In case you missed it: Seattle rapper/producer/agitator Matt "Spekulation" Watson recently announced that he's retiring from rapping. (You can read it on his personal FB page—I only got so much space here.)
Despite some mixed feelings, I respected this decision and the thought process greatly. It seemed quietly revolutionary to me. How do "we" stop White America from appropriating Black culture, which has been happening forever? We can't. Only "they" can, and for the most part, they wouldn't dream of it. Do you really got to fight for your right to party? (Could you also bring a dish? Help clean up? Be the one that talks to the cops?) Obviously, I had questions. So I asked him.
You started off your status update saying that "Seattle hiphop shouldn't look like me." Considering the demographics of Seattle, why do you think that?
Witnessing the changing demographics in Seattle over the last decade has just made me more certain that Seattle hiphop shouldn't look like me. I know how powerful hiphop is, and I know that this music, and the identity behind this music, is essential to the particular communities that are rapidly being driven out of this city. Every time I pick up a microphone, I take away from that, because of what people who look like me represent in this city.
I played at Block Party at the Station a few months ago, and over the course of the day, I overheard people saying how important and rare it was to be in such a big crowd celebrating with black and brown folks. You could hear the relief in their voices, like this was a needed, healing experience, especially in a city that seems more and more unwelcoming. As one of only a couple white artists to play that day, I couldn't ignore the fact that my presence represented the thing the festival was defending against, that me being onstage might be robbing this community of something that it needed...
Once I had that realization, that just my body on the stage was an act of aggression, and it was potentially hurting people and a community that meant so much to me, the math was simple.
You mentioned that me comparing you and Gabby's arcs figured into this decision. I can't help but feel like a dick knowing that, but like I said, I respect the shit out of your scruples here. Can you elaborate?
When I saw my name in the headline next to Gifted Gab, positing us as "two sides of Seattle hiphop," it just rattled me. Why would I want to be on the other side of that? The hiphop I love, that saved my life, that I want to leave for my kids, is on that side. Even at best, why would I want to distract from that? In the article, you asked, "But why does it seem like Gabby is barely celebrated in her hometown?" and the answer seemed pretty obvious when the next two paragraphs of the few you're allotted each week were spent talking about my album instead of hers. I so appreciate the recognition for the work I've done, but as a lover of Seattle hiphop, I know that whole column should have been about Gab.
"THat part," as ScHoolboy Q would have it. Obviously, as part of the media, I contribute to this shit in my own way.
Getting coverage in your column has always been something that's really important to me, not just because you give such honest criticism and care so much about the scene, but because you write one of the few (if only) weekly hiphop columns. I don't need to take up what little space there is.
The way you talked about ceasing to take up space really moved me. Do you think other artists in our area think about that? And what would you say to the ones who do—or don't?
I think the artists who don't think about it are fundamentally misunderstanding a music and a culture they claim to be a part of. So I don't have much to say to them because they scare me.
But to the folks who do think about it (and I know plenty), I really don't know what I could say because the decision was such a personal one. I put out my first full-length album eight weeks ago, after rapping for almost 20 years. I had to, because I owed it to that 7-year-old version of myself who wanted to be a rapper when he grew up. Artists need to make art, and people need to chase dreams. People also need to be honest with themselves about the cost of those pursuits and decide for themselves what they can live with.