Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, BSBD, Skull & Bones, Kung Foo Grip
The year 2013 opens in fine style, with Seattle rap scoring its second-ever platinum single—Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's "Thrift Shop." (Yes, the first would be Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back.") Congrats to Mack, Ryan, and the whole crew responsible for its massive success. Now can you little snot-nosed, rosacea-having fucks reading this please leave the thrift stores alone so we can still find some gear in there occasionally? The guy from Portlandia would at this point be screaming, "THRIFTING IS OVER!"
On the complete flip side, Blue Sky Black Death closed out their 2012 with two quality collaborations—the first with Charlotte, North Carolina's Deniro Farrar. Cliff of Death (is that a fiscal-cliff joke, maybe?) finds Farrar, who I'd heard and disregarded before, sounding the best I've heard him yet, with a G'd-up spill that reminds me of Houston's unimpeachable Trae Tha Truth. It's all balanced well by BSBD, who mix up Southern swang with angelic loftiness, sweetening the pot and making it all sound epic—the occasional hook from Fake Four's Purity Ring–ish duo Child Actor, last heard on Dark Time Sunshine's ANX, helps, too.
Skull & Bones' eponymous debut with BSBD lacks some of Farrar's fire and a good deal of his technical polish, but that almost seems like the point. Rappers Bolo Nef and Caz Greez are far more cold, brutish, and blunt—their flows detached, dredged in drug residue, submerged in syrup. BSBD's haunted-house-séance synth sound matches their aesthetic extremely well, too, as they tend to do. There are some hooks, but more often slowed, demonic vocal snatches from the ghost of rap's ratchet past bubble in the spaces between the verses—which drip with disdain, mistrust, guns, and glimpses of old pain. It's the latter that proves the most telling—"Violence is all I've been taught," Nef raps, "pain is all I've ever brought."
I fuck with it like I do a good amount of Seattle suicidal shoegaze thug-wave (to quote Twitter user @skip_class), and I actually appreciate the crucial balance that Seattle's growing cult of the villain represents. But I know that "when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you," to quote Nietzsche (which only assholes do, my bad). God knows these months have been dark, but I hold hope that this year represents light and understanding. That's me, though, but it may be you, too, so where you at with all that?
Kung Foo Grip, meanwhile, are Growing Up in the Future, their newest album, sporting beats from Giorgio Momurda, Keyboard Kid, and Portland's Stewart Villain. Their contemporary, washed-out sonics continue the trajectory of their last release, Indigo Children, and find Greg Cypher and Eff Is H (aka Eddie Brock) with their most mature work yet, confidently taking their place at the table as young'uns in charge, alongside Jarv Dee, Kris Kasanova, Shaprece, Bryce Bowden, Kirk Huffman, and Imprint$. KFG have brought honor to themselves, their Honor Roll crew, and the Eastside in general with their heroic efforts to simply and honestly do them. Salute.