Sitting on the patio of Empire Espresso, a small cafe in Columbia City, something shimmering in the distance caught my eye. Jarv Dee, the self-proclaimed "modern day Moor," approached with a half smile that allowed his gold grill to glimmer in the afternoon sun. Outfitted in crisp Nikes and red-and-black socks, Jarv sat down to spit a little game.
Jarv Dee is the former hype man of Cloud Nice and lyricist of Kingdom Crumbs. He's also one of the founding members of Seattle's Moor Gang, the local super collective that includes Nacho Picasso and Gifted Gab (to name just a few). But his latest EP, The Red Eye Jedi, offers an in-depth view of Dee alone—it's a rare release that doesn't include any features from the multitude of artists Dee is associated with.
"The Red Eye Jedi was a real, real solo project for me," he explained. "At the time, I was knocking out cuts all by myself and didn't see the need to really add anybody. Just one soldier out of the bunch. Like in Star Wars, you get to see the Luke Skywalker story. This is an intimate view of just this soldier."
Dee released The Red Eye Jedi in April (4/20, to be exact). After taking some time to hone the live arrangements of the songs, he set his focus on creating visuals to accompany "Mind of the Masses," a very conscious track from his 2015 record Satellites, Swishers & Spaceships.
"I feel it's still relevant," he said. "People need to understand what is really going on. The new generation of rappers classifies the old hiphop as corny, but old hiphop had all the knowledge. Cats wasn't preaching to you, they just had a lot of game about what was going on. Nowadays, there's not a lot of that. Not a lot of game is being spit out there. All they talk about is how fucked up they getting, but everyone's forgetting real life. They just make everything a party."
That's not to suggest his music isn't suited to parties.
"You can party to it!" he laughed. "I wouldn't be mad. Shit, I don't think it is, but if you call it party music, I would say it's party music with a little substance to it."
He feels a responsibility to communicate his knowledge without getting preachy. "All I do is teach my truths," he explained. "I can't tell anybody anything besides what I went through. I'm not a preachy person. I'll give game, but I don't like to force game."
The messages in Dee's music are hard to miss, but they never overwhelm the trappy hiphop instrumentals. While discussing his new video, in which television is portrayed as a tool for indoctrinating Black youth with a negative self-conception, he laughed when I asked if he is a conspiracy theorist.
"I hate the term 'conspiracy theorist,'" he scoffed. "People in power made that term because it sounds bad. It's a way for people to shun. It wasn't created by the people seeking the truth. It was made to block those people. So I hate the term. But do I seek the truth? Hell yeah, I do!"
Okay, if not a conspiracy theorist, then political?
"I am not political," he said. "Let me break it down. In elementary school, I was so pumped to be going for vice president. I remember giving my speech. I promised pizza every day, there was going to be new pop machines—man, I had the other kids going crazy. And I won that shit. Do you think any of that stuff happened? Hell no. Because at the end of the day, I was just a kid in the class and the principal still had the say-so. Just like in real elections. Big money runs the elections. They give us two sides to make it seem like we have a choice. But at the end of the day, they all having lunch together like public defenders and prosecutors. I feel like it's all a clown show that ultimately comes down to who can talk the best."