I might be tripping, but every time I make some bleak joke here about something terrible, something terrible happens. Terrible things are always happening, though; that doesn't mean I ever have to be numb to them. Like the way we've let gun violence become a part of our lives, like it's the internet or reality TV. To quote Twitter—shit, CNN does it—"Tragedy. Tragic. Senseless. This is the language of normalization. I refuse to use these words. How about fucked up, maddening, repugnant." Real shit, Geo. Some will tell you gun violence is down, but we are still light-years behind every other nation on earth in that department. This country is exactly like these shooters—mentally unhealthy and armed to the teeth. We need solutions.

Back in February, I got linked to a video from a rapper called T.S. the Solution—a Long Beach native, Washington State resident—for a song called "Take Off." Well, slow-moving me, I just now got hip to Sleepwalking, the eight-song project that he and Ellensburg producer M-Pyre dropped back in March—a quality slab of aspirational post-grad come-up rap. T.S.'s hungry, overdraft-dodger steez always comes with a slight deprecating smirk: "My cable and my life is basic/And both need to be upgraded." Find this tape via local lifestyle blog Respect My Region.

Maybe you know of Federal Way's Honor Roll MC Matic, now known as Steelakejake—if so, you might also know he's got a fresh and colorful new alias as the latter half of the duo Cake & $alad. Cake is Atlanta native/Seattle resident SeaQuintz, who provides all production on their great 10-track FRVR UNDRGRND, with heavy features from UDF's benevolent Bolo Nef and $alad's HR comrades Bryce Bowden, Greg Cypher, and Eff Is H. This foodie duo may seem like an odd pairing on paper, but Cake's crackly, subdued soul loops suit $alad's fly scientifical raps like chocolate suits peanut butter, or even better, like cake suits ice cream. Get a scoop via Bandcamp—Google is your friend. (Actually, I can't guarantee that whatsoever.)

Y'all know Chev, last seen on the scene with his then-long-awaited debut LP Charles at the end of 2011—I got word that next week he'll be dropping his seven-track follow-up release, Avalon, produced well and in full by Portland maker Angel Morales. Chev is a board-certified beast, but is more importantly one of the sharpest eyes and biggest hearts in this rap thing here. Avalon's themes of connection and mindfulness provide a welcome break from all the strictly self-oriented rap on everybody's menu, as he thinks and speaks on the simple ways we can make life better for each other. Jesus Christ, what a concept. Avalon has robust support in the sweet songbird Camila Recchio, who holds down six of the seven tracks—as well as mic-denters RA Scion, Qwel, and La. Even his niece Layla Cendana pops on the track "A Thousand Stars"—which is dedicated to her and her fight with a rare disease; find out more at laylasHLHfight.org. Please: Take care of and protect each other. recommended