Tribal Productions was a collective of immensely talented/influential hip-hop artists active in the Puget Sound throughout the mid-90s. I was neither present nor learned on the scene’s happenings at that time, so I leave it to the authoritative voices of Deven Morgan and Jack Devo — two precious resources for telling what Seattle rap life was like before the teeny-boppers started caring — to drop knowledge.
I don’t know much, but I do know this: If you care to think of yourself as a Seattle hip-hop head, it’s best not to believe that this shit begins and ends with “Thrift Shop.”
After a week of listening to far too much Odd Future than is healthy for one human’s conscience to bear, it was incredibly mollifying on the dome to come across this gem, the 10.4 Rog and The Good Sin collaboration, Late.
Renton’s 10.4 Rog has built a steady rep for creating a diverse array of soundscapes that are influenced in equal parts by J. Dilla’s complex boom-bap and the electronic wanderings of Radiohead. The result of Rog’s genre amalgam trips are progressive, visceral renderings of hip-hop that feel more instinctual than intentionally crafted. Very few producers possess this aptitude which, in the end, isn’t about how nice someone is with Fruity Loops. Folks like 10.4 Rog and oc Notes do this sh-t based on hunches and less on the basis of study.
If Rog’s nine tracks on Late are the result of a naturally occurring head-in-the-hip-hop-clouds faculty, then emcee The Good Sin’s rich baritone is the anchor that keeps the songs tethered to the ground. There’s a brilliant dualism at work here: while the stark contrast in tone between Rog’s atmospheric instrumentals and Sin’s heavy voice is readily apparent, the two also work in perfect unison when Sin occasionally lets his mind and words wander inside the producer’s compositions.
For the most part, Sin is a cat still trying to find his voice, at least contextually. Dude can rap on most anything as his past drops and mixtape (Ready or Not) have shown, but listeners still don’t really know who he is. Late reveals the emcee to be a true poet who is equally comfortable exploring spoken-word’s ambiguous nebula (the album’s opening and closing, “Wake Up” and “Endpiece”) as he is rapping on concrete subjects like getting money and getting over (“Pages & Wages”). The Stranger’s Charles Mudede recently compared Sin’s rap ethos to that of Geo of Blue Scholars because of their similar working-class bearings. The comparison is appropriate in that vein, but Sin also possess a certain poetic now-ness to his style; a lyrical method that blends the esoteric and the concrete. It’s exciting to find that type of complexity in The Good Sin, who was previously most notable for his strong delivery.
Hip-hop is not typically something I listen to when laying in bed trying to go to sleep. While it’s by far my preferred musical genre, most of it is too immediate and glaring to be relaxing. Late is something much different, however. The album can be explored with a full ear attuned to the beats and rhymes, or it can be put on in the background and allowed to seep in little by little. It’s one of those rare pieces of music where my mind didn’t have to make the conscious decision to LIKE or DISLIKE. It just knew from the moment it filtered through.
Late is available for FREE download. Click on the album cover above or the Bandcamp link below.
Just kidding. The name of my blog is remaining 206-UP! I haven’t been heavy in the blog game long enough to warrant a change in my moniker. But someday, if I keep pushing, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to possess not one, but two blog personas, as have so many athletes and rappers before me…
Anyway, the point of this post was to make those unawares aware of RA Scion’s new rap moniker, Victor Shade. It sounds like a superhero handle which, in fact, it is. It’s also a window blinds company in Saint Louis, Missouri, but that’s not important here. What is important, is that it appears Common Market has been (temporarily?) shelved in favor of RA’s new collaborative effort with local producer, MTK.
In the perpetual style of all-seriousness, as is RA’s modus operandi, he’s taking this new project, well, serious — as is evidenced by these words spoken to The Stranger’s venerable hip-hop commentator Larry Mizell, Jr.
In any event, I’m bummed (boo!) that we may have seen the end of Common Market, but excited (yay!) for the birth of the Victor Shade project, the genesis of which has been (apparently) some time in the making, but its official release upon the masses will happen at this show.
You can sample a collabo track (“Kasase”) between MTK and RA on MTK’s Myspace page (linked above). It sounds like RA’s — ahem, excuse me, Victor Shade’s — battle-ready flow is fully intact, which isn’t a surprise. But he does sound fresh and new rhyming over MTK’s RZA-style beat. It’s dope. I like it. And I’ll probably like Victor Shade, even though my Lady tells me I don’t do well with change.
Here’s a post from today by Andrew Matson (music columnist for the Seattle Times), our faithful voice of realness in the too-often watered-down mainstream media (props to Andrew!). I would second everything he said in his blog entry — the Seattle hip-hop scene is blowing up like Saint Helens in 1980!
(Someone needs to sample the corny intro song to this video. We need an official Seattle anthem. You can’t tell me Marcus D couldn’t flip that folk song into a slapper worthy of a beat battle showdown!)
This blog is still in its infancy (I just started it the first week in July). Its creation was borne from a desire to write critically and thoughtfully about hip-hop and I purposely limited its scope strictly to Seattle because the task of keeping a blog that addressed hip-hop across the nation was absolutely daunting to me. (Not to mention virtually impossible for one person working a normal nine-to-five and attempting to maintain any semblance of a life outside the Interwebs — I don’t know how Shake and Meka over at 2DOPEBOYZ do it, but they hold it down admirably!) The point is, I’m quickly realizing that with the local scene blowing up, it’s hard even keeping pace on a website that’s limited to just our town!
Like A-Mats said, it’s not just an overwhelming quantity of music, but quality, too. Not even five years ago was there a movement this firmly-rooted in The Town. In the last two and-a-half years Seattle hip-hop has blown-up like Bret Boone’s biceps in 2001. It’s like an evergreen tree on PEDs, with a strong root system, a sturdy trunk, and new branches sprouting out every which-way.
There’s even an established hierarchy — though always unspoken. The most revered and respected artists know who they are and the fans who pay close attention can identify who’s got the National Juice by the rumored record deals, the national connects, the outsourced distribution, etc., etc.
Right now, though, it’s such a love-fest that no one’s beefin’ (all you gotta do is follow the rappers’ gabbing on Twitter to see that — it’s like a virtual fraternity house on there, for real).
Likewise, nearly everyone’s write-ups in The Stranger and Seattle Weekly are favorable. Critics don’t want to offend anyone. You’ve got local venues taking cues from their investment bankers: “Diversify your hip-hop, yo!” Fresh Espresso is sharing the stage with Dyme Def on one night, while Thee Satisfaction and Fatal Lucciauno share it on another. Like I said in a previous post, everyone is eating at the same table. And (thankfully) we’ve certainly not reached a Tipping Point, where the community starts to fragment itself into cliques. This happens in other cities — granted, in ones that are usually larger than our modest hamlet. Here’s hoping it doesn’t occur in Seattle.
For now, I say we continue to enjoy ourselves. I’m still gonna bump my favorite artists faithfully. And probably offer some unfair (?) criticism of others that I don’t favor. I suppose we should all take a cue from Brainstorm and “rock out with (our) cock(s) out!” as he recommends in “I’m Gone.” (But only figuratively, please. We don’t want this to turn into a Mad Rad concert…)
What began as an ambitious endeavor (the genesis of yet another 206-dedicated hip-hop blog) turned quickly from a new labor of love into straight-up work. A regular nine-to-five coupled with two blogs (I keep a personal one as well, but I’ll never tell you where it is!) is nearly too much to manage, especially if you are a notoriously slow writer like me.
But anyway, I just read Charles Mudede’s column in The Stranger (titled “Renewed School”), in which he summarizes the year thus far in Seattle hip-hop, calling it the “most important” since 2005 (uhh, wasn’t that only like four years ago?). And, while I very rarely agree with the majority of what Chuck says, I still hold his opinions valuable and let them help shape what I am currently pumping into my ears.
That being said, I’ve only sampled a couple of the albums he mentions among the best of ’09, and certainly haven’t listened to enough to formulate adequate reviews. (For example, I’m super late to the boat on Fresh Espresso’s debut, Glamour, as well as Khingz’sFrom Slaveships to Spaceships, two local releases that are, for better or worse, very important to the 206 scene this year.) I’m an amateur operation here, yo! I already have my hands full with the new Grynch and Physics EPs!
Anyway, I’m going to take Mudede’s advice to heart and go “cop these joints” (to use the parlance of our times) and, after so doing, submit proper reviews. But first I think I’m ‘a start with GMK’sSongs for Bloggers. It’s short and sweet and only costs $5.94 on iTunes. (Anyone wanna hit me with freebies?? Pretty please??) I’ll be back later with my thoughts. Until then, tell your friends!