A couple weeks back, while at the Rendezvous for that Porter Ray/Royce the Choice/Steezie Nasa show, Seattle's own Sye Hollywood introduced me to his dude D Valley, who gave me his newest release, Hotels & Trap Houses. I already had a copy of his Live from the Hood Vol. II somewhere in a precarious stack of music sitting near my workspace (a bombproof bunker deep under Seattle), but he assured me that this latest from his 2nd Life Ent. was the one to peep.
So peep I did—and found Hotels thankfully a good cut above the typical outdated trap-star stuff that clogs the half-dozen shoe boxes that compose my local rap archive. The Mackned-laced "Where We Be," for one, reminds me favorably of the spacey hustler music of Oakland's Main Attrakionz. Valley is unmistakably and specifically Central District though, abetted by some of the young criminal-minded talent from there to the Soufend to Oaktown, including Avatar Darko, Carey Stacks, and Joe Blow. Still: The grind, the acquisition of money, the status—all this figures heavy into Valley's worldview with little else. As a result, over the course of Hotels, you barely get a feel for who D Valley is besides what he does and what he has. Street rap, even the best stuff, tends to stick to the same subject matter—in a beyond-cluttered market, a little personality really goes a long way. That said, if you're a fan of concrete raps from your city, you won't be let down here.
On the way other side of styles is Winter & the Wolves, the fourth album from Grieves, the last Seattle cat standing on Minneapolis's Rhymesayers Entertainment. Our city's other white rappin' Ben (couldn't be helped—shikata ga nai) hasn't dropped anything since 2011's Together/Apart. His relentless touring all over the globe explains part of it—and a fire that destroyed his almost-completed studio and 20K worth of merch might explain the rest.
Yet the G, whose oeuvre has often been tagged "emo" (especially by me, and what?), sounds by far his most upbeat and rock-solidly self-assured of his path on Wolves—easily my favorite of his catalog to date. Part of that could be thanks to the shake-up that happens with new blood. While at least half self-produced, Winter finds great synergy, as before, with a production collaborator—where it was the young-vet multi-instrumentalist Budo before, now there is Oakland's talented B. Lewis, who made his bones working with Boston's big Bad Rabbits. Together, they make some of the LP's best moments, with big hooks and pop sensibility. Not that those are lacking elsewhere either, as on the Sapient-produced "Recluse." Grieves sips and reminisces over loves gone and toasts haters good-naturedly, and the singsong-rapping and straight singing don't just work, they win, as on the chilly-mellow "Long One" and "Kidding Me." As noted before, Grieves is bringing Fearce Vill and BeanOne on the road for this tour—you can check out Fearce's Indiegogo to help kick in for that good tour support. Now do like him and break out.