"All Apologies" is an English rap song performed by the German rap band Freundeskreis (which means Friendship Circle, or more correctly but less directly, Circle of Friends). Against a loop of melancholy harp strings and dramatic violins, the rapper (MC Ambassador) apologizes to those he has hurt, humiliated, and disappointed during the course of his turbulent career. He admits that he "might not have always done things the way that [he] should," and asks to be forgiven for his numerous transgressions and errors. It is in the spirit of this rap song that I write this apology to Seattle's hiphop community, with whom I have had anything but a rosy relationship. I offer the DJs and rappers who I have offended, insulted, and angered "one love, one heart, [and] all apologies."

This doesn't mean I'm going to stop frustrating the community, but for now, at the end of this economically depressed and generally gloomy year, I want to say I'm sorry for being imperfect and often too unkind. Indeed, my record is rather shameful; in the five or so years that I've been writing hiphop criticism, I have yet to receive one kind letter. No one has ever said that my hiphop opinions are competent or thoughtful; all I get are lots of angry (and frequently long) letters that call me names and question my credentials as a writer and a black person. One rapper called me, among many other things, a "silly Negro"; a minor and rather boring local hiphop journalist called me an idiot or blockhead or something of the kind; and the president of the highly regarded Seaspot.com, Chukundi Salisbury, called me a "corporate clone" who knows nothing about the streets and the hiphop community. "It takes more than a few shows at the EMP and a sandwich at Philly's Best to know what's happening on the streets of Seattle," he wrote in a long, scathing response to my article on the recent I-Spy shootout.

Because the unhappiness with my criticism is so pronounced in this city, I want to improve the situation (at least for now) by admitting that I'm not always correct or that sharp. To begin with, my biggest blunder this year was to describe Unexpected Arrival's music as "thug rap," when it's not. Instead it's pop and usually positive. I must confess that when writing that particular article on the problems of thug rap, I had not bothered to listen to the CD Unexpected Arrival sent me, or maybe I had but failed to listen to it closely (I can't remember which). Nevertheless, I was wrong to call them thugs, and though I still don't like the group's music after listening to it with a very open mind, it certainly has its place and fans in our local hiphop scene.

Another big mistake was my failure to review Source of Labor's CD Stolen Lives, which was re-released this year by Sub Verse. I'm a big fan of Sub Verse, and so it's a mystery as to why I neglected to give Source of Labor props for getting signed to and distributed by the nationally recognized hiphop label. There was another hiphop crew from Tacoma (or was it from Federal Way? Kent?) that sent me a review copy of their CD, but I can't remember their name or anything else about them. (The CD is somewhere on the floor of this messy office of mine.)

Another blunder was my claim that "Northwest hiphop was pretty much unconscious until the arrival of Silent Lambs Project." This was a crass and grossly unfair declaration; collectives such as Oldominion and Jasiri have also produced excellent and wide-awake hiphop.

One last thing. I should not have been so quick to connect the violence that erupted after a hiphop show at I-Spy with thug rap--and besides, if I'm so against popular thug rappers like Jadakiss, then why do I rank Mobb Deep's ultra-violent Hell on Earth (1997) as one of the greatest hiphop CDs of all time?

Seattle's hiphop community, next year I will make an effort to be nicer and thorough, and hopefully someone will finally write me a kind letter.

Top 10 Local Hiphop:1. Silent Lambs Project

2. DJ Vitamin D

3. Charles Mudede's Hiphop Reviews

4. Circle of Fire

5. Oldominion

6. Jasiri Media Group

7. Seaspot.com

8. DJ Funk Daddy

9. Yo, Son! on Sundays at Chop Suey

10. Noc on Wood Records

charles@thestranger.com

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