Kelly O

Silas Blak is an MC who has been a part of the 206 community since the mid-1990s, when he and Jace ECAj established the Silent Lambs Project. In the 2000s, he, Jace, and soul singer Felicia Loud formed Black Stax. Though Silent Lambs Project was more on a black militancy tip, and Black Stax more on an Afrocentric vibe, both of these projects produced some of the most innovative tracks in the region.

Last year, Silas went solo and released a mixtape, #BlackFriday: The Mixtape, and an album, Editorials: (wartunes). Both were produced by Kjell Nelson of the label Cabin Games. What's heard on these recent recordings is a veteran rapper who is still on the cutting edge of underground hiphop.

Stylistically, Silas Blak is a dead-serious rapper. There is no playing or half-stepping with him. He never stops thinking, exploring, and breaking things down to their very last compound. One would expect this kind of style to work only with the sparest of beats, beats with lots of space. But Nelson's productions are as dense as Silas's raps. And yet—by some trick or method I have yet to understand—Silas's raps are not crowded out by the beats, and Nelson's beats are not crowded out by the raps.

"Yeah, I did not expect that," Silas explained to me when I paid the Cabin Games studio a visit. "I did not think it would work at all. It was a new approach for me. But everything came together. Even I was surprised." recommended

Silas Blak will be celebrated at the free Stranger Genius Awards party at the Moore Theatre on September 24. To see everyone in the running for a Stranger Genius Award this year, go to thestranger.com/genius2016.