VIDEO: “Mega Man” – Dyme Def

One holiday season in the late 80’s (I forget the exact year, let’s just call it ’87), my parents informed my brother and I we would be getting our first video game system ever, for Christmas. And if that weren’t cause for enough excitement, they were giving us the choice of which one we would receive! At the time, we had exactly the same number of choices kids do now days: three. Back then it was between the Sega Master System, Atari 7800 and, of course, the original Nintendo Entertainment System.

In retrospect, if video game consoles in the late 80’s were hip-hop groups of today, the Sega would have been the Wu-Tang Clan (the new jack on the block with a fresh style and massive amount of potential), the 7800 would have been Run DMC (the nostalgic gold standard of the time), and the NES would have been A Tribe Called Quest (the one that everyone played and suspected might be superior).

If you’re a regular reader of 206UP.COM, then you know which system my ten year old self was lobbying for. The Nintendo…duh. My younger brother of three years, however, was making a strong case for the Atari 7800. He wanted it because we were already more familiar with the games, which were cheaper and available in greater volume (at the time) than both the Sega and the NES. My main point of contention with the 7800 was that the graphics were inferior to the other two consoles. I also just had this feeling that the Nintendo would ultimately be the one to endure over time.

In the end, I relented, and my brother’s wish won out. On the bright side the resultant effect of the Atari’s cheaper games were happier parents, the unified party which would be responsible for the purchase of the software. It was a strategic move that paid dividends later in the form of accumulation of a sh-t ton of cartridges; enough, in fact, to necessitate their own designated backpack for transport.

All this to say, I was one of the few kids who never owned the original Nintendo Entertainment System when it was still in its formative natal stages. I’m old enough to have seen the birth of the NES and experienced enough early usage to know that when Super Mario Bros. wasn’t loading correctly, the obvious solution was to remove the cartridge from the machine and blow hard and fast into the effected area. But I was never the kid who got the pleasure of experiencing NES games first-hand like Mega Man, the eponymous half-boy, half-robot action hero the above Dyme Def track is named for.

My brother should be commended for his expert old-school sensibilities. Instincts like his serve lovers of video games and hip-hop music well. But I should also be recognized for having the foresight and critical acumen to recognize greatness before it was bequeathed. Watching and moving those over-sized pixels around the TV screen in 1987 was kind of like hearing The Low End Theory for the first time four years later: I wasn’t entirely sure what I was witnessing, but it felt like something I would never forget.


SHOW (& TICKET GIVEAWAY!): Tanya Morgan (Feat. Def Dee & Language Arts, City Hall) @ Columbia City Theater, Sat 8.28

Plan your Saturday evening around this outstanding lineup, and enter to win a pair of tickets from 206UP.COM and the good folks at Columbia City Theater! It’s easy: just send your boy (that’s me) an email with “Tanya Morgan Giveaway” in the subject line to, or hit me up on Twitter with the same. I’ll throw your name in a hat and pick a winner at random no later than Friday (8/27) at 5 pm PST. Now, peep the flyer and read what I have to say about Tanya Morgan!

Tanya Morgan is a rap group. And, atypical name aside, they might just sound like the closest thing hip-hop has nowadays to A Tribe Called Quest. You might cry “Blasphemy!” and you’d probably be right, but it doesn’t change the fact that TM’s stellar 2009 LP, Brooklynati, captures the spirit of Quest in their heyday.

Judge for yourself this Saturday (8/28) at Columbia City Theater. Joining TM will be local crews Def Dee and Language Arts (originators of what 206UP.COM still thinks is the best Seattle hip-hop album of 2010, Gravity), and City Hall (a South Sound crew composed of EvergreenOne, Todd Sykes and DJ Slimrock). The whole party-rocking affair will be hosted by Prometheus Brown and feature a DJ set by Town stalwart Larry Mizell, Jr. Enter to win tickets on 206UP.COM or go cop ’em, here, then thank the loyal folks at Member’s Only for putting on what might be the best night of your life.

Here’s the video for “So Damn Down,” off Brooklynati:

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Queens Has its “Tribe,” Seattle has its Tribal.

I grew up in a very rural, somewhat isolated community in Washington State. It’s amazing to me that hip-hop music of the early to mid-nineties from Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx managed to reach my adolescent ears, especially given the facts that my house did not have MTV, high-speed internet was not yet available to Joe Consumer, and the number of radio stations in my town playing so-called “urban music” was limited to just one, that’s right: KUBE 93 — where you would be lucky to hear more than five different songs in one hour.

Yet even without the internet or cable TV, somehow I managed to get my hands on the earliest albums by groups like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Black Sheep. Not surprisingly these are the groups whose music has endured for me, from age 13 to __ (age omitted). Why a relatively quiet, shy kid from the country felt some sort of connection to The Native Tongue Family’s brand of hip-hop is beyond me, but it has nonetheless become the gold standard that will define my taste in music forever.

All this to say, it wasn’t until much later that I learned of a group (actually more of a collective, composed of many different emcess and dj/producers) who was doing the same type of music, and located basically right in my own backyard.

Tribal Music was doing the jazz-inflected, alternative-style hip-hop similar to that of Quest and De La and all it would’ve taken for me to find them was a short trip down the I-5 corridor to the 206. I guess it’s not surprising that Tribal, a movement founded in a major metropolitan area, was influenced by those classic hip-hop acts in New York City, a place that defines the very word “metropolitan.” If Q-Tip could somehow manage to find his way into my bedroom speakers in rural Washington State, he damn sure was going to have an influence on a few cats in Seattle!

Still, the sound of A Tribe Called Quest was very specific to New York. When Tribal was doing its thing, there was no definitive “Seattle sound.” In fact, there was no nationally recognized Seattle hip-hop movement to speak of at all, unless you count the novelty that was “Baby Got Back.” (Which I don’t, by the way. Sir Mix-A-Lot, while certainly a pioneer in the Northwest rap music scene, did not constitute a legitimate “movement.” That is, unless you count the shaking of 10,000 assess at various wedding receptions across the country as a “movement.”)

I suppose the “movement” in Seattle was taking place where the best movements always begin: underground. Tribal Music was (and still is) definitively underground hip-hop.

Anyway, if you’re not hip to Tribal, then you’re in luck! Their 1996 compilation album, Do the Math, is available by FREE download here. I would contend that these guys did Native Tongue-style hip-hop almost as well as the founders themselves. It’s a shame they didn’t get more national shine for their work.


(Just one more thought: Hip-hop music is so often a very specific way of describing a very specific lifestyle in a very specific place. So why do so many people not affiliated with those specifics find such an affinity for it? Q-Tip and I were located at opposite ends of the country and at totally opposite ends of the lifestyle spectrum. I think maybe in the earliest years I was listening to Quest — and perhaps even to a greater extent groups like NWA — it was a purely voyeuristic experience that I was enjoying. Today, I can say that the rewards in listening to their music are different. There’s an actual desire to better understand the point of reference, the lives of the rappers that inspired the art. Hip-hop music, to me, is much more valuable today than it was yesterday.)

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