THE SIX: Featuring Harry Clean of Detooz Films

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THE SIX is a regular interview feature on 206UP.COM with a simple format: One member of the local hip hop community and six questions. For past editions click here.

If you watch Seattle hip hop music videos with any regularity, then you already know Harry Clean’s work, even if you don’t really know Harry Clean’s work. That telltale piercing sound of glass shattering into a million high-definition shards adorns the intro to dozens of music videos branded with the Detooz Films logo, Harry’s production company.

Dude first hit the 206UP inbox in late 2010, eager as all hell to get his burgeoning collection of video interviews up on our humble outlet. Since then, his eye for sharp angles and smart concepts have blessed the videos for virtually every major name in Town rap. Harry is one of a few talented and innovative videographers lending their creative energies to Seattle hip hop — Zia Mohajerjasbi, Stephan Gray and Ryan Hills are a few others — but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone more prolific.

Thanks to Harry Clean for taking some time out to answer THE SIX.

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VIDEO: Do The Math Podcast – Episode 2 with Deven Morgan & Jake One


There has been a recent movement in the Town toward documenting, both aurally and visually, the rap-related things happening inside the bounds of this fair area code. From the good folks at Mad NW who are responsible for the excellent local rap documentary The Otherside, to blogger Jack Devo’s online vault of Seattle music rarities, and finally to the burgeoning Do The Math podcast, created and hosted by 206 hip hop superfan Deven Morgan.

Meant to be a StoryCorps of sorts strictly for the Seattle rap nerd set, Deven is both honest and earnest in his love for Town hip hop. Episode 2 features the vital producer Jake One waxing nostalgic about creating records in the former heyday of Seattle hip hop. Do The Math seeks to highlight the so-called “second wave” of Seattle rap, the time and artists just after Sir Mix-A-Lot’s apex, but before the rise of Blue Scholars and Macklemore. These are the typically forgotten artists, best represented by the loose collective known as Tribal Music whose Do The Math compilation album, released in 1996, is both the namesake and spiritual foundation for Deven Morgan’s podcast endeavor.

I can’t claim any amount of authority over Tribal or Do The Math other than what I’ve read — and heard — since starting this blog in earnest four and a half years ago. I will say, though, that Tribal’s brand of hip hop is the type to which I’ve always been most drawn in life. DTM is a Golden Era revivalist’s wet dream, created on the tail-end of that movement’s waning years* a time when rap music, it seemed, was less about singular identities and more about the movement. That’s fairly nebulous, I suppose, but so becomes history when the great windshield wiper of the mind blurs and distorts your recall over time. Thank the rap gods, then, that someone is committing these things to permanent record.

*Technically it’s post-Golden Era, but things arrive late in Seattle. So be it.

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VIDEO INTERVIEW: The Flavr Blue – 11.15.13 at Mercury Lounge, New York City


In partnership with Jae Change (whom you would recognize as Know Choice), 206UP.COM dips its pinkie toe into the wild waters of video interviews. Seattle’s The Flavr Blue sat down with us in the green room at NYC’s Mercury Lounge mere minutes before wheels up on stage. Thanks to them for the time!

You’ll see that I don’t appear in the video. That was by design. Jae and I are still developing my on-camera persona, which will likely end up being some combination of David Letterman, Nardwuar and Psy. It would’ve been wrong to subject Lace, Parker and Hollis to that kind of cult-of-personality just before performing.

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INTERVIEW: Razor Tongue Radio featuring 206UP.COM (Hey, that’s ME!)

RTR

I expose my deepest darkest secrets and most aspirational dreams with B-Dub and Shao Sosa, your loyal weekly purveyors of that good Pacific Northwest rap shit.

Really tho, thanks to Razor Tongue Radio for having me on. Never thought I’d be asked to give my opinions on Seattle rap in a radio interview format, but it was definitely a lot of fun. Stay up on RTR at their official (yet still under construction) website, here.

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THE SIX: Porter Ray

Porter Ray

[THE SIX is a regular interview feature on 206UP.COM with a simple format: One member of the local hip hop community and six questions. For past editions click here.]

Porter Ray is shining on the strength of three stellar albums. His BLK GLD LP dropped mid-May and was followed by two EPs, WHT GLD and RSE GLD, in October. In partnership, they are the most exciting hip hop to originate from the Town this calendar year, and will undoubtedly find slots on all of the self-important blog year-end lists that populate the local internet from now until the annual turn. (And of course keep your browser tab tuned right here for just such an entry.)

Accolades are immaterial except for the most narcissistic among us, and Porter Ray is not Seattle’s answer to Kanye West. His raps are observational in tone, a little like Kendrick’s and a lot like Nasir’s. When he does stop to honor himself, it usually feels in passing, like his hustle is already rap’s oldest certainty and listeners should know this because they probably read about him in an ancient book — or blog — somewhere. In this way he reminds you of Shabazz Palaces: A brief flicker of genius that sparks up from the communal rap flame burning in perpetuity.

All this to say: Porter Ray’s shit is the new, but it already feels like a fable, son.

206UP: Local media and rap heads around the Town have been quick to place you in that ambiguous “alternative / indie hip hop” category. Does the segmenting of rappers into different sub-genres offend you, or do you welcome it?

Porter Ray: I welcome it. There are different styles of rap music, just as there are sub-genres of rock. We have classic rock, heavy metal, acid, punk, etc… The same principals apply to hip hop.

What’s your earliest Seattle hip hop memory?

Watching Sir Mix-A-Lot’s limo drive past 23rd and Jackson in the video for “Posse On Broadway”. The video for “Baby Got Back” was another one of my first memories of Seattle hip hop as well.

There seems to be a transition in sound from the BLK GLD album to the RSE GLD/WHT GLD EPs: Softer beats on BLK GLD to a bit harder on RSE/WHT. Was this a conscious decision or did it just come about organically?

The transition of sound from BLK GLD to RSE and WHT was definitely a conscious decision we made to try and elevate the music. At the same time, it is something that happened organically being that all of those albums were recorded in the same stretch of time. The music that we were creating, naturally developed into different sounds and vibes as we progressed as artists and began to find ourselves. We’re stepping it up another notch for my next project.

Describe a typical day in the life of Porter Ray these days.

A typical day for me consists of writing, recording, rehearsing and strategizing. I spend a lot of time searching for things to keep me inspired and fuel my creativity, whether its reading, searching for new music, or watching a film. In between all of this I usually have my son Aaron during the late afternoons and evenings. I’ll play him beats and rap to him, or we’ll hit the park and I’ll draw while he plays. After I drop off my seed [with] his mom I’ll link up with MFB or B Roc and hit the studio.

Your rhymes have a strong philosophical and observational quality to them. Would you describe yourself as more of a “watcher” or a “participator”, and why?

Both. I consider myself more of the “observer” as an emcee, however I feel that I’m the “observer” that somehow always ends up participating by proxy.

What’s the last great book you read?

The Egyptian Philosophers: Ancient African Voices From Imhotep to Akhenaten written by Molefi Kete Asante.

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THE SIX: Featuring Sol

Sol

[THE SIX is a regular interview feature on 206UP.COM with a simple format: One member of the local hip hop community and six questions. For past editions click here.]

You probably know the story: Seattle rapper on the come-up graduates from the University of Washington and, just as his buzz starts reaching ears nationwide, promptly flees the country for parts unknown. If this sounds unfamiliar, then you haven’t been following the path of Sol, former winner of the EMP Sound Off! competition and, according to many Seattle rap denizens, perhaps the next to pull a Macklemore and blow up on a national level.

Maybe.

In the meantime, Sol continues to do it his way and on his terms alone, drawing respect and admiration from all corners of the Seattle hip hop community. He’s playing the long game in an industry holding a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude, preferring quality over quantity — a unique precept that many Town artists, from The Physics to Blue Scholars, seem to share.

206UP managed to steal a few minutes of the MC’s time for this edition of THE SIX. Here Sol sheds illumination on his recent globe-trotting and what it means for his return to the proverbial “rap game”.

First off, Sol, welcome back to the United States. Before you left on your trip, what sort of trepidation did you have about going, especially as it pertained to your music career?

These days, people are so afraid of disconnecting from their routines and their comfort zones. On top of that, as [hip hop] artists we are constantly battling to stay relevant and competing for listeners. So the idea of detaching from this grind for a year brought about those obvious fears. But, ultimately, those are the same concerns that lead me to go on sabbatical in the first place. As an artist, you need to break that routine in search of inspiration. You must creatively operate outside of your comfort zone both artistically and physically. And finally, I plan to have a life in music and hope to make songs that stand the test of time. So a year away from the “rap life” is nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Do you think your travels will affect the way you make music in the future?

I hope to be fortunate enough to enjoy a lifetime of travel. This last trip alone has instilled that as a priority for me. Every day, every time I write or perform I feel the experiences pouring out of me. I think as I tour and more new music is released other people will see it too.

What was the most interesting discovery you made in regard to how people in other parts of the world make or experience hip hop music?

Great question. Everywhere you go, youth are connecting with hip hop. The culture translates over and helps them express and deal with hardship. Seeing how the music sonically differs from continent to continent and country to country was super dope.

You talked somewhere about going to places that you specifically “shouldn’t.” Why was that philosophy important to you?

Most barriers come from within. We construct ideas of what we should be doing or where we think others go and follow. I, however, choose to abandon that approach and instead follow no path but my own. Both musically and personally it has led me to success and happiness so far, so why stop?

What was the last great book you’ve read, or movie you’ve seen?

Super random actually. I just re-read the 1897 original Dracula book by Bram Stoker. That book was so dope; it has had a cultural impact lasting for more than a century now. His ancestors should get Twilight royalties.

Tell us about Eyes Open, your next project due in September.

I came back to the United States after ten months of traveling around the world and had absolutely no idea what would happen next. I hit the studio heavy with my team Nima Skeemz and Elan Wright and created something beautiful. What this project is for me is the answer to a lot of questions. With my previous album, Yours Truly, I was figuring out who I was and defining my sound. With this project, Eyes Open, I am absolutely sure of who I am and what my purpose is. This is when I build my legacy.

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THE SIX: Featuring DeVon Manier

Photo courtesy of the artist's Twitter page.

Photo courtesy of the artist’s Twitter page.

[THE SIX is a regular interview feature on 206UP.COM with a simple format: One member of the local hip hop community and six questions. For past editions click here.]

If you’re a fan of Seattle hip hop, you probably wouldn’t know DeVon Manier’s voice if you heard it. You would, however, know his artists’. Manier co-founded the venerable hip hop label Sportn’ Life Records back in 2002 which has grown to be the region’s most successful independent purveyor of local rap and R&B. Co-founder D. Black (now known as Nissim) is a familiar voice; so is Fatal Lucciauno’s; and Spac3man’s. You get the picture.

Manier’s influence on the Town scene is far-reaching but fairly under the radar. He sits on or advises various boards around the city including the City of Seattle Music Commission (founded in 2010), a vital municipal task force dedicated to preserving Seattle’s rich music tradition. To understand the scope of our city’s hip hop heritage, you must at least partially go through DeVon Manier. We’re excited and pleased that he took a few minutes to hop on this week’s edition of THE SIX.

You and your team started Sportn’ Life Records in earnest back in 2002. Talk about the hip hop “environment” in Seattle then. Why did you think it was a good time to start a label? 

From my position at the time, the local environment was nice and competitive, but just starting to grow and separate. It felt more like “hip hop” and less like just “rap music.” The business mindset was just starting to settle in with most people.  There were a few labels popping up and the biggest names at the time were Boom Bap Project and Byrdie if I remember right.

The number one reason for starting a label at the time was that the talent was staring us right in the face. We had a crop of fresh talent from the CD [Central District] and South End neighborhoods, and I couldn’t wait to take the music “downtown” so to speak, especially since it was a time where music from Seattle’s black communities wasn’t getting much shine. It was also a great time to sell CDs out of the trunk of the car and strive to be like Roc-A-Fella, No Limit, Bad Boy and earn money while making a name on the streets.

“Live For Now” – Nissim (feat. Bonhom)

As a record label owner, is it frustrating these days to have to compete not only against other labels, but the “independent” movement as well? Is the monumental success of someone like Macklemore a death knell for record labels?

It’s probably frustrating to those [who] aren’t willing to embrace new tasks, new business models, and new roles in the industry. Sportn’ Life recognizes our strengths and we’ve recently made a change to do more artist management and consulting, to less label work. It just makes sense for our situation. Overall, I don’t think labels are dead — maybe record companies are. Today some indie artists have a “team” of people doing the work of a label, or a manager; artists are doing the work of a label.  Either way you look at it, the work has to get done, things have to be paid for, and fans need to help.

Is there one particular “artist that got away” who sticks out during your time with Sportn’ Life?

Nah, not really. There [are] a few that I wished we had gone further with, or released more material from, but that’s about it. But none that “got away.”

“King Street Freestyle” – Spac3man

Is the Seattle market capable of supporting so many hip hop acts? Do you think the scene will reach an over-saturation point? — Or has it already?

Well, whack stuff has a way of weeding itself out eventually, and that always helps the odds. But just as long as people want to hear, pay for, and go see music live, I think we’ll be fine. Seattle is a mecca of music and creativity, and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon.

What was the last song that played on your iPod (or on your car stereo)? Be honest! 

I’m not familiar with the song names yet, but the last album I played was the new Mayer Hawthorne Where Does This Door Go.

Go ahead and plug one or two upcoming projects in the Sportn’ Life pipeline. 

Up next from the label would be Spac3man’s EP Beyond the Stars. Then we’ll be releasing a long delayed project from My Life My Love, a collective group consisting of Nissim, Fatal Lucciauno, Spac3man, and Larry Hawkins. As far as artists we manage, people can definitely look out for a new EP from Fly Moon Royalty and the debut project from Larry Hawkins and Davey Jones titled Butterfly Sauce. They’re a new R&B/rap duo who we think will be turning quite a few heads this Summer/Fall.

“This Way That Way” – Larry Hawkins & Davey Jones

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THE SIX: Featuring HAVi Blaze

Havi Blaze 2

[THE SIX is a regular interview feature on 206UP.COM with a simple format: One local hip-hop artist and six questions. For past editions click here.]

Our guest on this week’s edition of THE SIX is HAVi Blaze. The Tacoma-bred MC has been catching buzz around Town with his latest album, Self Portrait, a polished, self-assured collection of tracks that deals in real life drama and deft braggadocio. HAVi previously made waves with “Purple & Gold (UW Anthem)”, a tribute to his alma mater the University of Washington and a re-purposing of Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow”. Larry Mizell from The Stranger once compared HAVi to Phonte Coleman, a sort of everyman MC adept at extracting the nuances of the human condition from a street-oriented perspective. HAVi trends toward the harder end of that spectrum, but otherwise it’s a good comparison. The rapper generously took some time out from his schedule to hop on THE SIX.

For those readers that don’t know who you are, give them the official “HAVi Blaze bio” in five sentences or less.

HAVi is an independent hip hop artist from Washington State. As a writer, producer and performer, I believe I am known for my lyrical ability, and realistic subject matter. I make music to affect the lives of people as much as music has affected mine. I have watched the hip hop culture evolve for the better and change for the worst, along with the rest of the world. At its current stage, I still feel like there is a place for meaningful lyrics and music.

“I’ve Been Down” – HAVI Blaze

You produced all of the beats on your new album, Self Portrait. Talk about your creative process: What comes first for you, the beats or the lyrics? Or do they alternate?

I usually hear a beat and then decide a topic. Most beats will tell you what type of song or feeling to write about. There are some times when I write a verse or song to a particular beat and then decide to use those lyrics for a different beat. I started out as a producer so I pay a lot of attention to the instrumental before I write. Sometimes, I’ll play a beat 100 times before I actually write anything to it. Then, when I am writing, I’ll pace around a room or lie down and repeat the lines as I create a verse. By the time I finish the verse, it is memorized and ready for the beat.

The song “I’m A Murderer” is about abortion, a topic that isn’t touched on very often in hip hop — at least in the very open-book manner that you do here. What types of reception have you experienced with that track?

I wrote “I’m A Murderer” in my car before work and sang it all day to myself until I got home to record it. A lot of people say that is one of their favorite tracks from the album. I had someone say she couldn’t listen to the song anymore because the lyrics made her think about her own child. I’ve had a lot of people tell me about their personal experiences with abortion because of the song. I think it is a good thing that people are talking about the topic.

“Purple & Gold (UW Anthem)” – HAVi Blaze

You have a degree in English from the University of Washington. How did your studies in literature inform your methods as an MC? Did any authors in particular inspire the way you write raps?

Most people that find out that I have an English degree think that I know a lot of big words, which I don’t. The courses that I took taught me how to use language to express my ideas in a more effective manner. Now, when I write verses, I can focus my words to convey the exact emotions that I feel that day or felt during an experience.

What was the last great book you read?

I haven’t read an entire book in a while. The last great one I remember reading would probably be Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. I plan on reading Sun Tzu’s The Art of War in the not too distant future.

Tell us about any upcoming projects you have in the works.

I just released my new album, Self-Portrait, and I am promoting that to as many people as I can. I plan to release another project later in the year. I will definitely have a lot more guest appearances on the next one. I may put out something small this summer. Maybe an EP or maybe a short mixtape with beats from Jay’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail.

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THE SIX: Featuring Dave B

Photo courtesy of the artist's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of the artist’s Facebook page.

[THE SIX is a regular interview feature on 206UP.COM with a simple format: One local hip-hop artist and six questions. For past editions click here.]

Dave B impressed at the 2013 edition of EMP’s Sound Off! competition enough to take home the top prize. Now the solo MC is on the heels of his well-rounded and polished The Coffee EP, one of this blog’s favorite 206 releases of the year. Dude has the gift-of-gab — a little bit Chance The Rapper and a little bit J Cole, able to switch between punchline-laced brag rap and edge-of-the-bed pillow talk. Four wisdom teeth lighter these days, the MC took time out during his recovery to answer THE SIX.

206UP: You won EMP’s annual Sound Off! competition this year. Their website says, “Dave B, the hip-hop group with the sweet beats and saucy swagger won out.” Whoever did this write-up should probably never win an award for music journalism. How would you personally — and more accurately — describe your style?

Dave B: Right, definitely not for hip hop at least. But I’d say it’s for sure nostalgic. I like to think it’s sorta jazzy, tight as fuck. All that.

What’s your earliest 206 rap-related memory?

Aww man, I remember when I was like 16 I ran into GMK and J Pinder in the keyboard rooms at Guitar Center, like right after White Van Music came out. Thought I was hella cool all week.

I think you sound a little like Chance the Rapper. Who do folks typically say you remind them of, and do you think it’s accurate?

I always get like Cole or somebody in that lane. But after Sound Off! this cat told me if Slick Rick and Phife had a baby who could rap it’d be me. I don’t know if I agree. It was entertaining as fuck to hear though.

What was the genesis for “Andy Warhol/Monroe”? Do you have a special love for those two pop culture icons?

Not really. I appreciate a lot of art [and] artists out of Warhol’s generation but those songs were more just a product of my thoughts that day prior to hitting the studio. And it was most likely just a regular day.

You just had your wisdom teeth pulled. Can we expect a Kanye, through-the-wire-type rap soon?

Never, haha. That shit hurt way too bad. It was all about applesauce and Tumblr. I wrote a haiku about a burger I wanted the second day, though I don’t think it’ll make any album.

Finally, tease your next upcoming project(s) for the readers.

The Doughnuts EP, July. Wake that ass.

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THE SIX: Featuring Avatar Darko

Photo courtesy the artist’s website.

[THE SIX is a regular interview feature on 206UP.COM with a simple format: One local hip-hop artist and six questions. For past editions click here.]

Avatar Darko (formerly Avatar Young Blaze) has the baby-faced looks of a boy band member and maybe in a different life he could have been. But the Estonia-born, Central District-bred rapper prefers the trap life in this current incarnation, and his relentless brand of “emo grunge trap” has earned him a worldwide underground following. This blog was slow to come around to Av, initially labeling him a pretender, but his cinematic rhymes about street life and around-Town co-signs turned us into believers. We attempted to catch up with Av in his element.

I think a lot of your fans have a certain idea about what a day in the life of Avatar Darko might be like. For example: I imagine you tapping out answers to this set of questions on your iPad, cruising at 35,000 feet, off to somewhere exotic for business and pleasure, like Dubai or Beijing. Set the record straight and tell us about your day so far, or about a typical day-in-the-life of Avatar Darko.

Well right now as I type this on my iPhone with a shattered screen, I’m sitting on a bench outside of the hub at UCSB [University of California Santa Barbara] overlooking this dope little island and water. The homie Araab [Muzik] randomly texted me at six in the morning like, “Yo I land in a couple hours, I gotta show in Santa Barbara.” Duke and him scooped me in a Challenger and told me to drive, so I red-lined that bitch the whole way out here. I love Dodges. I use to have a Charger when I was 17, I mashed that bitch. Anyways, I  just ate some bomb-ass wings and tomorrow afternoon I gotta flight to Seattle — oh shit I got court in the morning before that. Anyways, when I’m not doing random cool shit like this I’m in the studio working on projects. Sometimes I can be really emo too, then I just drink lean and listen to Max B to feel better. Yerp.

It took me a while to come around to enjoying your music. Have you found that that’s a typical response by some listeners?

Yeah a lot of people seem to say the same thing. I think I go over a lot of people’s heads.

“Authenticity” is a word that gets thrown around a lot by folks who write about you. Given how the internet can be used as a handy veil of anonymity, how important is authenticity in hip-hop these days?

When you’re authentic, everything comes from the heart; you don’t have to try too hard. In this day and age, a lot of music lacks authenticity and genuine emotion. I’m trying to capture that [and] convey it on a worldwide level. I will soon.

You’ve not once asked people to pay for your music. Why is that your preferred business model thus far in your career?

I got some precious projects on iTunes but lately I’ve just been releasing music to accumulate my buzz. I’m thinking about putting this upcoming EP on iTunes though. We’ll see.

What book(s) are you currently reading?

Art Of War. I need to get back on my book game. My pops use to read a lot of books, I’ve been slackin’ on my book game lately.

Any upcoming projects you’d like to tease for the 206UP.COM readers?

Gonna release an EP entirely produced by Megaman and a mixtape with Nacho this spring/summer.

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