Never heard these cats until I caught wind of them over on Andrew Matson’s excellent Seattle Times blog, Matson on Music. Their brand of slacker/stoner/college dude rap would be tiring if it weren’t for the duo’s legitimate microphone skills and well-attuned ear to 90’s West Coast underground.
Check the entertaining clip for the break-up track, “Nothing At All” below, then download the crew’s free EP, SSHH!! at their Bandcamp space, here.
My earliest memories of hip-hop in the 206 begin with Sir-Mix-A-Lot and Kid Sensation. It’s sad, I know, but I’m an 80’s Baby who grew up in the San Juan Islands, a place that, when you’re young, seems light years away from the foreign metropolis that is Seattle, Washington.
Back then, my Seattle points-of-reference were limited to Mariners games, Red Robin and movie theaters, three things I was severely deprived of in my formative years. Hip-hop music and culture was available to me, but only in its mass-market form. I wasn’t close enough to the city to touch the underground. If I had been, I’d probably be a more learned student of the earliest Town movements.
Thankfully we have the internet, where the history of anything is available to those willing to spend time looking. Here are two pieces of Seattle-area hip-hop lore, some brick and mortar carved right from the foundation.
Click on the photo above for an interview with Jake One and Mike Clark (former host of Rap Attack on KCMU) courtesy of Cocaine Blunts. (Thanks to Andrew Matson, aka The Bulletproof Critic, for Tweeting this yesterday!)
1250 KFOX was one of the earliest outlets for hip-hop music in Seattle. Click the logo above to open up the time capsule (you gotta have a Facebook account to view). Make sure to check out the very first link, “Emerald Street Boys Nasty Nes Intro” and peep the comments — hip-hop is a family affair for some artists.
Clipse are one of my favorite hip-hop groups. To me, a Clipse album release is always a major event. There’s something very particular within their brand of drug-rap that’s deeper and more complex than others.
Sure, the subject matter is no different than a lot of other so-called “Coke Rap”, but there is something else that sets Clipse apart, besides that they’re naturally more gifted emcees than most others. I think they succeed in injecting a certain pathos in their lyrics. Much like how great comedians pull from painful events in their pasts, Pusha-T and Malice extract a more complex drug-game ethos than other rappers with similar biographies.
When I listen to their music, I’m actually frightened. Not of the rappers themselves, but of what it means to the communities and people like the Thornton brothers who were (are?) blighted by the seeming necessity of drug dealing. Maybe its because we don’t typically see the brothers in photos at parties, hanging with Kanye or Pharrell on their yachts, that an extra dimension of realness is added. (Pusha-T actually touches on this very subject. He says they’ve never really participated in the glamour life that comes with being rap stars.) Or maybe it’s because they’re just so damn good at representing their true selves and histories on records.
I think most casual fans of hip-hop don’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to “Coke Rap”. There’s typically some dangerous glamorization of the drug-dealing lifestyle that’s done by a lot of rappers, either purposely or not. In reality, it’s not hard, even for someone never involved in the game, to say the lifestyle is really some truly ugly sh*t. Clipse do hip-hop fans all a favor by keeping it ugly, which is how it should be. Their greatness as artists is defined by the fact they never do it at the expense of making great music.
Alright then, I’m back on the blog after a brief hiatus. Went camping east of the mountains (that’s the Cascades) with The Lady and some good friends. Lots of good eating, swimming, and lounging around in 100-degree weather, but very little in the way of Seattle hip-hop. (Lake Chelan might have the only bars left in Washington that Fresh Espresso hasn’t played.) And, while it was nice to be away from technology for a while, it’s good to be back on the blog, once again connected and in-the-loop with the goings-on around town. So without further ado…
Since it’s all about Geo and Sabzi today (and most likely tomorrow as well), I might as well hitch my wagon to the OOF! train and do my part to plug our favored sons of hip-hop in the 206.
The local rap giant that is Blue Scholars is once again coming down from the mountain to drop their highly-anticipated OOF! EP tomorrow. The limited edition disc will be available at the Capitol Hill all Caffe Vita locations. Get yours, son. All the information that’s fit to print is here on the group’s blog.
The Scholars crew is on their grind again, promoting the hell out of the EP, encouraging us fans to basically stalk them around The Town all day, and topping off the release date with a performance at local Hawaiian outpost Ohana, in Belltown. I’ll be there, hyped up on Caffe Vita espresso with loco moco in hand. Show your love, too!
I haven’t heard the entire EP yet, but if the first two pre-released tracks (“Coo?,”“HI-808”) are any indication, then it’s likely this disc may be the most light-hearted and party-rocking collection the crew has released thus far. Granted, my affinity for the duo lies mostly in the fact that they choose to be so intensely political and *ahem* conscious, but lighter subject matter is always welcome from any of my favorite hip-hop groups. It is party music, after all.
After I get in a few good listens, your faithful 206-UP!’er (that’s me) will be offering his always over-opinionated opinion. Until then, however, check out Andrew Matson’s (Seattle Times) review here. A-Mats also interviewed our favorite doods and both offered insight into the direction of the group, its evolving musical stylings, and the 206 hip-hop community in general. Peep those interviews here and here, they’re both worth reading.
Here’s a post from today by Andrew Matson (music columnist for the Seattle Times), our faithful voice of realness in the too-often watered-down mainstream media (props to Andrew!). I would second everything he said in his blog entry — the Seattle hip-hop scene is blowing up like Saint Helens in 1980!
(Someone needs to sample the corny intro song to this video. We need an official Seattle anthem. You can’t tell me Marcus D couldn’t flip that folk song into a slapper worthy of a beat battle showdown!)
This blog is still in its infancy (I just started it the first week in July). Its creation was borne from a desire to write critically and thoughtfully about hip-hop and I purposely limited its scope strictly to Seattle because the task of keeping a blog that addressed hip-hop across the nation was absolutely daunting to me. (Not to mention virtually impossible for one person working a normal nine-to-five and attempting to maintain any semblance of a life outside the Interwebs — I don’t know how Shake and Meka over at 2DOPEBOYZ do it, but they hold it down admirably!) The point is, I’m quickly realizing that with the local scene blowing up, it’s hard even keeping pace on a website that’s limited to just our town!
Like A-Mats said, it’s not just an overwhelming quantity of music, but quality, too. Not even five years ago was there a movement this firmly-rooted in The Town. In the last two and-a-half years Seattle hip-hop has blown-up like Bret Boone’s biceps in 2001. It’s like an evergreen tree on PEDs, with a strong root system, a sturdy trunk, and new branches sprouting out every which-way.
There’s even an established hierarchy — though always unspoken. The most revered and respected artists know who they are and the fans who pay close attention can identify who’s got the National Juice by the rumored record deals, the national connects, the outsourced distribution, etc., etc.
Right now, though, it’s such a love-fest that no one’s beefin’ (all you gotta do is follow the rappers’ gabbing on Twitter to see that — it’s like a virtual fraternity house on there, for real).
Likewise, nearly everyone’s write-ups in The Stranger and Seattle Weekly are favorable. Critics don’t want to offend anyone. You’ve got local venues taking cues from their investment bankers: “Diversify your hip-hop, yo!” Fresh Espresso is sharing the stage with Dyme Def on one night, while Thee Satisfaction and Fatal Lucciauno share it on another. Like I said in a previous post, everyone is eating at the same table. And (thankfully) we’ve certainly not reached a Tipping Point, where the community starts to fragment itself into cliques. This happens in other cities — granted, in ones that are usually larger than our modest hamlet. Here’s hoping it doesn’t occur in Seattle.
For now, I say we continue to enjoy ourselves. I’m still gonna bump my favorite artists faithfully. And probably offer some unfair (?) criticism of others that I don’t favor. I suppose we should all take a cue from Brainstorm and “rock out with (our) cock(s) out!” as he recommends in “I’m Gone.” (But only figuratively, please. We don’t want this to turn into a Mad Rad concert…)
My Lady sent me this video. It’s Andrew Matson (music columnist for the Seattle Times) interviewing the rapper Grynch. Matson asks him about the critics who complain that Grynch does a whole lot of “rapping about rapping,” a similar critique I made in my review of his latest release, the Chemistry EP.
Grynch says that he raps about stuff he knows. It’s a nice honest answer and really the only thing we, as fans, can hope for from our favorite artists. Here’s hoping Grynch continues to blow up the spot in Seattle and beyond and that his growth as an emcee results in even better, more interesting rhymes.