206UP.COM YEAR END: The Best Seattle Hip-Hop Albums of 2012 – Honorable Mentions


Deep-voiced narrator: 2012 will be remembered as the year when Seattle hip-hop stepped triumphantly from the dark recesses of the underground and brazenly into the pop music mainstream light.

(Cue klieg lights and horns.)

Or something. Until this moment, surely Seattle rap had never been as prominent on a national level as 1992, the fated year Sir Mix-A-Lot squirted baby oil all over a bunch of hapless, anonymous rear-ends, thus adequately drowning out the city’s fine underground hip-hop tradition while simultaneously setting back gender equality by about, oh, I’d say ten years or so.

But I digress. Seattle hip-hop as a topic of national conversation is in a much healthier and holistic place in 2012. Thank the Internet and the burgeoning liberal youth movement for that. There are local groups operating far afield with progressive musical campaigns that stretch beyond the constituencies of the 206, 425, 253, and 360 — and if you read this blog (or even outlets like Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Complex) then you already know who they are.

Town rap has officially entered the pop music mainstream and, aside from the glowing national press and Billboard Charts, the biggest tell that things were moving beyond our beloved local brick-and-mortars is the overarching trend in musical aesthetics. This year featured the most decidedly pop-oriented releases in the history of Seattle rap. Artists like Sol, The Good Sin, Eighty4 Fly, J. Pinder, Royce the Choice, and Fresh Espresso all put their best ear-worm efforts forward and (for the most part) succeeded in their attempts. Even EDM got a nice emissary to the rest of the country in The Flavr Blue, a trio composed of prominent hip-hop players from the Town.

Stubborn rap purists will not call this the cream rising to the top, but for the staff of an outlet like 206UP.COM who appreciates Golden Era boom-bap and 80’s Hitz! in near equal measure, brand new doors to listening pleasure have been opened. Of course that sets our critical ears askew in some fashion and attempting to shake out where the “best” releases of 2012 stood in comparison to each other was the most difficult it’s ever been in this blog’s short history. As always, though, generating a list of the Top Seattle Hip-Hop Albums of the Year was a labor of love for your loyal blogger.

So here goes: The end-all, be-all, definitive catalog of what you should have kept at the top of your Seattle rap playlists in 2012, beginning today with Honorable Mentions and concluding tomorrow with the Top 10. (Note: links are provided to purchase or free download, where available — click on the album covers.)

KFG - Indigo Children

Kung Foo Grip & Giorgio Momurda – Indigo Children Tales From The Otha Side

Kirkland rabble-rousers Kung Foo Grip found their producer soulmate in Giorgio Momurda for this EP collaboration. Indigo Children Tales From The Otha Side is home to the region’s best beat of the year, “FVCKV9TA5”, which bubbles, exhales, rattles, and combusts in perfect muted fury. MCs Greg Cypher and F is H spit juvenile raps with grown-up flows, close to riding off the rails at times but remaining the best exhibit of controlled lyrical chaos the city has to offer.

Fearce & BeanOne - There Goes The Neighborhood

Fearce and Bean – There Goes The Neighborhood

This release by Dyme Def offshoot Fearce and Bean was one of those high-quality “traditional rap” albums that kinda slipped through the crevices of the Seattle pop sieve in 2012. There Goes The Neighborhood cracks, slaps and thumps by way of Bean One’s rare ability to flip equally exceptional samples into trunk-rattling heatrocks (see: the rock-tinged “Heart Breaker”). Here we also have the thinking man’s swagger of Fearce Villain who will certainly get all up in your face, but never without a good reason. “Bully” (which unfortunately didn’t make it onto TGTN) perfectly encapsulates what the third rapper of Dyme Def is about: keeping your conscience amidst the turbulence of a hard-knock world.

J Pinder - Careless

J. Pinder – Careless

My main beef with Careless, J. Pinder’s official debut album, is that it often sounds like dude isn’t having any fun. And given the miles logged on the MC’s frequent-flyer card in the last couple of years that should not be the case. I’ve never met Justin Pinder, but he reminds me of a couple of friends of mine who spend a lot of time living inside their own heads, folks for whom the term “pensive” doesn’t begin to approach an adequate description. Judging by the jet-setting tales on Careless, J’s rap life is not devoid of the normal trappings of burgeoning celebrity, but he approaches it all with a wary hand and calculated measure. The fleeting balance between heedless indulgence and degradation of one’s own soul is parsed out expertly by J. Pinder over some of the most expressive boom-bap of the year.

Album Reviews Best of 2012 Best Of Lists Downloads

VIDEO: “Bully” – Fearce & Bean

When I was like ten years old, two kids in the class above mine used to snatch my backpack every day right when school let out. They’d grab it off my shoulder, throw it down on the ground, and take turns kicking it all the way to the parking lot where the buses were waiting to take us all home. I was one of the lucky kids because these bullies never got physical with me. Some of my peers weren’t as fortunate.

Fearce and BeanOne go in for a good cause on “Bully,” a new track from the Yuk The World cohorts. Thanks fellas for making this one.


DOWNLOAD & VIDEO: “Honor” – Fearce & BeanOne

Click image to download.

Multinational conglomerate Yuk The World has added skater Joe Andrews to its team. I’m not entirely sure what that means but I’m sure it will add up to something pretty awesome. Speaking of awesome: below is a video clip of Joe doing his thing around Town with the latest track from Fearce Villain and BeanOne, “Honor,” providing the buttery soundtrack in the background. Download the joint above and below.

Downloads Video

VIDEO: “Outlandish” – FRCxBNE (Fearce Villain & BeanOne)

Dyme Def’s Fearce Vill and producer BeanOne are: FRCxBNE. “Fearce and Bean” kinda sounds like the hot new food joint in the South End. They should explore that collab after There Goes The Neighborhood drops.


REVIEW: Yuk The World – Dyme Def

Dyme Def’s new full-length album, Yuk The World, features the track “Fresher in my Kicks” which is, for my money, the best song the group has ever done. It was a little surprising to see it included here because it’s old (at least by rap standards) but it’s only right that it finds a proper home on an “official” DD release.

In this blogger’s estimation, the trio of Brainstorm, S.E.V. and Fearce Villain are the most important rap group currently operating in Seattle, and a track like “Fresher in my Kicks” is the reason why. Superficially the joint is just about shoes, a tribute to the ubiquitous hip-hop classics like Jordans and Air Force Ones. Turning the track over, however, and having a look at the sole reveals something more revelatory: A somber reflection on what the rappers’ kicks have carried them through, both physically and spiritually. For Dyme Def, shoes have been vehicles for expression, for fashion, for upping rep, and, more figuratively, as protection — a type of armor to lace up as preservation against a brutal outside world.

On YTW (and on the group’s first LP, Space Music) you find many sentiments like these. “Blaastin Off” is an optimistic dedication to finding something better, an escape from tribulations as caught in the rear-view mirror. “When it Rains” finds Brainstorm reflecting in the most literal terms possible on growing up without a father. This all sounds fairly dispiriting, so for those uninitiated to Dyme Def’s hustle it should be noted emphatically that this is a group that prefers to rap about good times, something they do better than anyone else in Town. (Much credit should be given to the group’s primary producer, BeanOne, whose drums on Yuk The World carry the most trunk-rattling knock of any local release this year.)

I’m of the belief that the majority of Seattle doesn’t have a real understanding of what goes on in the city’s South End. Maybe they do in theory, but the philosophical disconnect that exists between north and south of Jackson (or, more accurately, between light and dark complexions in any of Seattle’s geographic districts) is something that’s not bridged nearly as much as it should be.

Dyme Def expresses a vivid representation of this city’s stark divide in race and class. I remember a brief period of time spent working with high school kids in the South End, boys with stories that matched those of Brainstorm’s exactly. These particular young people laced up the same kicks as Dyme Def and for exactly the same reasons — yet more layers of armor for traversing life’s rugged terrain.

Yuk The World contains a dose of reality Seattle needs to hear: It is not all good, rap fans — even in your own backyard. But the one edifying thing about all this, and what Dyme Def themselves portray in their music, is that when everything around you seems covered in shit, the sweet stuff seems that much more syrupy. And right there alone is cause for celebration.

Album Reviews

DOWNLOAD: “Know That” – Dyme Def

The most recent drop in Dyme Def’s Pay Day series. Brainstorm, SEV and Fearce Villain show their versatility, steeping an understated melody and beat in a concoction of deft lyricism. It’s become clear this crew can basically do anything they want, from straight-up party music to hood-conscious philosophy. Dyme Def is making it impossible for bloggers to put them in a box. And that’s a damn good thing.