So how was your Fourth? Good times? Brews and buds? Or just full of terrors and terrible reminders, sick ironies, and glaring hypocrisies? Let's table that for now—we're halfway through 2016. Let's touch on some local offerings that slipped through the cracks.
I dug cuts on Nu Era's Armadilla Lexus from January—especially "BLK FLWRS," the one completely stolen right from the gate by an amazing-sounding DoNormaal, epic enough that it merited its own minute-long intro. The crew's vocal standout is Zac "Turtle T" Millan, a self-described "warrior-poet with a voice so relaxed that I could rap to a baby while it's taking a nap." Not, presumably, because it's boring but because it's smooth, narcotically so at times, especially over the jazzy, understated digital boom-bap provided by Andrew Savoie (one of the parties behind the regular Home Slice showcase at the Crocodile) over the course of Millan's second solo release, Late Bloomers.
The pair have been putting out music since at least 2010, when they released their SSHH! EP as Hushd Puppies—which was a year after the Turtle-fronted live hiphop unit Dyno Jamz beat Sol out for first place in the EMP's 21-and-younger Sound Off! competition. (Campana, MC from the crew COSMOS, the 2016 Sound Off! winners, appears on Bloomers' good-money trade-off cut "Goldfish.")
Nu Era, combining Millan and Savoie with rapper Chiefs (from other live hiphop band Theoretics) and 5 Flat (from Yelm's 5 and Brown), always seemed to me a little unwieldy to take all at once. In general, with albums by rap groups with more than three voices regularly at play, if there's not a person of RZA-level-ruthlessness trimming the fat to keep it moving, they better have some hellacious chemistry (i.e., early Souls of Mischief) or risk hard-to-finish tedium (i.e., later Souls of Mischief). (The modern gold standard, locally, would undoubtedly be Kingdom Crumbs, who make everything look easy.) Millan's breezy, summer-ready Late Bloomers is a good couple steps in the right direction, the first of three projects from the Nu crew, moving as a decentralized collective.
Speaking of Kingdom Crumbs, also, I compel you to check the two singles from Taylor "Tay Sean" Brown's loooong awaited solo album Leavings—there's "Supramundane" (which at some point, I thought was the album's title) and the latest, "Higher Vibrations," both a couple of funked-out future-jazz astral projectiles. I think right around the time you'll be reading this, it'll be Tay's birthday. Happy birthday, Swanny.
It's Cancer Season; get out your feelings. Get into a couple of albums from the brilliant OCnotes—his Workin 4 the Weekend (set off by the sun-dappled "Traveling Lover") and the monster 75-track instrumental Rap Loops II, capped by tracks featuring vocals from Rik Rude, Portland's Slick Devious, Kung Foo Grip's EFF IS H, and the Central District's game-slick Porter Ray.
A string of videos ("Shoot," "Rainier Love," and "Adolescent") from Donte Peace have hinted that this underrated Kenyon Street–repping MC has what it takes to make noise outside of here.
Local antiheroes Nacho Picasso and Avatar Darko are Vampsterdam—and they're coming to your town this August with their "Scarred for Life" tour. Hopefully they bring Macklemore's cat Cairo, who they stole on the intro to their measuredly deranged album PTSD (Philosophy, Therapy, Sex, Drugs).
Tacoma's Noo and Renton/SF's 10.4 Rog meshed like zipper tracks on their Inner G release, making unshowy, intimate-sounding magic between Noony's endless opaque boasts and Roger's spare, shambling funk.
Speaking of the Taco, while Glenn from ILLFIGHTYOU promised me his solo tape is coming and won't suck (for the ninety-millionth time in my life)—new cuts from him, Khris P, UglyFrank and their Sandlot day-1 Swanks are all on Soundcloud. Meanwhile, :30's Keon Simms, Scooby Miles, and Sheedbe have been steady dropping songs, too.
Let's see... Killa Kayzee is still worth not sleeping on, and Huey P's 206253: Gangsta Grillz bridges the expanse between here and there with some success, particularly on the ice-cold "Now A Days."
There's plenty more stuff I missed, but I gotta leave something for housekeeping to do.