VIDEO: “Young Seattle 4 ” – Sam Lachow (feat. B Skeez, Gifted Gab, Raz Simone, Dave B, Key Nyata, & Ariana DeBoo)

Words by Luke Wigren

As I turned the ripe old age of 27 this year, and later as I watched Sam Lachow’s recent video “Young Seattle 4,” I began to wonder to myself: What is “young.” Who has it? Is it a physical state or a media conspiracy designed to make us go to malls? And most perplexing of all: Where does all the old stuff go?

“Young Seattle 4,” the latest in a series which began in 2010, didn’t really answer my questions, but I did like it. The video is not “young” in the sense that we have become accustomed to seeing many of these artists around the Town, but “young” because they do all happen to be among Seattle’s emerging rap vanguard. They face the daunting challenge of taking on the mantle of what, on nearly every measure, was a stellar wave of Sea-town hip hop, from Macklemore’s world domination to the Blue Scholars’ soulful dissent. (“Old Seattle” anyone?)

As if creating art and growing up in the shadow of giants weren’t hard enough, “Young Seattle” is maneuvering the pitfalls of this generation’s age obsession where appealing to Tweens on Snapchat trumps musical ability, where we narrowly obsess over an annual Freshman Class by a print magazine desperately clinging to relevance, and where, well, every 5th rapper is “Young Something.”

The “Young Seattle” new wave promises to be no less stellar than its predecessors, and this video is wonderful for our busted attention spans, but remember a sampler platter does not a meal make. Do as the video was meant to inspire you to do, and dig into the vast trove of music these artists have crafted in such a short time.

Check out Sam Lachow’s latest album, Friends, Funk & Liquor, here.

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VIDEO: “Cashitis” (Live at EMP Sound Off!) – Paris Alexa

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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VIDEO: “Irony on 23rd” – Draze (dir. by Atuanya Priester & Draze)

Words by Luke Wigren

The most time I’ve spent on 23rd & Union is waiting for the metro, so, for me, Draze’s song “Irony on 23rd” is a window into the heart of Seattle’s historically black neighborhood, and into the pain of seeing that heart gouged out by gentrification.

The song focuses on the hypocrisy of Seattle officials, who have allowed white-owned Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop to bypass state regulations and operate near a youth center, while just four years ago police were arresting African Americans selling marijuana at that very corner under the auspices of our nation’s “War on Drugs.”

Sure, it’s all legal. But when City Hall “revitalization” plans kill longtime African American businesses, and when the same Seattle Police Department who disproportionately prosecutes blacks for smoking marijuana then barricades a white-owned pot shop during a protest on 420, it does strike as a bit ironic.

Then again, there is perhaps nothing ironic about any of the events described in Draze’s song. They demonstrate, as Ta-Nehisi Coates says, “our system working as intended,” that is, working in the interest of wealthy whites at the expense of poor minorities. With how unevenly laws apply in America, the fact that we call ours a justice system may be irony in the truest sense of the word.

So, with all that in mind, maybe its time we stop confusing legality with justice and begin calling the “Irony on 23rd” for what it really is: systematic racism. Of course that wouldn’t be quite as good a song title.

Thanks to Spekulation, without whose mic pass I might not have heard “Irony on 23rd,” and, of course thank you Draze for having the insight in the first place. We need more of this. Check out the rapper’s recent Seattle’s Own mixtape, here.


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VIDEO: “Mixed Messages” – Kublakai (feat. Malice & Mario Sweet)

[Editor’s note: 206UP is happy to welcome the voice and perspective of Luke Wigren, a new contributing writer and collaborator. This is his first piece for 206UP. You’ll be able to find all of Luke’s writings at this location. And check out one of his many artistic labors-of-love, Lakehouse Ent., at that crew’s new website, here.]

Kublakai - Origin Story

For anyone who keeps up with Seattle hip-hop it is hard not to admire its multi-ethnic character. In this city, Filipino, Persian, Irish, and East African MCs and DJs form a sort of hip-hop utopia, a slice of “Planet Rock” envisioned four decades ago by Afrika Bambaataa and the Universal Zulu Nation.

Kublakai’s newest song “Mixed Messages,” with Malice and Mario Sweet furthers this dialogue with lyrics and a photo scrapbook of young Kubi embracing his own multiple heritages. The video features a photo of his white mother and black father.

On the surface, “Mixed Messages” is about growing up biracial and self-acceptance in a world constantly forcing us to categorize and choose sides. It is anthemic and hopeful and, much like Seattle’s hip-hop scene, it seems ahead of the curve in its reflections on race.

However, lately, the on the ground reality tends to feel somewhat different. With the ongoing demolition of Yesler Terrace, America’s first integrated public housing development, as well as increased scrutiny on race relations in the hip-hop scene — brought in part by Macklemore’s meteoric rise to fame — Seattle’s “post-race” utopia, a tenuous dream to begin with, looks to be coming apart at the seams.

Raz Simone’s “Same Problems,” highlights this rift, alerting us to a polarity — and yes privilege — among categorized Seattle hip-hop which tends to reward non-black rappers in our very white city. By mentioning Sol and Porter Ray, Raz’s song also suggests such privilege may extend to our city’s artists of mixed African descent as well.

For Kublakai, whose new album is titled Origin Story, a song like “Mixed Messages” may not alleviate criticisms of white or mixed-race privilege, but it will help convey his unique experience with race during upbringing. By placing race in the foreground, it will certainly complicate binary racial distinctions which are, and have always been, misleading.

The fact that Kublakai’s song adds to a growing number of Seattle artists candidly addressing their own mixed race, artists like Gabriel Teodros (“Alien Native”), Sol (“See The End”), and BenadriLL (“Light Skin”), is a good sign. Such songs, when done right, can be far more than badges of belonging and/or dissociation with any one racial group.

How well they address Seattle’s current racial tension, helping the listener interrogate the ways in which race impacts their daily life, preferences, and self-identity, is for you to decide.

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VIDEO: “Acceptance” – King Leez (dir. by Andrew Imanaka)

King Leez is a blog favorite here at 206UP. Finding a new home at Black Umbrella seems to have energized the already powerful MC who has always possessed a gigantic presence. Every statement he makes — and “Acceptance” is no exception — seems grand in the hands of Leez. Listen to his Supreme Being here.

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VIDEO: “Faces In My Memory” – Porter Ray (dir. by Malcolm Procter & Astro King Phoenix)

As night falls, clarity in vision and mission become apparent to young Porter Ray. “Faces In My Memory” is more short film than music video, hinting with well-developed suspense at the cold necessity of life-altering decisions. On the brink of music stardom will Porter risk it all?

Deftly handled direction by Malcolm Procter and Astro King Phoenix. Song from Porter’s recent and excellent Nightfall EP.

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VIDEO: “Seattle Sweeties” – Draze (dir. by Atuanya Priester)

Seattle MC Draze and local bakeshop Cupcake Royale continue the roll-out of their “Seattle Sweeties” fundraising campaign, an effort to earn money for Mary’s Place, a shelter for homeless women, children and families. The campaign is for a worthy cause and the partners should be lauded for initiating it. The opinions that follow should be taken separately from how 206UP feels about the campaign but are still relevant because of how intrinsically tied the issues are.

Draze dropped the “Seattle Sweeties” single three weeks ago and 206UP had some things to say about the track’s good intentions but disappointing sexist subtext. The Stranger’s Angela Garbes echoed similar sentiments. Five days ago Draze followed up the single with a music video which you can view below. Similar to the audio, the visual is — again — disappointingly reductive for all the reasons 206UP and the Stranger have already given.

As far as making a meaningful, nuanced artistic statement about the endemic that is institutionalized sexism Draze and Cupcake Royale, with their song and video, have failed miserably. To be fair, however, that’s probably not their area of expertise nor their original intention.

In the Garbes piece, Cupcake Royale’s Chief Operating Officer Nicki Kerbs is notably glib in her response to the charges of the “Seattle Sweeties” campaign being problematic. It seems that, to her, a cupcake is just a cupcake.

Of course you don’t have to be Don Draper to know that in the advertising/marketing game it’s never that simple. The same factors that play inside your brain, convincing you you must have that cupcake now, wage war on the same subconscious battlefield that allows sexist viewpoints to institutionalize themselves and become societal norms. The term “sweeties” — as innocuous as it sounds — carries negative connotations for many women. If Draze and Cupcake Royale intended to usurp those connotations, then more power to them; it’s just unfortunate they did it in the wrong way.

(Click here to read more about Mary’s Place and go here to make a financial contribution.)

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VIDEO: “What Do Ai Say” – Dex Amora (prod. by Goldenbeets; feat. Scarlet Parke)

On the mic device Dex Amora is all fluid lyricism, coasting with uncommon ease from thought to thought; old (school) soul in a new body. “What Do Ai Say” was produced by Goldenbeets and features vocals by Scarlet Parke. It’s the first leak from Dex and Golden’s upcoming Ai Level EP.

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