VIDEO: “Oh Lord” – Raz Simone (dir. by Jacob Hill & Raz)

Raz Simone’s latest video entry, “Oh Lord,” finds the rapper speaking truth to power in a natural setting that looks conspicuously like the one Macklemore and Ryan Lewis used in their “Otherside” video. Raz name checks Macklemore in the third verse, noting the pop star’s as-yet unreleased “White Privilege 2,” a song rumored to be part of Mack and RL’s upcoming sophomore LP. (Some questions, though: How can a track called “White Privilege 2” be anything but reductive in an ongoing conversation about the very topic? At what point does Macklemore speaking openly about his privilege become more about him and less about the actual issue? After all, in about 99% of discussions about race it’s more productive for white folks to just shut the fuck up and listen than it is for them to ramble on about what it means to them.)

In any case, Raz’s output this year has generated more words-per-post from your loyal blogger than any other Town hip-hop artist, which means he’s either really good at pushing buttons, or he’s on to something much larger and provocative than his peers. It’s probably a bit of both. “Oh Lord” finds Raz at his best, reserving valuable bars for conveying concerns both communal and personal (see also: “They’ll Speak”). In other instances he can be frustratingly confounding — though no less visceral and inciting — which, I’ve mentioned before, engenders multitudes. That’s hip-hop, though.

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VIDEO: “Plottin” – Raz Simone (dir. by Jacob Hill & Raz)

Raz Simone has been on a creative tear for the last two weeks, matching the frenetic pace in output he set earlier this year. “Plottin,” is his third music video to drop this month and the tenth overall with Black Umbrella cinematography maven Jacob Hill. The new video is dark in a Wes Craven (R.I.P.) type of way, and seems to suggests Raz fighting off a horde of unwelcome soul-suckers.

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VIDEO: “Charged Up” – Raz Simone

Easier than finding eight rings in a haystack, Raz Simone emerges from his months-long social media silence to let loose some thinly veiled fury against one — shit, maybe even two* — of Seattle’s favorite rap sons.

Yes, that’s Sol’s beaming grill — the target of Raz’s barbs — right there at the beginning of Simone’s new clip, “Charged Up.” Did you happen to catch the Zilla’s “Same Problems”-referencing diss in his new track “Ain’t Gon’ Stop” on your first listen? (Uh yeah, like, we totally did too…) You certainly caught Sol executing the hack of all social media hacks (or were they??) earlier in the week, swapping out Raz’s snarling smirk with a ridiculous shot of himself in the shower, Mutombo finger-wag in effect, all like, “Gotcha Raz!Curiously the image remains on Raz’s Facebook page, which means either the internet giant is dragging its feet on relinquishing control back to Simone’s camp, or there’s something troll-y going on.

Sol shower

So is this real life? In the rapidly advancing age of media manipulation, that’s barely a question worth posing anymore. The battering ram of public discourse can unceremoniously take one fiction and hammer it into something slightly resembling fact. Is this just one massive Seattle rap troll hiding out in Fremont? Maybe. Are there better, more constructive conversations to be had? That’s a certainty. But maybe the platinum lining in this charade is a renewed conversation about the Tale of Two Rap Seattles, originally articulated by Raz in his “Same Problems” video, the very words to which Sol seems to have responded in “Ain’t Gon’ Stop.”

Rap politics, when enumerated tactfully, are often a microcosm of the body politic. And that right there is called “artistic value.” Personally? I’m waiting for one of these cats to declare a run for City Council. Then we really gon’ see.

*That could only be one man’s Volvo Raz is talking about, right?

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VIDEO: “All In My Mind” – Raz Simone (dir. by Jacob Hill)

Part lament, part performance piece, Raz Simone’s new video “All In My Mind” taps into the sexually and emotionally vacant sub-layers of the human psyche. Watch Raz ignore cops (and their mounts), curious passersby, even a bad woman in a flowing black dress, for the sake of connecting to the camera. Perhaps, in the midst of a month-and-a-half long stint as the most discussed rapper in the Town, that’s all he feels connected to at this moment. From his upcoming project Baby Jesus (due April 7).

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VIDEO: “Them” – Raz Simone (feat. Fatal Lucciauno)

On the eve of the release of Macklemore Privilege & Chief on Keef Violence — his second album of 2015 — Raz Simone drops the song and video “Them” which functions as the rapper’s own paean to a so-called “post-racial America.” Much of Raz’s output the past few weeks has been antithetical in nature, directly adhering to the titles of his last two albums, Cognitive Dissonance Parts 1 and 2.

Is “Them” meant to diffuse some of the incendiary power balled up in the word “nigger?” Or is the track meant to illustrate the exact opposite: to upbraid the word’s usage among those to whom it was never intended to be directed? Perhaps it’s a little of both. In either case, Raz, Fatal Lucciauno and a marching, armed mass of children dressed in black pose a formidable affront to the sometimes milquetoast Seattle rap landscape.

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VIDEO: “Same Problems” – Raz Simone (feat. Gifted Gab & Fatal Lucciauno)

In “Same Problems,” Raz Simone continues to give musical life to oft-aired frustrations within the Seattle hip-hop community — including among its observers, listeners and fans — that don’t typically find their way onto wax; at least not in the full-bodied way displayed in this and other recent clips. There are a grip of reasons as to why that is, and they are as intertwined as an iPod headphone cord buried at the bottom of your backpack.

“Same Problems” (which features cameo bars from Gifted Gab and Fatal Lucciauno) goes beyond the tired “rap beef” label that many folks will want to place on it, and exposes a hierarchy — musical, cultural, economical, and, not least of all, racial — that everyone knows exists but is afraid to discuss openly. How do we grow beyond the stale dialogue that permeates the majority of discussion surrounding hip-hop in the Town? Only one is truly eating right now, and whatever trickles down from his mouth is just crumbs.

Expect to hear more on this topic on Raz’s upcoming Macklemore Privilege & Chief on Keef Violence EP coming March 3.

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VIDEO: “Diary Of Twizzy” – Ju-Ju Twist (dir. by Jacob Hill)

The Pacific Northwest region is blessed with landscapes that run the gamut in natural diversity. Curiously enough, however, local rappers don’t mine the majestic scenery for everything they could when it comes to their music videos.

Young Ju-Ju Twist and his director Jacob Hill saw the similarities in Seattle’s urban landscape and its neighboring mountainous terrain to the east (or west). The dual cinematography in “Diary of Twizzy” is both synchronous and at odds with each other. If the endgame for Ju-Ju is stardom in the music world, how different is that feral deer wandering through the frame from the anonymous coattail rider bouncing up and down on stage?

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