Fri Sept 20 at EMP Sky Church, 9 pm, $20, 18+, bar w/ i.d.
In Bad Land: An American Romance, local author Jonathan Raban conducts an experiment: While driving out east (Washington, Idaho, Montana), he attempts to determine, by allegiance to professional baseball teams, where Seattle's influence ends and Minneapolis' begins. He never finds the exact point. Even in North Dakota, the Mariners are favored over the Twins.
What Raban's experiment demonstrated is that Seattle is the capital of a vast country that identifies with its professional sports teams, along with other aspects of its cultural life, such as glass art, newspapers, alternative rock scenes, and urban styles. By urban styles, I mean specifically black urban entertainment--R&B, rap music, hiphop fashions, and so on. Seattle, combined with Tacoma, has the largest black community north of San Francisco, and west of Milwaukee (as for south of... well, you have to go over the Arctic to the other side of the globe to find a city with a larger black population). Because small towns like Twin Falls, Idaho, have young people who are familiar with black entertainment via national networks like BET, they are ripe markets for entrepreneurs who produce events and music within Seattle's black community. Such an entrepreneur is Keek "the Ghetto Prez" Asphy, who runs Sea-Sick Records, Sea-Sick Graph-X, and does distribution and special events for Seaspot Magazine.
I met Asphy the other night in front of Linda's. I was drunk; he was late. He pulled over in a silver Nissan and apologized for being late, explaining that some unexpected business matter had delayed him. I apologized for being so drunk, but if he had arrived on time (some hour or so earlier), I would have been much closer to sober.
I entered Asphy's car and he drove off like a dream. His mastery of the automobile was impressive; we did not so much ride on the street than glide above it. And in the inspired atmosphere of his conversation, his heated analysis of local and regional urban culture markets (their potential, their possibilities, and so on), my perception of the city changed. Suddenly I saw, as we headed north on I-5, Seattle shimmering with opportunities for enterprising black men and women.
Twenty-seven-year-old Asphy was born and raised in Seattle, and has been in the black entertainment business for 10 years. Be it local artists who are on his record label, or national acts, or designs for CDs or fliers that advertise dance and rap competitions... if you need black entertainment services, and are in the Pacific Northwest, "the Ghetto Prez" will provide it.
"I didn't go to school for journalism, but I had to start the magazine. If I didn't do it then who would?" he asks. Of all of Asphy's operations, the one that impresses me the most is Seaspot--not so much the magazine, which is glossy and colorful, but the website. Hands down, it's the most comprehensive resource for black entertainment in the Pacific Northwest. If you want to find where black people or black music be at, then that's where you go.
"That's my business," Asphy says as we near the University District. "Those who want to know where it's happening, I let them know. We get 100,000 hits a month on the website. And it's not just to see what's going on, but also the pictures. We send photographers to the shows, and they take pictures and we post them, and a lot of people visit the website to see themselves."
Though no one has ever photographed me at the hiphop events Seaspot.com promotes, I still enjoy looking at its galleries of the region's nightlife. They are filled with serious-looking young men and healthy women (healthy in the farm sense, not the urban one) of every color, dancing, drinking, and posing.
After visiting Tommy's Nightclub & Grill on the Ave (Wednesday nights are hiphop nights), we stopped at Seaspot's base of operations, which is at 24th and Union. Inside, a map of America hangs over a row of high-powered computers. In the Northwest section of this map, there's a cluster of map pins, each marking an important market--towns and cities in Montana, Idaho, and British Columbia. Asphy is proud of his business, and I'm proud of the Ghetto Prez. We shook hands and left the center from which black entertainment radiates across the Great Northwest.