First, this: As of this writing, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have had the number one album—The Heist—in the US (and a few other spots) on iTunes for the past few days, above the album from Mack's fellow 2012 XXL Freshman Machine Gun Kelly, Jay-Z's Live in Brooklyn, and the Pitch Perfect soundtrack. What we have here is a big deal—as well as a true DIY success story. As a witness to Mack's dues-paying, self-examination, and hard work over the last seven years, I am goddamn proud of him and RL.
City Arts Fest 2012 is upon us, bringing with it hiphop of sound mind and body, kicking off Wednesday, October 17, with big bad Brother Ali headlining at Neumos (with Blank Tape Beloved, Homeboy Sandman, Grynch [aka "Brother Small-i"], DJ Sosa, and the Reminders). Ali recently released Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, his fifth full-length album, produced entirely by Jake One. Ali flexes his preacherly best, examining America's "beautiful ideals and amazing flaws" ("Letter to My Countrymen," "Work Everyday"), his own life and shortcomings ("Stop the Press," "All You Need"), and the sorry makeup of a hater (the stomping "Say Amen"), sounding refreshed after a shaky last album and a three-year hiatus. A particular favorite is the Choklate-featuring "My Beloved."
On Thursday the 18th at the Showbox Sodo, bear witness to Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def. A lot of people refuse to call him by his new name (including most show calendars and venue advertisements), but that's like the cats who would only call Muhammad Ali "Cassius Clay" or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar "Lew Alcindor." Either way, don't miss the dude, as he's years past the shoddy showmanship he was once notorious for—BOOGIE MAN!—and he's headlining a killer bill with the Soufend elegance of the Physics, Larry Hawkins (FKA SK), Thaddeus David, and DJ Swervewon.
Friday the 19th, City Arts Fest concludes its hiphop programming with a Fresh Espresso–headlined blowout at Neumos, featuring the Cloud Nice supergroup Kingdom Crumbs, the tape-damaged young Seattle Raider Klan member Key Nyata, and the upright thoughtfulness of the Good Sin, whose Late (with producer/filmmaker 10.4 Rog) from early last year is still rewarding listens. Fresh throw down in a big way onstage, which is why they've remained a NW favorite, even through a lengthy hiatus when P Smoov moved away (now he's home in Seattle once again).
Last but most lean-d: A$AP Rocky & the A$AP Mob are hitting Showbox Sodo on Sunday, October 21, with ScHoolboy Q and Danny Brown. It's already sold out, so if you don't have a ticket, you save yourself a trip shopping for that killer Givenchy leather pants and snakeskin snapback combo. Please enjoy your evening of rapping-over-vocal-track no-request karaoke, except for Danny Brown, who is the real deal in the live setting, sounding like his recordings and generally giving a show-stealing clinic on how to be a badass—fucked-up teeth and hipster-DJ hair can go a long way, but not as far as a cool voice and rabid-dog bars.