THE SIX: Featuring Fleeta Partee

Fleeta Partee

Photo courtesy of the artist’s website.

Last year I started what I hoped would become a regular feature on the blog called THE SIX, an interview feature with a simple formula: one artist x six questions = six answers that provided exclusive insight into the minds of those powering the 206 rap machine. I got as far as two interviews (Gabriel Teodros and Thaddeus David) before life took over, I ran short of time, and had to abandon the idea. (In case you don’t know, I run game solo over here and it’s strictly pro bono so sometimes shit goes that way.)

In any case, it’s a new year with new resolutions and I’m vowing to include more original content on 206UP.COM than ever before, so THE SIX is starting again in earnest. And what better way to reboot than with Fleeta Partee, a Central District O.G. of the Seattle rap game who’s been doing it for more than a minute, long before the Sharkface Gang-hoodied teeny bopper masses began loitering outside Showbox at the Market. There’s a deeper rap history in the Town to comb through and Fleeta is one of those qualified to help tell it. Read on for the rapper’s insight and go here to cop his latest EP, Lifemuzik.

I believe the 206UP.COM readership trends toward the younger set who might not know much about the deep history of Seattle hip-hop. So for those that don’t know, talk a little about when and how you came up in the local rap game and who some of your contemporaries were/are.

[I] came into the Seattle hip-hop game in the early 90s with a group called Shabazz Coalition. Back then you had mostly crews on the scene and not so [many] solo artists. Some of the most memorable names were Tribal, Source of Labor, Silent Lambs (who got me and Shabazz Coalition their first shows) and many more. Jake One was around boom-bappin’ back then, as well as Vitamin D laying the soundscape for Tribal. Seattle has had a hip-hop scene since the early beginnings of the culture. Even outside of the music you had aspects of the culture being represented. In fact some of my early influences in Seattle weren’t even rappers, they were graffiti artists and b-boy street crews. You had O2B (Out to Bomb), WWTC (World Wide Taggin Crew), J2C (Just to Crush), and DWTC (Down Wit The Crew) just to name a few.

What single artist would you say has influenced you the most over the course of your career?

The artist that has influenced my career? Man, that’s a trick question… [laughs] MCs always appreciate [other] dope MCs and what they bring to the table lyrically. It’s been so many dope cats over the years I’d be doing the culture an injustice if I singled out just one. I will say this though: I tend to analyze and admire the cats with staying power. This is music they said wouldn’t last long, and was labeled a trend. So when cats such as Nas, Jay-Z, Raekwon, or even producers like Jake One, Primo, and Dr. Dre are still around dropping relevant heat after 20 years in the game, I tend to admire and, in a sense, become inspired by their staying power. The game is a marathon, not a sprint. And with all due respect some of these hit songs on commercial radio, my kid could write. Hits don’t necessarily mean a cat will still be in the game for decades.

Are there any local artists that you’re feeling these days, in particular?

Local cats I’m feeling… Well with the town on fire these days a true hip-hop head would be hard-pressed not to find at least five he or she digs, so yeah I have a few. Any work my favorite producers lay down I’m diggin’: Vitamin D, Jake One. I can’t say enough about the drive and inspiration I get from their tracks. I’m feeling Fearce and Bean One. Me and Fearce collabin’ on some dopeness, as well as Bean. I’m feeling the Moor Gang movement. [That] Nacho Picasso cat is a fuckin’ rock star — probably the first true Seattle hip-hop sex symbol. I say that cause the boy got dimes in his fan base. The amazing thing is he’s attracting them while still makin’ hard music for the streets. Him, Jarv Dee and Gift of Gab are dope. Pinder is nice, The Good Sin, John Crown, my man Ish from Shabazz Palaces. Yirim Seck got a real nice flow — I got some work wit’ him too on the way. My man Tay Sean from Cloud Nice and Kingdom Crumbs stay pushin’ the envelope. I know I’m late [laughs] but I recently got into The Physics when they dropped that joint “So Funky”. Thig and Justo pulled me in on that one man. My guys Fatal [Lucciano] and Spaceman from Sportn’ Life bring it. I could go on and on… First and foremost man I’m a fan of Seattle hip-hop, so it’s many doin’ good work right now that’s helpin’ the town do what it do!

Your new EP, LifeMuzik, focuses heavily on issues and perspectives in Seattle that are rarely conveyed to the world outside of the 206 — namely those of the city’s marginalized populations. With Town rap blowing up nationally in the form of an artist like Macklemore, do you think people’s perceptions of what Seattle hip-hop truly is will be skewed?

What Macklemore is doin’ ya gotta respect from the business aspect of hip-hop. And guess what? He’s from Seattle so that makes it Seattle hip-hop! [laughs] It’s his voice and his form of expression — not mad at the cat one bit. So no I don’t so much worry that it skews the image, nationwide, of our scene. What it does is drive and motivate me to continue to bring my vision and my expression to the table for the world to digest and marinate on. I’m here to add balance to the mix — the yin to the yang. Seattle hip-hop is a representation of the city: very diverse, many different sounds, colors and creeds. In my mind that’s a beautiful thing. I rep what I rep, other artists rep what they rep. It’s something for everybody comin’ outta Seattle hip-hop!

What was the last great book you read?

The last good book I read was called The Business of Hip Hop. I bought it a while back and didn’t touch it for a while thinking it was some warped version of the truth. But once I got into it, it shed light on a lot of behind-the-scenes moves and brand-building I had limited knowledge of. [It] helped me look at the game from another perspective too. [There is] another one called Hit Men. Both are books about behind-the-scenes industry-isms and schisms — pretty insightful. I tend to read a lot, and usually more than one book at a time. It’s the Gemini in me. In fact a book helped to inspire a project I’m working on now. Can’t reveal the title [laughs] just stay tuned…

What are your upcoming projects folks can look forward to?

I got a few in the fire. Just stay tuned to and I’m grindin’ man, so there’s joints in the vault stackin’, just a matter of when and how me and the team wanna drop ’em. Nowadays it’s all about that good ol’ timing. I’m proud of what I did in 2012 which makes me hungry for more. You’ll definitely be hearing from Fleeta Partee and the label Animal Houze Recordz this year and beyond. Like I said, stay tuned and appreciate the shine and facetime! Reign City rock, rock on!

Interviews The Six

206UP.COM YEAR END: The Best Seattle Hip-Hop Albums of 2012 – Top 10

More Town goodness from the last 365 days.

Today concludes our year end list of the Best Seattle Hip-Hop Albums of 2012. Yesterday was the Honorable Mentions and today is the Top 10. Holler at me in the Comments section or on Twitter. Expanding the debate is part of democracy. Just remember: I’m right and you’re wrong. Happy New Year!

(Click on the album covers for links to purchase or free download, where available.)

Fleeta Partee - Lifemuzik

10. Fleeta Partee – Lifemuzik

Sportn’ Life Records co-founder and OG in the Central District rap game Fleeta Partee (real name, no gimmicks) enlisted the two best area producers for the majority of Lifemuzik, an 8-song EP full of hard-worn street knowledge. Vitamin D lends board work for over half the tracks, his keyboards and drums on “Inception” and “Part of the Game” sounding bigger and deffer than everyone else’s, except for maybe Jake One’s whose “Apathy (No Love)” captures a blues feeling in boom-bap form. As far as the well-traveled Fleeta Partee goes, his free-wheeling, old-school flow rejuvenates rap purists’ earholes the way a pair of fresh laces lends new life to sneakers. Are you feeling bogged down by all the vapid swag excursions through chattering high-hats and cheap synth? Lifemuzik is the remedy.

Nacho Picasso - Exalted

9. Nacho Picasso & Blue Sky Black Death – Exalted

There’s a small part of me that worries Nacho Picasso’s Exalted made this top 10 because of other blogs that put it on their year-end lists. The power of group think is a motherfucker. After all, let’s face it: over the course of four mixtapes Nacho has become somewhat of a one-trick pony. But damn what a trick it is. There’s certainly no one else in the Town that does what he does: the monotonic nihilism accented with wicked one-liners, all pulled to a degenerate end by the wobbly, hazy renderings by production partners Blue Sky Black Death. For Seattle, Nacho is the vital counterpoint to the easy party-rocking optimism of the city’s most visible rap stars. Macklemore is an expert jokester, sure, but like all great comics Nacho finds his humor in the dark recesses of his own psyche. When the pathos is threatening to overtake your soul, sometimes smoking, fucking and, of course, laughing, make for the only true medicine.

Sol - Yours Truly8. Sol – Yours Truly

On Sol’s Bandcamp page, the rapper dedicates Yours Truly to “the human pursuit of deep understanding,” an endeavor the MC is no doubt currently pursuing on a post-college graduation trip around the world. Most of this album — the culmination of a series of shorter, free EP releases — is an attempt at universal appeal, heavy on the pop hooks and R&B melodies which serve to make it all just feel very…easy. But when you consider Yours Truly in the context of the artist’s statement, it makes sense: we’re more immediately bonded together when our commonalities are highlighted, hence the depth of understanding we can find when enjoying an album like Yours Truly together. This may sound annoyingly meta and shit, but the threads that connect us through musical experience don’t exist at the surface of listening, which is true even when an album as easily enjoyable as this comes along.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - The Heist

7. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist

I’m super hyper-critical of Macklemore. Mostly because his puritanical rhymes are written and delivered so evidently as to diminish that vital trait which separates good poets from great ones: nuance. Then again, I agree with virtually everything the MC has to say on The Heist about marriage equality, white privilege and artistic integrity, three poignant topics that are sadly absent from about 90% of all other hip-hop I listen to. Plus producer Ryan Lewis conveys pop sensibilities in a manner that no other Seattle-birthed rap album featured so expertly this year, or perhaps ever.

I nitpick Ben Haggerty’s rap game in the same way I fixed upon every full-count, two-out, man-on-second strikeout by Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997 — you know, the year dude hit 56 home runs and won the AL MVP award. My criticisms of Macklemore are undeniable in the same way “Thrift Shop” undeniably moves butts and endears fans all over the globe. Is The Heist polarizing for a lot of rap heads? Sure. But the fact that this duo is killing the game right now while simultaneously causing haters to chatter is proof that they’re doing something right.

Gabriel Teodros - Colored People's Time Machine

6. Gabriel Teodros – Colored People’s Time Machine

Seatown rappers went certified worldwide in 2012 and that’s word. But none of them in the fashion of Abyssinian Creole teammate, Gabriel Teodros. His Colored People’s Time Machine cuts a broad cultural swath with guest rappers from different countries rhyming in their native languages (English, Spanish, Arabic, and Tagalog, by my count).

While home is the central theme on CPTM, Teodros fashions the concept on his own terms, grappling with the intricacies of identity as a person of color and the realization that just because you were born in a specific place, it doesn’t mean that locale represents your cultural center. As always, the MC dons a critical, analytical cap, dropping piercing knowledge but always with love and a deft touch. As an ambassador to the rest of the rap world, Seattle can’t do much better than the homie GT.

THEESatisfaction - Awe Naturale

5. THEESatisfaction – Awe Naturale

Cat and Stas of THEESatisfaction are no longer the Costco-employed “starving artists” of their earliest mixtapes, That’s Weird and Snow Motion. Both of those quirky hip-hop/R&B low-fi’s were recorded in the comfort of their own bedroom closet-turned recording studio and it endearingly showed. Neither is THEESatisfaction the little sister act of Shabazz Palaces, though the two forward-thinking groups do share a label home (Sub Pop) and a decidedly left-of-center musical spirituality. Awe Naturale was THEESatisfaction’s official debut and it garnered a ton of praise from both local and national outlets, much of it due to the quiet confidence of the group’s two members who are double threats in both rhyme and song. “Queens” is a funky, heady feminist groove that doesn’t name itself as such and was winning enough to garner a video treatment by the venerable dream hampton. Awe Naturale stands out, like Shabazz’s records, because it doesn’t sound like anything else in hip-hop.

The Physics - Tomorrow People

4. The Physics – Tomorrow People

Tomorrow People reaches for a broader context than The Physics’ previous album (last year’s outstanding Love is a Business) without sacrificing any of what makes the group so appealing. Soulful, funky and beautifully nuanced, TP is 13 tracks of grown-man/woman hip-hop. MCs Thig Nat and Monk Wordsmith are thoughtful, conscious and raunchy always right when they need to be. And producer Justo and don’t-call-them-back-up singers Malice and Mario Sweet put the finishing touches on each track so they shine at just the right angles. This is a crew with a rare nonchalance that never translates to dull, a sure sign of artists who truly know who they are. There is something for everyone on Tomorrow People. You could play this album for your grandma and she would probably love it, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Fatal Lucciauno - Respect

3. Fatal Lucciauno – Respect

Fatal Lucciauno’s stubborn refusal of the Seattle rap status quo is probably one of the most important statements made in the local arts. In a city home to the nation’s annual White Privilege Conference, it’s no surprise that the gregarious Macklemore has become Seattle hip-hop’s envoy to the rest of the world. That shit happened basically by default.

On the colder end of town, however, is where Fatal stages his operations. Hardcore and unforgiving to a fault, Respect is the other side of Seattle rap’s truth. It rejects even the militant-light stylings of acts like Blue Scholars and Gabriel Teodros, preferring to cast flickering reds and blues on the folks too preoccupied with basic survival than to be troubled with thoughts of the revolution. And in a year when we viewed all local rap through a Heist-colored lens, it’s important to ask ourselves: What percentage of those “Thrift Shop”-ers actually understood how their discovery of joy in a dirty bargain bin can be construed as yet another ironic luxury borne out of privilege?

It’s true we’re all better people when re-purposing perfectly useable disposed goods, feeding our souls with something truer than what is marketed to us. But Fatal’s Respect speaks on a different type of hunger: the one for things untarnished after a lifetime of languishing at the bottom.

Kingdom Crumbs - Kingdom Crumbs

2. Kingdom Crumbs – Kingdom Crumbs

Cloud Nice teammates formed like Voltron for Kingdom Crumbs, a hazy, danceable, electro-funk departure which was by far the most fun Seattle hip-hop release of the year. Jarv Dee, Mikey Nice, Jerm, and creative mastermind Tay Sean managed to find unique swag in a diverse array of funk compositions, from the hippie smoke session “Evoking Spirits” to the stuttering swankfest “Ridinonthestrength.”

Cloud Nice have evolved into one of the most diverse and reliable rap collectives in Town and much of that is owed to Tay Sean’s virtuosic keyboard and drum programming. Kingdom Crumbs rides on the strength of its accessibility (dreaded word, I know) and its musical intellect, the two factors that most often determine the level of quality in pop music. In a year when pop stylings thoroughly influenced Seattle rap, determining the best release of the last 365 days often came down to a single question: Which album would I rather listen to on repeat? More often than not Kingdom Crumbs was the answer.

Dark Time Sunshine - ANX

1. Dark Time Sunshine – ANX

You could never accuse Dark Time Sunshine’s music of being cheery, but on the group’s third album, ANX, Chicago producer Zavala allows enough cracks in his heavy, electro-organic compositions to let a little bit of sunshine in. Onry Ozzborn’s deadpan science drops are illuminated by tad brighter synths, driving breakbeats (which were all but absent on DTS’s previous two albums, Believeyoume and Vessel), and a few well-placed cameos (vocalist Reva DeVito on “Never Cry Wolf” and a livewire Swamburger on “Take My Hand”, for example).

ANX is also less claustrophobic than its predecessors, its aesthetic welcoming well-equalized car stereo speakers rather than just the strict confines of headphone cans. Dark Time Sunshine’s music has always aurally represented the variations in weather of the group member’s home cities: the frigid wind of Chicago, the lidded grey Seattle sky. But finally with ANX we have tunes that go equally well with our Town’s de facto cloud cover and this past September’s exquisite atmospherics.

Don’t get me wrong, everything that makes Dark Time Sunshine one of the best hip-hop crews working today is still here; much of ANX still heaves and sighs like a concrete robot and Onry hasn’t lost a touch of his scathing pessimism. But that glow you see underneath an electronic heart is evidence of an evolved sentience. ANX can be cold to the touch, but the soul under the surface gives off uncommon warmth. It’s this new layer of complexity that elevates ANX above Dark Time’s great past work and places it in a superior class over every other Seattle hip-hop album of 2012.

Album Reviews Best of 2012 Best Of Lists Downloads