NEW MUSIC: High As The Stars: The Planet of Marz – Props!

Click album cover to download.

Click album cover to download.

Indianapolis native Props! is not a household name in the Seattle rap game. Yet. His new mixtape, High As The Stars: The Planet of Marz, seeks to change that. The well-executed, self-assured collection of tracks is a big step forward for the MC who has chosen to make Seattle — an unlikely but currently booming hotbed of hip-hop — his home base of musical operations.

HATS:TPOM features high-profile guest shots from Stalley and Wale, not to mention a vital Town co-sign from local legend Vitamin D who lends production on five tracks and guest bars on one. Props! himself proves to be a versatile MC with a well-spanned base of subject matter including standard boastful rap fare (“What Up”), the precariousness of liquor-induced feelings of grandeur (“Superstar”), and unpretentious love-talk (don’t miss the rapper’s visually striking music video for “The Taste of Heaven”).

In a time when everyone and their child’s tutor is trying to make a go of it in Seattle rap, there’s rarely a dubious moment when pressing play on something new that filters through the 206UP.COM inbox. Props!, however, finds that rare balance between sounding overtly contemporary and relevant, while staying rooted in strong MC fundamentals. High As The Stars makes for a promising look from a new man on the scene.

Audio Downloads

DOWNLOAD: “Grindin’ To Eat” – Props (feat. Wale) (prod. by Vitamin D)

Click image to D/L.

Wale is coming through Neumos this Friday. In advance of that show check out this track he did with area rhymer Props, whose hustle with the Planet of MARz collective is coming along quite well, as he would have you understand it. Bizarro Wale failed to hook me with Ambition and his verse here is meh. The beat knocks, however, but that’s just a daily operation for Vita.


VIDEO: “Catch Me Around” – PROPS (feat. International Mo B.)

Thanks to PROPS’ team for linking me to his new video, “Catch Me Around” (featuring International Mo B.). I’m feelin’ the Impala crawl along Alki and all that other strong Town representation in the clip. Not feeling the rapper’s need to put a different Asian girl in every scene, however. Stop fetishizing our women. How many times do we have to say it?

Deep breath…Anyway, watch for PROPS’ new single with Wale “Grindin’ to Eat” dropping soon (actually, it already did on Street Sounds — catch that, here). With Vitamin D on the beat, it appears PROPS is walking the, uh, proper path to local notoriety. Stay tuned, Seattle.


SHOW: K’naan & Wale @ The Fillmore NYC on 3.31.10

Me and a friend went all Atlanta-brave last night and snuck our way into the sold-out K’naan and Wale show at The Fillmore, NYC. Those suckas have a separate “smoker’s section” roped off just outside the venue. The area has a separate entrance and everything — easy to infiltrate if you’re skinny and quick on the dash, FYI.

The show was notable because it was the jump-off for K’naan and Wale’s co-headlining US tour and, even though I’m not a huge K’naan fan, my friend wanted to pay tribute because she’s from Toronto, a city where K spent a good part of his life after immigrating from Somalia.

Anyway, the highlight of the show was when K’naan told the story of the first time he ever heard Illmatic, a formative hip-hop experience that I’m sure we can all recount with perfect clarity. The backing band started playing the song “New York State of Mind”, with K’naan rapping the first verse, and when he was done, this happened:

Needless to say, the roof nearly caved in. It was one of the greatest live hip-hop moments I’ve experienced. What made it so great is that The Fillmore is not a huge venue (capacity is probably a little more than The Showbox). Thusly, New York’s Finest (debatable) did not appear as a mere speck on the horizon, but a living, breathing slice of hip-hop history we could almost touch.

The moment served to remind me that live hip-hop is only truly enjoyable in small, intimate venues. I’ve had great experiences with other live music in large venues, but never hip-hop. Like K’naan’s rhymes, the lyrics are often intensely personal. The shorter distance they travel from the source, the greater the impact.

Live Coverage

Hip-Hop hits the ‘Shoot (Again)

Bumbershoot-2009-wideIt is with great regret that I inform you (friends, strangers, fam-damily) that I will be unable to attend this year’s edition of the Bumbershoot music festival. My presence is required out of town. (I’ll be in the Big Apple, hopefully catching Mos Def on 9/12 at Governor’s Island — gotta get those tickets now while they’re still available!)

It’s a damn shame, too, because it’s another great year for hip-hop at the ‘Shoot. I was just checking out the lineup and lamenting the fact that I’m gonna miss it. Anyway, here’s a brief summary of the hip-hop performances that I won’t be catching this year, along with a few of my thoughts on the matter…

Dyno Jamz (Sat, 12:30 pm, EMP Sky Church) – Uhh, I have no idea who they are. An “eight-man hip-hop ensemble?” Winner of the “EMP Sound Off! battle of the bands competition”? Guess I need to do some homework. I do know one thing, however…they have a really wack sounding name.

Wale (Sat, 5:45 pm, Fisher Green Stage) – It’s everyone’s new favorite emcee! You can’t miss Wale, yo! I have his mixtapes in constant rotation on my iPod. Lyrically, he’s incomparable, but the honest truth is that his flow is only so-so. Doesn’t really matter, though, he shows more personality in half a verse than most rappers do on their entire albums. Plus his production is always top-notch.

De La Soul (Sat, 9:30 pm, Fisher Green Stage) – One of my top three favorite groups of all-time. What else can I say? You claim to love hip-hop? Then loving De La with all your mind, body, and soul is a requirement. Miss this show and you’re fakin’ it.

Dyme Def (Sun, 2:15 pm, Fisher Green Stage) – Got mad love for these local rap heroes. I could see these dudes blowing up nationally at some point. Brainstorm competed in the nationals at the Red Bull Big Tune beat battle last year. Their full-length debut, Space Music, was a break-through for Seattle hip-hop in that it was maybe the first legitimate mainstream-flavored (read: “commercial”) album to ever come out of our fair city.

Swollen Members (Sun, 5:00 pm, Rockstar Stage) – I heard they got hip-hop in Canada, too. This duo hails from our northerly neighbour, British Columbia. Other than that, I don’t know much about ’em. I do remember the joint, “Breathe,” they did with Nelly Furtado (also Canadian), which got my ass moving once or twice. When they perform live, do they do it in a theatre? (Canada jokes are funny, eh?)

Common Market (Sun, 5:45 pm, Fisher Green Stage) – You’ll see a lot of love for CM on this blog. RA Scion and DJ Sabzi are helping set the standard for Seattle hip-hop. Complex rhymes meet beautiful boom-bap. RA’s great on-stage, as well.

D. Black and Spaceman (Sun, 8:00 pm, EMP Sky Church) – D. Black is Seattle’s version of Biggie Smalls, natural and engaging on the mic; a true diamond from the South End. Spaceman is the eccentric court jester of Sportn’ Life. Together on stage they’re sure to get your hands up like the SPD. (Can’t wait for Black’s sophomore full-length, Ali’Yah, dropping 9.15.09. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of Spaceman.)

Macklemore (Mon, 12:30 pm, Fisher Green Stage) – Like Grynch, this cat’s an unlikely beast on the mic. I was definitely sleeping on Macklemore until I spent some honest time listening to The Language of My World. Conscious, introspective, and funny, the album’s a sly charmer. I’ve never seen him live. Next time, I guess.

The Knux (Mon, 1:30 pm, Samsung Mobile Mainstage) – I bought The Knux’s album, Remind Me in 3 Days, based solely on a glowing Rolling Stone review. I was a little disappointed because they spend too much time in rock/dance/techno territory for my taste. The track “FIRE (Put it in the Air),” was one of my favorite songs from ’08, though. I bet this crew is dope live.

The Black Eyed Peas (Mon, 3:00 pm, Samsung Mobile Mainstage) – Ugh. Yuck. Blecchh. Avoid at all costs! I wish the three original members of the crew would hop in the DeLorean and go back to 1998. Their debut, Behind the Front, was legitimate hip-hop. After they added Fergie and annoying pop sensibilities in 2003, it was “goodbye” backpackers and “hello” sell-out city. How disappointing.

Champagne Champagne (Mon, 4:45 pm, EMP Sky Church) – I’ve been meaning to check out their full-length debut, but can’t bring myself to spend the $10 on what might amount to mostly just a bunch of glamour-hop flash geared toward the hipster set. Emcee Pearl Dragon is an underground favorite of mine. I think Pearl’s powers as a solo emcee would reflect more of a pure hip-hop spirit, but who am I to criticize his endeavors as part of this collective? In any case, I’ve heard their live set kicks major skinny-jeaned ass!

I guess that about covers it. Bumbershoot is still over a month away, so you’ve got plenty of time to learn all the lyrics before you go. If you see, please tell him that I’m very disappointed in the direction he’s taken the group. (I’m sure he’ll appreciate the constructive criticism.)


Live Coverage Views From the Peanut Gallery

Listening to this…

…on my way to work:

WaleBack to the Feature Mixtape

The PhysicsHigh Society EP

The Saturday KnightsMingle

(Doesn’t it seem like Wale’s been “the next big thing” for a minute now? He’s already dropped two incredible mixtapes and his official debut, Attention: Deficit, is set to be released on September 22. I don’t see how he can possibly outdo his mixtapes, though. The Mixtape About Nothing will probably go down as one of the best ever made — and it’s FREE on his website!)

Views From the Peanut Gallery