I haven’t lived in Seattle for almost a decade. I left in my teens and finished high school at an international school in Southeast Asia but even when I lived within its city limits I was anxious to get up and get out. It’s not exactly a hot bed of excitement and not the most diverse (the demographics, when compared my current place of residence, BK, and the one before that, ATL, are disheartening): a situation that’s made worse by the great distance to any multicultural metropolises. But it’s a beautiful city surrounded by water, mountains, evergreen trees and such. The people are friendly and progressive, there are pockets of international communities sprinkled across the city and there is a thriving hip-hop scene that has persevered despite obscurity.
Cultivated by pioneers like DJ Nastyness who has since reclocated to Cali and advanced by defunct rap group Source of Labor and the Jasiri Media Group family, the scene has produced a lot of talent of the years. Still the most familiar Seattle rapper to most outside of the town is Sir Mix-A-Lot (who really was not so wack when you look at his pre “Baby Got Back” output). Important as he was in terms of temporarily raising the city’s profile “Seattle hip-hop is a lot more than Mix-A-Lot” to quote rapper Byrdie from an interview I conducted a few years ago. Here’s a random sampling of what’ve people from ‘tha town’ have done/are doing:
Minnesota based Rhymesayers Entertainment has formed some productive connections with a few Seattle crews. Boom Bap Project–a trio comprised of MC’s Karim and Destro Destructo and prominet local DJ, Scene–has certainly benefited from Rhymesayers relatively increased profile and as their name indicates consciously aspires for that classic boom bap sound.
“My Posse’s on Broadway” by Sir Mix-A-Lot (Swass, American, 1988)
This is a classic. Mix, in his typically funny fashion, takes listeners on a journey through a lot of Seattle landmarks. The Onion’s Nathan Rabin interviewed Mix back in ’03. I remember reading it and coming away with a greater respect for him.
I really like Blue Scholars whereas a homie just recently mentioned to me that he can’t mess with them since they sould like “they hold hands when they rap.” Nevertheless the duo’s experienced a lot of success in the Northwest.
“Rock Co.Kane Flow”, De La Soul feat. MF Doom
(The Grind Date, Sanctuary, 2004) (Production by Jake One)
In the past few years the most significant strides in Seattle hip-hop have been in the production arena. Jake One is a notable example and “Rock Co.Kane Flow” is just one of long list of beats he’s made for artists beyond Seattle. Here’s a list of some of his notable beats compiled by the Seattle Weekly a few years back.
“Bang Bang” Freeway feat. 50 Cent
This track (appropriately featured in XXL’s “Bangers” section in May) from Freeway’s yet to be released sophomore album was produced by Seattle producer and former Source of Labor member Vitamin D.
“Wanted” feat. Reggie Watts (N Flight, N-flight Productions, 2004)
In my early year you didn’t hear hip-hop much less Seattle hip-hop on FM radio and while it dominates some FM playlists little of it is homegrown. Byrdie, who likens himself to LL Cool J, recently brokethrough with “Wanted” a collaboration with Maktub’s Reggie Watts.
Nastyness the legendary Filipino DJ who created and hosted Seattle’s first rap radio show on 1250 KFOX Seattle picked Seattle group Grayskul as ones to watch a year and a half a go.
American Hero (Ayinde Howell) is an actor/rapper/producer who recently relocated to Brooklyn and has since been cast in an Afro Punk director James Spooner’s follow up flick. This songs features Butterfly of Digable Planets who also hails from tha town although he repped BK pretty hard during Digable’s hey dey.