minded MC remains so heavy in the Seattle rap game: Pop-minded hip-hop notwithstanding, dude can spit.

Refusing to step out of his well-paved lane, Sol dropped the catchy “100 Songs” late last week as a follow-up to his Tuesday Bitorrent barrage of 99 songs which he released for free. “100 Songs” is the advance single from Sol’s album, The Headspace Traveler due March 4. It also marks the announcement of a national tour in the same name and with a grip of dates you can see here.

2016 is looking to be major for Sol.


Audio Audio / Video

AUDIO: Unmixed Nuts Vol. 2 – Chocolate Chuck

Chocolate Chuck - Unmixed Nuts Vol 2

Seattle beat scene fave Chocolate Chuck dispenses with the pleasantries (and agony) of fine-tuning in favor of just getting his shit out there. Unmixed Nuts Vol. 2 is a peek inside the producer’s head over the course of the “past few years.” Thanks for allowing us the glimpse, Chuck!

Audio Audio / Video

AUDIO: Chrono Nigger – Sick Ill

Do-it-all media maven Sic Ill satisfies the hip-hop musical cravings of all you aging millennials out there: Check out the Tacoma rapper’s Chrono Nigger (streaming in its entirety below) which is — you guessed it — raps over the music from the seminal video game Chrono Trigger. Life in the digital age is so wonderful, no?

Audio Audio / Video