First, I want to shout out the guy Spekulation for his most recent productions, his best and most effective work to date. My favorite stuff of Spek's was his Beast Mode tribute "Bout That Action," but his recent viral videos breaking down important local stories—just little things like the Seattle Police Department's secret contract negotiations with Mayor Ed Murray, the city's efforts to build what may be the most expensive police precinct in the United States in North Seattle (complemented by a $210 million youth jail in South Seattle), and the social-media gaffes of former police union head (and pistol-packing member of the Iron Pigs biker gang) Ron Smith—have quickly taken the top spot.
That last one might have maybe even contributed to Smith's (no doubt totally voluntary) resignation from his post with the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, which made my fucking week (even though his replacement will no doubt bring more of the same, or worse) since my one talk with the dude (yes, I broke my old band's number-one rule) included him saying both "black on black crime" and "all lives matter." BYYYYE.
Anyway, Spek using his video/audio production skills and his voice—because face it, white people's, especially men's, voices are always prioritized—is a great example of a way that white allies can help. Because the rapping (enough!), the being silent (I know you think you're staying in your lane, but you're ignoring the car crash right next to you), and the being-a-self-righteous-judgmental-fucking-hater (ever popular) accomplish neither jack nor shit.
All that said, there's too much good music out to ignore, so let me remove microphone from ass (no Monotonix). Here are three releases—all the product of landmark local collaborations, all representing artists at their most focused—that define the sound and ambition of Young Seattle circa now: Mackned's Born Rich (produced entirely by the Flavr Blue), Dave B and Sango's Tomorrow, and Porter Ray and Tele Fresco's Electric Rain.
First up, Born Rich fuses two tastes that taste surprisingly great together, as Ned sounds absolutely voracious on the title track of this, his tenth or eleventh release (including instrumental collections and the Thraxxhouse mixtape). To get an idea of where their vibes meet flush, spin the poles of the album's axis via the cold suite of "Fanta Blue"—which recalls vintage singles from E-Dawg, Ice Cold Mode and Mix-A-Lot—and "Faygo," upon which floats Ned's leisurely floe of pill-chilled trap. The rest of the album (which concludes on a career-high note with "Buy the Pain") finds the Flavr Blue's Lace Cadence and Parker Joe slickly combining these approaches without much stylistic dissonance, bringing a nice breadth and gloss to Mackned's signature sound.
Dave B has been on a steady, hard-fought ascent since winning the EMP Sound Off! competition three years ago—and in summer 2016 has found ideal synergy with Sango, a producer whose name rang far more bells worldwide (via his work with LA's Soulection label) than it did with the navel-gazers of his native Seattle. Their 12-track Tomorrow premiered on NPR Music last week. For all but one track of 12, Sango's confident sound is a continent north of the pops of Portuguese that spice his name-making Da Rocinha series—but you will hear Somali interspersed over the course of "Parallel," and of course Dave's carefree-Black-boy flow bouncing off the productions like he was swaddled in them. Album closer "I Don't Care What Y'all Think" finds Dave fucking up Sango's signature funk carioca for the first half—before it slides back to the wet asphalt of their shared home.
Word is that Porter Ray's anticipated Sub Pop debut is almost here, but equally in demand for some time has been the album he recorded with producer Tele Fresco. Some of the tracks, particularly "Cognac Aphrodisiac" and "Heaven in Blue," have become crowd-sparking standouts of P's live sets for more than a year. Tele's stark synth work is a break from Porter's usual mellow crate groove, but its hypnotic sounds are heady sativa—and its unhurried restraint and spacious breathing moments give the Central District MC's fly yet plaintive poetry more dimension and heft than ever before. JusMoni's constant vocal presence layers lushness and proper balance.
These are the sounds that will define Seattle's summer 2016. Tune the garbage out and come home.