Thus far in 2015 Raz Simone is outpacing all other rappers in the Town in terms of artistic output and bold statements. He’s turned this very website into his own virtual PR firm with a steady barrage of video and audio drops. He’s rarely taken a day off, it seems, and today is no exception.
Baby Jesus — available for free download here — is Simone’s third album project of the year and deals heavily with ideas of self-actualization, self-worth and the redemptive properties associated with those two things. Like his Macklemore Privilege & Chief On Keef Violence EP, the message isn’t always cut and dry; it’s complicated by meddling factors like the power of your own subconscious, your environment and the demands placed upon you by the company you keep. A world of cognitive dissonance, indeed.
Click here to watch Raz’s latest video for his song “Hallelujah.” and stream the title track from Baby Jesus below.
Update (4.10.15): Check out the video for the title track to Baby Jesus, below.
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).
Raz Simone with yet another drop: “That Ain’t Love” finds the rapper imploring motherfuckers to start acting right. Tacoma’s Leezy Soprano and the renowned King Push splatter venom all over the trap, too. If you’re down in Austin this week, watch for Raz and his bandmates roving around SxSW in a solar-powered bus. No joke.
You ever wake up in the morning, take a good long hard look in the mirror and think, Good got-damn that is one sexy-ass motherfucker? Self-worship to the nth degree on Raz Simone’s “Baby Jesus,” from the upcoming album of the same name (due April 7). Raz takes no days off and never has a bad hair day.
Raz Simone knocked the Seattle hip-hop world off its axis three weeks ago with the release of his song and video “Macklemore & Chief Keef.” Then the rising rapper continued to deliver body blows with three subsequentvideo releases that were equal parts incendiary and thought provoking. Now, what felt like a series of steam-blowing one-offs have actually culminated in a six-track EP which is available for free download today at DatPiff.
Macklemore Privilege & Chief On Keef Violence obliquely — and sometimes not so obliquely — addresses the tenuous relationship between a sacred hip-hop culture and the dispassionate valuation our free market economy applies to said culture. That Raz discusses these topics writ large within the context of the Seattle hip-hop community — calling out various local headliners by name, in some cases — makes this unexpected album especially pertinent. It’s already starteda discussion which, hopefully, will continue in perpetuity.
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’soutput 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.
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 otherrecent 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 KeefViolence EP coming March 3.
For a minute last year, Seattle became the center of the pop music universe based solely on the appeal of a pretty-good-for-hip-hop-karaoke indie smash hit. (Don’t worry Macklemore riders, I’m not forgetting the handful of Billboard sediment that got stirred up in the post-“Thrift Shop” tidal action. But I am saying the country wouldn’t know “Can’t Hold Us” in the same way if Mack hadn’t first rocked the faux tiger skin.)
The biggest irony of this unlikely shift in cultural orbit around the Upper Left was that even though the song in question was, in fact, a rap song, the city from which it emerged was never fully acknowledged as a “rap city.” Seattle as a bonafide center for hip-hop culture hasn’t been named as such in the Court of Public Rap Opinion. Of course we all know that’s unfair, especially if you’re a frequent reader of this blog, or, better yet, one of the many hard-working, nine-to-five wage-earners who also moonlights as a dope MC in the Town. Hip-hop grows wherever struggle lives, and that is to say everywhere. I know this, we know this. Blue Scholars, The Physics, Dyme Def, Thraxxhouse, and Moor Gang know this. But in a broader cultural context, half the battle in getting your town put on the hip-hop map is getting more than just a grip of outside observers to project that most nebulous of conditions upon you: Realness. Whatever that means.
In yet another corner of Seattle’s rap mini-verse stands Raz Simone. The Central District’s chief street reporter was busy in 2014 making moves with one of the most preeminent figures in rap music history. If you’re prone to making such subjective proclamations you could have said that, other than Macklemore, Raz was Seattle’s other “big story” in rap music in 2014. Since signing a creative partnership with 300 Entertainment Raz has been — in the parlance of our times — “on his grind,” touring with Strange Music’s Rittz and amassing a cadre of well-wishers, energetic collaborators and — very likely — straight dick-riders (hey, it comes with the territory). Raz’s “The Village” is equivalent to Macklemore’s Shark Face Gang, except that the latter’s import exists now only to stoke its fellow members’ enthusiasm for Mack. Shark Face Gang is the cult underwritten by Dr. Pepper. The Village, on the other hand, is still a natural resource. A resource that Raz himself knows is necessary should he wish to continue his ascent to music stardom.
Which brings us to Raz’s new video: “Macklemore & Chief Keef.” It’s true, Raz calls out Macklemore for not doing as much as he could to put his city on and that’s undoubtedly what internet commentators will obsess over. But Raz is savvy enough to know that charges of outright jilt are more complicated than that. He also knows that a particular contingent of folks in Seattle wish him to be the darker (pun intended) counterpoint to Macklemore — the real side of this 2-0-6 rap shit. (Again, whatever the hell that means.)
“My city thought I might part the sea open,” Raz proclaims here. But even a deal with Lyor Cohen and a national coast-to-coast tour hasn’t changed the fact that he’s “still in the field” in order to make ends meet. The further you get into this song, the more peripheral Raz’s displeasure with Macklemore becomes. There are grievances to be aired sure, but in the end it’s really only about what hip-hop’s political operatives have known all along: It’s the game, stupid.
Of course the greater lesson here is the natural attrition your creative vitality suffers as celebrity grows. The more number one hits Macklemore accrues, the more he becomes engulfed by the fake empire that his main collaborating partner preached about in a college art project. As celebrity grows, so too does the abstract nature of your persona. Jay Z, at this point in his career, is more of a story — an idea, really — than he is flesh and blood. Raz isn’t ignorant; he knows that’s how it works. My guess is that the venom he spits in “Macklemore & Chief Keef” is more a product of his frustrations over the reductive nature of ubiquity than the fact Macklemore might not be returning his phone calls.