It is Saturday night, and 2312—a relatively new venue in Belltown—contains a cloud of ganja smoke. There is no place in the space to escape it. Every breath you take makes your head lighter and lighter until, finally, you are high. The source of this intoxicating smoke is a table near the entrance of 2312. At first appearance, it looks like the men behind the table are serving booze, but upon closer inspection, it's revealed that they are promoting something to do with marijuana—bongs, bottles, lighters, slow burning.
"It's Fearce OG Kush," explains BeanOne, a local veteran producer and the organizer of this private event, which is promoting the products and enterprises of Yuk the World, a business venture he started with the rapper Fearce Vill. (Fearce is one of three rappers in the local hiphop group Dyme Def.) "The strain was first made by Gold Leaf Gardens. They told us that it's the extracted elements of Fearce's DNA and particular parts of his brain matter," BeanOne says with a straight face. "The oil concentrate was made by X-tracted. They are the ones at the table. They're offering samples." From X-tracted's website: "X-tracted is a team of professionals, chemists, concentrate gurus, and industry insiders dedicated to the production of the finest concentrated cannabis products."
The main reason for the event at 2312, which is owned and run by another local hiphop entrepreneur, Jonathan Moore (he is standing near a door that leads to two recording studios located in the building's basement—one is for the Physics and the other for Jake One), is to release a new album by Fearce Vill called Let It Be. The music and the collaboration with the pot merchants are two of four concerns that Yuk the World has its hands in—the third is a clothing line directed at the street and skateboard market, and the fourth is music-video production. After this record release, Fearce and Bean will join forces with a major telecommunications corporation and do an in-store event for AT&T subsidiary Aio Wireless, and soon after that embark on a two-month tour (it begins in Portland on April 29 and ends in Seattle on June 7) with Grieves, a local rapper who is currently signed to Minneapolis's Rhymesayers Entertainment.
Fearce and Bean promote all of their shows, manage all of their events and tour obligations, design all of their clothes, produce all of their music, and shoot and edit all of their videos. Fearce Vill admits that they would like to work with other people, but they also do not want to deal with those who aren't as driven as they are.
But why get involved in all of this time-consuming business in the first place? Why not just stick to making music? "We do anything to get exposure for our music. Anything," BeanOne says. "Because the hardest thing for an artist is to get heard. These days, you have to find ways that will bring people to your music. You can't just post on the web and wait. If you do that, you will not get noticed. No one will hear you."
It is fair to say that Yuk the World, and all of its ventures, is an obvious response to a new climate in the music industry. In the past, it worked like this: You made the beats in the studio, sent the recording to reps at local and national labels, and hoped to get signed. And once you were signed, the label promoted you and your work. That model, however, is becoming less and less realistic. The internet is now swamped with albums that are self-released and free, and many of these albums are actually very good.
Such an environment requires artists to evolve and adapt quickly. Yuk the World is just one example of this process, this attempt to evolve into something that can survive in a world that has radically changed. "We are always searching for the right people," says Fearce, who is showing me a new video on his iPad. "That's why we work hard to get our stuff in stores, and we are always looking for ways to connect with people with our website, which was designed by Bill Gates's son."
"No, that's what we call the guy who designed the site. But then again, we will say anything to get our stuff out there. So, yeah, Bill Gates's son made our website."