NEW MUSIC: “Numb Again” – Def Dee (feat. yU & Hassaan Mackey)

Click image to download.

Click image to download.

“Numb Again” is the first drop from 33 An’a Third, the upcoming Mello Music Group debut from Seattle producer Def Dee. 206UP.COM is really looking forward to this one ever since Def dropped Gravity (in conjunction with area MC La) and Cheap Heat (a beat tape that showed off his well-tuned ear for boom bap in the grand tradition of Premier and Dilla).

Audio Downloads

REVIEW: Ocean Howell – La (prod. by Olee)

La
Ocean Howell
Self-Released; 2012

Score: RECOMMENDED

The rapper La was party to 2010’s Gravity, the best Seattle-area hip-hop album of the last five years. (It’s imperative to mention Def Dee’s outstanding production work on the project, too.) Since that release, La’s output has been consistently excellent. Roll With The Winners was the gritty, aggressive portrait of an artist rhyming to eat, and SEALAB 2012 saw the MC take a slightly more eased back approach to his mic tactics.

Enter Ocean Howell, a free (for now) nine-track album featuring production entirely by Olee. La has employed the compositional talents of a single producer on all four of his projects, a strategy that creates much needed album identity and continuity, and one I wish more rappers would practice. The title of the album (and every track on it) references skateboarders which is an ode to the MC’s beloved childhood pastime. The subject matter in La’s lyrics, however, doesn’t directly correlate.

Ocean finds the rapper again talking his glorious trademark shit, executing deft turns of phrase and increasingly clever ways of putting lesser rappers in their places. There are also familiar references to the man’s difficult past and hopefulness for a better future. And of course the requisite weed raps. La sounds focused and motivated, executing his natural abilities over Olee’s Golden Era beats which are tastefully adorned with soul- and disco-inflected samples. Highlights include the saxophone-laced “Kareem Campbell” and “Pepe Martinez” (featuring State Of The Artist’s Thaddeus David), which matches a harried fire alarm sound effect with La’s fierce (albeit offensive) disses.

(An aside: the MC has started to regularly use the N-word on this album which, to my knowledge, is the first time he’s used the racial signifier on wax — though I have heard him drop it in battles. I took to email to ask La why he chose to use the word and his answer revealed a difficult and complicated relationship to the term, but no less academic reasoning than what we might expect from so-called “higher” authorities. I think all non-white folks are entitled to their respective opinions on the use of the N-word and mine certainly differs from La’s, but I can assure you his judgment is neither flippant nor casual.)

In this blogger’s estimation, the quality of Ocean Howell slides in somewhere between Roll With The Winners and SEALAB, the focus of La’s rhymes settling into a nimble balance of traditional battle rap and real-talk societal observations. Past releases may have found him more amiable (see: Gravity) and rawer (Winners) in nature, but never before has the MC sounded more comfortable or on point. Hearing La pick a beat apart with the cold precision of a brain surgeon has become one of Seattle rap’s greatest pleasures.

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Album Reviews Downloads

VIDEO & REVIEW: SEALAB 2012 – La

Click album cover for Bandcamp link.

Check the preview video for SEALAB 2012 (officially dropping tomorrow). This album marks La’s third time out with his third different producer. Jester gets behind the boards for a full 12 tracks this time, lacing the MC with sample-heavy joints that are less aggressive than Roll With the Winners but more contemporary than Gravity. The title of the album references the eponymous cartoon series from the early 1970’s and the Adult Swim redux from 2000.

La is still a problem on the mic, his metaphors and boasts sticking to the beats like darts on corkboard, but LAB is definitely the weakest of his three LP’s. It’s become clear that La can outpace the majority of Town rappers and it’s this blogger’s belief that dude can rhyme about anything and make it sound interesting. For the duration of LAB, however, La concerns himself mostly with two things: weed and sex. And, while this may have been the point, it doesn’t mean it’s as engaging as his previous albums.

The other issue is with Jester’s production. What made Winners such a dynamic listen was the jab-hook-uppercut combination of La’s all-out rhyming-like-his-life-depended-on-it steez and Blu-Ray’s throwback sample slap. Jester’s beats often lack the same authority. Not to say there aren’t highlights: “Dutches” and “Magnums” feature heady, hazy synth and both tracks refreshingly stand apart from anything found in La’s back catalog. And “Goods” is the most radio-ready the MC has ever sounded with a track that pops along in the same mode as Biggie’s “Juicy.”

The other notable aspect of LAB is the presence of some fairly heavy-hitting cameos. I won’t ruin the surprise in advance of the album’s release, but I will say “Diamonds” is a triumphant posse cut that features two of La’s prominent brothers in both rhyme and ethnicity. It’s dope to see accomplished MC’s co-sign for La on his own album, but the greater testament is the fact that their presence isn’t (and never was) necessary to affirm his skills. On his way to local rap stardom, La has held his own consistently. With a few adjustments on the next go-round, his star will grow even brighter.

Album Reviews Downloads Video

DOWNLOAD & INTERVIEW: Cheap Heat (Beat Tape) – Def Dee

Click image to D/L.

Producer Def Dee is one half of the hive mind responsible for 2010’s Gravity (the other half is the emcee La), a 2-0-6 handbook for Golden Era revivalists if there ever was one. 206UP.COM has sung the praises of the album enough already so I’ll say no more here.

Def’s new beat tape, Cheap Heat (available for the price of three clicks, here), is inspired by beat-centric instrumental collections of the same ilk. Beat tapes by bedroom producers with grand aspirations flow in and out of the 206UP.COM Inbox like tributaries into Lake Washington, which is to say there are many in existence, but few worthy of spending much time navigating. Cheap Heat is most definitely one of the latter.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Def is clearly inspired by complex layers of rhythm and sound. His beats on this compilation ride the same rail as the other great metronomic minds — J Dilla, Madlib, Premier, and Seattle’s own Jake One and Sabzi, to name a few — which places him in very lofty company.

When separating the real hip-hop producers from the fake, the devil is often in the details, which Def’s beats have in spades. Subtle inflections in tone, well-placed breaks in the rhythm, and the effective interspersion of sound effects so as to add and not distract from the track’s overall vibe, are key. We’re talking about “smart” beat-making here which, judging by Cheap Heat‘s 29 tracks, is what Def Dee does.

Unfortunately, Seattle doesn’t know a whole lot about the producer — though his beats are grade A quality, his name is generally absent from the production credits of The Town’s “major” releases. So after Def hit up 206UP.COM with a download link to Cheap Heat, I hit him back with a few journalistic shots of my own and he was generous enough to agree to a brief interview.

First off, tell the readers a little bit about yourself. How old are you? Where did you grow up? What part of the city do you now call home?

My name is Dom but most people call me Def or Dee…surprisingly. I’m 21 years of age and was born in Seattle. When I was two my fam and I moved to the eastside where I lived for about 12 years or so. My Mom and I then moved to Oahu and I got to live in paradise for about a year and a half. Then In my junior year I moved back to Seattle to live with my Padre and been here since.

As a toddler I was up around the Madison Park/Central area so that definitely feels like home even though I was just a little guy. I been up by UW for the past few years so I suppose I’d call that home. But I think Seattle in general is home for me, I feel like anywhere I go in the town is home for the most part.

How did it come about that you started making beats?

Well, I first started DJ’ing before I thought about making beats. I got my first set of tables in the summer of sixth grade and just got obsessed over the fact that I could control and play/alter the music I listened to on a daily basis. So at that point I knew this was something I was gonna be doing for a long time. I had been put on to a lot of classic hip-hop records when I got the tables as well as soul/jazz/funk records from my mom and dad. My boy Pat Obrien-Smith started me off with Heltah Skeltah and Lord Finesse. I mixed and beat-juggled those two joints for like the first year I had the tables, haha. But I think the tables with the combination of records ranging from hip-hop to jazz to soul helped shape the way I think about hip-hop music. I got to study for a long period of time to know what I liked and disliked in songs and how I might be able to contribute to the culture. That’s when I felt I had to take it a different direction and start making my own music.

Your sound is clearly influenced by NYC boom-bap of the Golden Era. I hear J. Dilla and Madlib influences in Cheap Heat, but name some other artists that you listen to and who inform your style. Name one or two musicians/producers that you dig that might surprise folks.

I mean, the Golden Era was the shit I was listening to growing up and apparently I never grew out of it. I feel like the overall vibe and feelings you get from music today is a lot different than that of the music back when. Not saying “Golden Era this, Golden Era that” —  it’s just a certain emotion I think that the time provoked that’s missing today.

Dilla, Madlib, Preemo, Pete, RZA, Supa Dave West, Jake One, Vita, Nottz, 9th, Alchemist, are definitely the usual suspects for me and a lot of other producers out there and I definitely take inspiration from them on a daily basis. I can’t forget my mans Damu the Fudgemunk out of D.C.!

As for something that might surprise folks? I mean, Boney James got hits…haha!

What type of equipment or software do you primarily use to make your beats?

The equip I use is my MPC 2000xl, mixing board/hard disk recorder, Technics, a synth that I bought for 50 bucks off ebay and a few old Casio keyboards, not to mention the records. That’s it for now.

How did you connect with Language Arts (now known as, La)  for Gravity? How’d the creation of that album come about exactly?

I connected with La (pronounced Lah for those who still call him L.A.) through the dude Ronnie, aka One-Eighty. I was trying to put together a mixtape with artists from the town to get on my beats and La was the first dude I stepped to. I heard him on a DJ Premier beat and a Dilla beat and I was like, “Yo…this is the emcee I been looking for.” So I got his number from Ron, if I remember correctly. I gave him a CD with 24 joints on it, and he just told me, “Lets make an album.” That’s when Gravity took its first baby steps back in ’07.

What’s your general take on the SEA hip-hop scene? In your opinion, does it have a particular sound or style and if so, how do you think your sound fits into that? What specific SEA groups or crews are you feeling?

In my opinion, Seattle definitely has its own sound and style. If you go from Blue Scholars to Macklemore to Grynch to Sol to other local heads I do feel like there’s a reccurring theme/sound that a lot of people can relate to, which is dope because there has been a big following in the past few years, locally, which I feel is necessary first before we expect to blow up nationally as a city with dope music. As far as my music fitting in with that sound, I do feel my stuff takes a different direction but I hope I’m still recognized as a Seattle head with Seattle music.

What upcoming projects can folks look forward to?

You can definitely expect a lot more releases from me soon. I’m trying to put out as much material as possible before the world ends in 2012…just joking. But seriously though…Gravity 2 is something I’m trying to get rolling with La, and a 96 (Pickup) tape with the people I consider my fam. Few know what 96 is about and what we plan to do for the town but hopefully it’s something that will be recognized in the coming year. (And) a few more beat tapes I’m planning on releasing before 2012.

PEACE to 206UP.COM for taking the time to do this interview! Keep supporting that good music!

Downloads Interviews

DOWNLOAD: “Magic” – La feat. Chev (prod. Def Dee)

Click image for D/L link.

A new joint from the team that brought you Gravity, 206UP.COM’s best SEA hip-hop album of 2010. Def Dee and La back on their grind with, “Magic” — more of that “Golden Age with a twist.” Under-appreciated local cat Chev on the guest bars. SEALAB 2012 dropping soon from La.

Press Play to hear “Magic.” Click here to get it.

Downloads

206UP.COM’s Top 10 SEA Hip-Hop Albums of 2010

As a hip-hop and baseball obsessed youth, I constantly formulated Top 10 Lists. Athletes, shoes, songs, movies — if it was rate-able, I was Top 10’in it, practically weekly. This is probably why 206UP.COM’s year-end list is my favorite post to write. Last year I waxed not-so-poetically on how, in 2005, Seattle’s underground rap scene single-handedly renewed my faith in the music. This year my affinity for Town rap became even tighter knit.

The albums, songs, free downloads, and videos that originated strictly in Seattle were enough to keep my hip-hop appetite satisfied through the whole year. Not to say excellent new albums by nationally known artists (Big Boi, The Roots, Kanye West, etc.) weren’t heavy on my playlist, or that the underground movements in other cities weren’t relevant. It’s just that hip-hop in the 2-0-6 is so grown now, more than it’s ever been, and the voices, perspectives and spectrum of sounds in our Town are talented and diverse enough to keep my ears fully attuned.

While there were some glaring omissions in 2010 (the new Physics LP being the most significant, for me), there were some other big advancements and unexpected surprises:

The emergence of La (formerly known as Language Arts) as a force to be reckoned with (at least on wax). This cat blew through like a Northeaster on his two LP’s, Gravity and Roll With The Winners, spitting outlandish braggadocio unlike any other rapper in town.

Two career-defining performances by Blue Scholars. The first was at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City, which I wrote about, here. At this show, the Scholars proved to the hip-hop world that they could hang in the Mecca, legitimizing their voice on a whole new level. (Macklemore’s opening performance was definitely notable, too.) The other show folks were buzzing about was the City Arts music festival performance at The Paramount, the first time a local hip-hop group rocked the venerable theater’s stage. Blue Scholars made history, nationally and locally, with these two shows.

This year also saw artists better known for their previously established collaborative endeavors break out with successful new excursions. JFK and Onry Ozzborn both dropped excellent LP’s independent of their legendary Grayskul partnership — JFK on the straight-up solo tip and Onry Ozzborn in collaboration with Chi-town producer Zavala. RA Scion reinvented himself with his Victor Shade project with producer MTK. And Gabriel Teodros and Amos Miller connected in Brooklyn, forming the impromptu collab Air 2 A Bird after being rebuffed in London on the eve of their world tour.

But enough with the recap. The following list represents what 206UP.COM sees as the best Seattle hip-hop albums of the year. There was no real science to compiling the list and, when it comes down to it, these things are matters of pure conjecture, subject to debate and relentless criticism of the people who made them (which this blog always welcomes, by the way). Enjoy the list and Happy New Year!

Honorable mentions:

JFK – Building Wings on the Way Down
LaRue – Saturn Returns
Avatar Young Blaze – Russian Revolution Mixtape

10. State of the Artist – SeattleCaliFragilisticExtraHellaDopeness

The album equivalent of a 2-0-6 hip-hop houseparty, by design SeattleCal wasn’t exactly an official debut LP for State of the Artist, but a showcase for much of the talent in the city. The three SOTA emcees were consistently outshone by their guests and a lot of times the lyrics didn’t seem to make any sense. As strictly a party album, however, there wasn’t one better.

9. Victor Shade – Victor Shade

The re-birth of RA Scion as the rap superhero Victor Shade saw a major shift in musical tone, but not a dramatic change in delivery or aesthetic. RA’s lyrics are still dense as hell and require close examination on paper in order to understand their meaning. It all sounded great, however, over MTK’s knocking production. RA Scion (aka. Victor Shade) remains the most professorial battle rapper in Seattle.

8. Air 2 A Bird – Crow Hill

A soaring achievement considering the bare-bones tools Air 2 A Bird (Gabriel Teodros and Amos Miller) had to work with when making this album in Brooklyn. In its creation, Crow Hill captured the very essence of hip-hop: eloquent poetics, masterful improvisation and a revolutionary spirit  (albeit on a quieter and more reserved scale). This album proves that hip-hop executed with class and panache can be just as effective as the bombastic variety.

7. La – Roll With The Winners

This “debut” album from the emcee formerly known as “Language Arts” featured expert throwback production by an unknown producer named Blu-Ray, whose heavy soul sampling sounds like The Alchemist on his most nostalgic day. The highlight, though, was La’s take-no-prisoners lyrical work. Hearing raw talent like this is akin to watching Allen Iverson play basketball for the first time. At this stage in his career La is still all fearless potential, but on paper he might already be the most technically sound rapper in the city.

6. Helladope – Helladope (aka Return to Planet Rock)

Helladope’s Tay Sean is far too young a cat to be making music with this much soul and expert tribute to the R&B and funk of yesteryear. Still, he accomplished the feat with ease. Along with emcee/vocalist Jerm, Helladope’s debut album offers a fresh take on the P-funk/G-funk rap amalgamation that originated in Southern California in the early 90’s. The sound is updated here with extraterrestrial gimmickry that amuses but isn’t essential to the album’s vibe.

5. J. Pinder – Code Red EP

This star-studded EP by Seattle ex-pat J. Pinder had a professional sheen equal to most major label releases. And it was free, to boot. Unsurprisingly, the folks who built the foundation of Code Red are either consummate hip-hop professionals or quickly on their way: Vitamin D, Jake One and Kuddie Fresh, among others. Pinder’s easy flow and accessible subject matter made this album easy to ride for.

4. Dark Time Sunshine – Vessel

Vessel exists in the same category as the number two album on this list, The Stimulus Package. The lyrical work is quintessential Onry Ozzborn (here reborn as Cape Cowen) but the production is a masterful concoction of headphone-oriented beats that only a cold soul from Chicago could assemble. Producer Zavala cultivates a terrain of rich electronica that feels organic, as if grown and harvested with the precision of robot farmers. The most sonically progressive SEA hip-hop album this side of Shabazz Palaces’ 2009 masterpiece.

3. Jake One & Freeway – The Stimulus Package

At first consideration it seemed strange to include this release featuring an emcee so deeply associated with the city of Philadelphia. Fifty percent of the album artist credit is from Seattle though so how could it be excluded? The obvious truth is Jake One had as much (if not more) to do with the quality of The Stimulus Package as Freeway. Jake has a knack for creating fresh ideas while staying inside the bounds of traditional boom-bap. Stimulus is his best and most cohesive collection of beats, ever.

2. Candidt – Sweatsuit & Churchshoes

Candidt’s long-delayed Sweatsuit & Churchshoes is a refreshing and dynamic package of West Coast B-boy rap. Every local young buck in the game should take this album as the new hip-hop gospel for the way it connects Old School and New. Candidt doesn’t sound like anyone else in the city and his willingness to experiment with new sounds while keeping strict West Coast principles earns SS&CS major props.

1. Def Dee & La (fka. Language Arts) – Gravity

Producer Def Dee caught lightning in a bottle with his masterful production work on this album. Gravity pays direct tribute to NYC Golden Era boom-bap and is unapologetic in its revivalist ideology. It also manages to sound fresh and timeless, however, and is the most musically cohesive album of these ten. Emcee La officially established himself as one of the best rappers in the city. He plays it cooler than on his proper solo debut, Roll With The Winners, but that’s because the music requires him to. Gravity stands firmly to the side of Seattle’s so-called “Third Wave hip-hop,” a position that’s especially important to the purist set. All the current innovation in local rap is a great thing, but so is the creation of more traditional forms like Gravity. It reminds everyone that hip-hop made in our isolated corner of the map is inextricably linked to the region of its genesis.

Album Reviews Best of 2010

REVIEW: “Sweatsuit & Churchshoes” (Candidt)

The two best Seattle hip-hop albums of 2010 are region-specific. Def Dee and Language Arts’ Gravity is cloned from the DNA of mid-90’s New York City boom-bap. It’s a perfectly-penned love note to a definitive sound and era when millions of hip-hop heads came of age. The second album, Candidt’s Sweatsuit & Churchshoes, is a refreshing exercise in West Coast b-boy funk. The main complaint with Gravity may be it doesn’t bring innovation to its source material, yet the same can’t be said about Sweatsuit & Churchshoes. Candidt’s sprawling 21-track workout manages to find fresh ideas within a variety of West Coast sounds that came before it. It has one foot in Old School History Class and one foot in the New School hallway; its breadth of modification and manner in which the two schools are bridged are the album’s greatest attributes.

(Click here to continue reading at SSG Music…)

Album Reviews Seattle Show Gal Cross-Post

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 206upblog@gmail.com, 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:

Live Coverage Ticket Giveaways

REVIEW: “Gravity” (Def Dee & Language Arts)

No idea’s original/There’s nothin’ new under the sun/It’s never what you do/But how it’s done.” — Nas

This fairly dubious assessment on the state of hip-hop progression was proffered by Nas in his song, “No Idea’s Original.” The statement, however, is generally recognized as a universal truth among musicians of any type of music — and artists of any medium, really. Everything in a genre’s canon, even up to its most current iteration, is built upon something from its past. In an odd contradictory sense, modern practitioners depend upon clinging to their art’s long-buried roots in order to move their agenda forward. There would be no progression without that fond nostalgic echo.

And nostalgia is something not in short supply when it comes to memories of hip-hop as it existed in the early to mid 90’s. The Golden Era, as it’s lovingly called, is when hip-hop came of age. And fans of the music who were old enough to appreciate that evolution as it occurred cling to the artists of that time period the same way a hungry rapper clings to a mic; for them, it’s an impossible separation. The sounds and styles of that time provide a point-of-reference for those fans’ identities as lovers of the music and influence their critiques of hip-hop as it exists today; perhaps even sometimes to the detriment of a contemporary artist’s deserved appreciation. (Philosophical debates — even well-written ones — have been posited on this very subject.)

The fact that local duo Def Dee and Language Arts (LA for short) have created Gravity in 2010, an album that clearly owes its existence to the Golden Era (especially as manifested in New York City), is not something to be taken lightly. Hip-hop music was certainly being made in Seattle in the mid-90’s but, save for the antics of Sir-Mix-a-Lot, the scene was confined strictly to the underground. The closest thing Seattle had to NYC Golden Era hip-hop was Tribal’s seminal 1996 compilation, Do The Math, a formative and well-known album for local emcees now in their late 20’s to early 30’s, but not a particularly familiar one to the average fan of the same age. New York’s influential boom-bap of the time was loud enough to ring from coast to coast and Do The Math is evidence of that reverberation in Seattle. That the majority of the city’s impressionable youth were too busy shopping for plaid and flannel, however, is not Tribal’s fault.

The local hip-hop scene as it exists today is interesting. The Golden Era was hip-hop’s officially recognized renaissance, but Seattle seems to currently be experiencing its own unique version. The mid-90’s hip-hop genome has already been mapped and well-documented, but perhaps never fully evolved locally until now. Gravity shares the same musical genes as Pete Rock, Jay Dilla and Mobb Deep of the Golden Era. Listening to the album’s sixteen tracks is like following a trail of Timberland boot-prints through that time period. All of the usual production suspects are present: scarce melodies; tightly-wound kicks and snares; the satisfying discord of crackle, pop and hiss behind the samples; chopped-up keyboard licks; and, perhaps most fundamental of all, bass acting as percussion which creates the thick atmosphere that holds everything together. What’s most remarkable here is how producer Def Dee’s mid-90’s aesthetic doesn’t imitate, but actually builds upon what came before. Def doesn’t mimic or parrot his sources of inspiration, he deftly crafts the beats with just as much skill as his predecessors. His work on Gravity is an astonishing accomplishment in that regard.

While Def’s beats lay the pavement for the ride, the man primarily responsible for driving is emcee Language Arts. He weaves his street-oriented rhymes so effortlessly through the tracks that it takes a few listens to realize just how versatile and effective his presence is. Simply put, LA can rhyme his way around any emcee in the 2-0-6. On “Uno Amore” he declares, “Reinvent the wheel? No I’m patchin’ up the tire,” which is an accurate self-assessment considering LA pulls as much from Nas’ Illmatic-era cadence as he does a characteristically West Coast nonchalance. LA uses his flow to tie Def’s beats up into tidy knots, seemingly never needing to breathe on “To Sir With Love,” which features a boot-stomping rhythm that he matches vocally march for march. Though LA is the primary voice in this group, Def’s tracks ride shotgun alongside his partner, saying as much through rhythm as could possibly be said without words. They’re a consistent and impressive two-man show on tracks like “Day In The Life,” with LA displaying a dexterous rhyme handle over Def’s self-inflicted staccato piano stabs. Every track on Gravity features a quality of rapping that equally matches the quality of its accompaniment.

To say that Gravity is the closest thing Seattle has to its own Illmatic is potentially dangerous hyperbole that immediately turns the author of this review into a target for criticism and attempts at discrediting his hip-hop knowledge. But who cares? Given that hip-hop’s fundamentalism is built (at least partially) on series of robust embellishments, the statement can and should be made given the nature of the two albums. Gravity could also be a cousin, once or twice removed, from Mobb Deep’s Hell On Earth, though it’s not nearly as cold. While it is decidedly “street,” Gravity‘s disposition doesn’t begin to approach Havoc and Prodigy’s flagrant nihilism (for example: nowhere do Def or LA make reference to being stabbed by an ice-pick).

As Nas asserted: “No Idea’s Original.” And to capably make an album like this with such conspicuous ties to the forebears previously mentioned, Def Dee and LA must understand that idiom. The significance of what they’ve created, and when they created it, means even more when considered in the context of Seattle’s hip-hop history. The Six never spotlighted this version of hip-hop. And, while it’s nothing new under the sun, it’s never what you do, but how it’s done. The virtue of Gravity is that it’s done right.

(Def Dee and LA’s Gravity is available for FREE download at the group’s Bandcamp page, here.)

Album Reviews Downloads

DOWNLOAD: “Gravity” (Def Dee & LA)

I can’t say enough good things about this album. Def Dee and Language ArtsGravity is incredibly satisfying. With heavy Jay Dilla and Golden Era influences, the sixteen tracks sound like Timbs hitting pavement in ’96. These cats have done their homework. Look for a full 206UP.COM review coming soon. For now, though, hit the link below to cop for FREE at the duo’s Bandcamp page.

Click here or the album covers below for the download link.

Downloads