If you've been steeped in Northwest rap since the Clinton era, you know Silas Blak well. A commanding and singular presence since the days of Blind Council, through Seattle's compilation era (he pops up on Do the Math and Classic Elements both), he's been an unmistakable, influential, and consistent voice. Dense and cerebral, forever raw and uncompromising, he's absolutely one of Seattle's most consistent MCs, barring no one. (Though definitely an acquired taste. If you're looking for personality-cult stuff, big hooks, or signature ad libs—let alone a clear narrative or clearly defined rhyme schemes—you're assed out here. Think a more abstract Saafir, if you can get to that.)
Though I'm a longtime lover of the legendary Silent Lambs Project (and its more recent permutation as Black Stax), my favorite Silas Blak works to date are his stellar solo releases. 1986 and Silas Sentinel, released in 2006 and 2007, are brick-hard slabs of confrontational, abstract Blak art. That said, his latest album, Editorials: (Wartunes), released recently on Cabin Games, is not only my favorite entry in his well-appointed catalog, it's hungry and sharp enough to sound like a debut—not bad for somebody who's been rapping for 20-plus years.
Check the album highlight "Chains" and tell me I'm wrong. Blak contemptuously spits lines like "The Willie Lynch school is closed, but niggas still go" and "I musta occupied the house that poverty built/I just got hip to almond milk/A brother need a garage that's filled." Some clear chemistry is on display, an exothermic reaction between Blak and the album's sole producer, Kjell Nelson, whose production you would recall from Cabin Games' future-soul act Hightek Lowlives.
Nelson's sound moves from smooth warmth ("Time and God I Can't Master") to harrowing, stomping workouts ("Chains" and "Diamonds on Mic Stands"), bringing out the breadth in Blak's usual intensity and Hubble-like focus. Props also go to the Cabin's Redskin, the album's executive producer and expert curator. Go peep Blak's angular attack on Wednesday, November 25, at the Crocodile Back Bar for his album release party (it's all ages), with Proh Mic, and Able Fader on decks.
"I wonder if you're trying to venture from the Needle, it's a trap/Wonder why my peoples countin' on me for?" Seattle's Dave B hasn't been around nearly as long as Blak—his (loving, growing) fan base grew up during the reign of Bush II—but he has nonetheless grown into a major talent in scant years, young Seattle's undisputed people's champ.
Since being the wild-card winner of EMP's Sound Off! back in 2013, he hasn't looked back, running through all the local fests and consistently dropping singles. His newest release, Punch Drunk, is the one he's been saving up for, the sound of a young giant arrived, restrained and confident. Simultaneously smooth and hype, Dave balances singsongy histrionics and pure chill, the missing link between Chano and the Soulection sound. Dave is going places—you're late to the party if you just caught that—among them, the Crocodile on Sunday, November 29, for his album release. With Nyles Davis and Vitamin D (the show is all ages).
Give thanks, and for Christ's sake, stop fucking shooting.