VIDEO: “Mixed Messages” – Kublakai (feat. Malice & Mario Sweet)

[Editor’s note: 206UP is happy to welcome the voice and perspective of Luke Wigren, a new contributing writer and collaborator. This is his first piece for 206UP. You’ll be able to find all of Luke’s writings at this location. And check out one of his many artistic labors-of-love, Lakehouse Ent., at that crew’s new website, here.]

Kublakai - Origin Story

For anyone who keeps up with Seattle hip-hop it is hard not to admire its multi-ethnic character. In this city, Filipino, Persian, Irish, and East African MCs and DJs form a sort of hip-hop utopia, a slice of “Planet Rock” envisioned four decades ago by Afrika Bambaataa and the Universal Zulu Nation.

Kublakai’s newest song “Mixed Messages,” with Malice and Mario Sweet furthers this dialogue with lyrics and a photo scrapbook of young Kubi embracing his own multiple heritages. The video features a photo of his white mother and black father.

On the surface, “Mixed Messages” is about growing up biracial and self-acceptance in a world constantly forcing us to categorize and choose sides. It is anthemic and hopeful and, much like Seattle’s hip-hop scene, it seems ahead of the curve in its reflections on race.

However, lately, the on the ground reality tends to feel somewhat different. With the ongoing demolition of Yesler Terrace, America’s first integrated public housing development, as well as increased scrutiny on race relations in the hip-hop scene — brought in part by Macklemore’s meteoric rise to fame — Seattle’s “post-race” utopia, a tenuous dream to begin with, looks to be coming apart at the seams.

Raz Simone’s “Same Problems,” highlights this rift, alerting us to a polarity — and yes privilege — among categorized Seattle hip-hop which tends to reward non-black rappers in our very white city. By mentioning Sol and Porter Ray, Raz’s song also suggests such privilege may extend to our city’s artists of mixed African descent as well.

For Kublakai, whose new album is titled Origin Story, a song like “Mixed Messages” may not alleviate criticisms of white or mixed-race privilege, but it will help convey his unique experience with race during upbringing. By placing race in the foreground, it will certainly complicate binary racial distinctions which are, and have always been, misleading.

The fact that Kublakai’s song adds to a growing number of Seattle artists candidly addressing their own mixed race, artists like Gabriel Teodros (“Alien Native”), Sol (“See The End”), and BenadriLL (“Light Skin”), is a good sign. Such songs, when done right, can be far more than badges of belonging and/or dissociation with any one racial group.

How well they address Seattle’s current racial tension, helping the listener interrogate the ways in which race impacts their daily life, preferences, and self-identity, is for you to decide.

Audio / Video Video

THE SIX: Kublakai


Kublakai’s most recent musical offering Wheels Up was, in the rapper’s own words, an EP ten years in the making. It’s easily his most well-rounded album from a musical standpoint, succinctly covering the base of his musical affinities from jazz to hip-hop. Tracks like “Morning Light” and “Moan” interpolate Kubi’s practiced technical MC abilities with a great love for the music’s source material: big band instrumentation in the former track; the free form jazz associations of Charles Mingus in the latter.

Currently, Kublakai is in the midst of a seven month study abroad program through the University of Washington. 206UP caught up with him in South America — Chile to be exact — for this edition of THE SIX. Hit the jump to read more.

Interviews The Six

AUDIO: Wheels Up – Kublakai

Kubi - Wheels Up

Underground rap hero Kublakai has a new EP out called Wheels Up. It is, by far, his most personal piece of work and, probably not incidentally, his best.

Over the course of nearly a decade, the rapper has become proficient at riding a beat — technically he’s on par with the best in town, dropping earnest bars that fall in line with the Grieves and Macklemores of the region. He does similar things lyrically on Wheels Up, but the difference here is that nothing sounds forced. In the past, some of Kubi’s Golden Era-influenced boom-bap was formulaic: one part 16 struggle bars, one part break beat, one part sticky hook.

It was his fun-loving persona, sense of humor and outright dedication to the hip-hop craft that kept Kubi from sinking to the middle of the backpacker pack. Not to say 206UP doesn’t fuck with the classic formula, but things were generally predictable, musically, when it came to a new Kublakai joint.

With Wheels Up, the MC allows his affinity for jazz to rise more prominently to the surface. It shows in the freewheeling nature of “Moan” (named for the artist’s all-time favorite song, “Moanin’,” by Charles Mingus). Likewise, the vibe on the standout party starter “Morning Light” is looser. Kub’s still in the pocket, but he’s letting out — emotionally, physically — more than he’s drawing in. Call this his Waiting to Exhale moment.

Audio Audio / Video

AUDIO: “Wheels Up” – Kublakai (prod. by Isaak Meek & Kublakai)

Kublakai - Morning Light

International playboy Kublakai with a new drop from his already-kinda-sorta-released Wheels Up (due digitally on February 2). Kubi, friend of this website and penguins everywhere, posted this heartfelt essay about the creative process behind Wheels Up. Dare we say, based on the first three tracks from the album, it looks to be the best, most honest body of work yet from the underground hero.

Audio Audio / Video

NEW MUSIC: “What It Is” – Kublakai (feat. Symmetry & Marcus Wheat)

Kubi - What It Is

Working creative and grad student Kublakai dropped the latest single from his Wheels Up EP (the deluxe package edition of which is available now with the digital version due February 2, 2014). “What It Is” is an artist’s statement of sorts featuring the vocals of Symmetry and the trumpet of Marcus Wheat. It all comes together like alchemy.

Audio Downloads

NEW MUSIC: “Moan” – Kublakai

Kublakai - Moan

Kublakai samples his all-time favorite song (Charles Mingus’ “Moanin'”) and lovingly re-imagines it as both an homage to the enigmatic jazz hero and a hip-hop call to creative arms. Co-produced by Kubi and Isaak Meek, this song is from the rapper’s forthcoming Wheels Up EP.

Audio Downloads

206UP EXCLUSIVE PREMIER: “The Bizness” – Kublakai

Fresh for your viewing pleasure — and purely exclusive here on 206UP — is the premier of Kublakai’s new music video for his track, “The Bizness”, directed by Eric Burritt.

Sometimes the rap game reminds me of the…garage sale game? The fleecing of artists at all levels of the “industry” is based on the same damn principles. Kubi goes in against it with characteristic levity over a Bean One slapper.

Go grab Kubi’s Kubi Zoo for this song and other rap excursions by one of Seattle’s underground favorites.

206UP Exclusive Video Video Premier

206UP EXCLUSIVE (PREVIEW): “The Bizness” Music Video – Kublakai

Kublakai - The Bizness

The rapper Kublakai — long time friend of the blog and perpetual move-maker in the Six (and beyond) — has found himself rejuvenated with March’s Kubi Zoo, a collection of previously released tracks and a handful of new ones. New energy means new videos and 206UP will happily feature the exclusive premier of his latest clip for “The Bizness” this Tuesday. Stay tuned, fam.

206UP Exclusive Audio Previews Video Premier