In Austin, walking by the liquor store closest to Fader Fort (you know the one), I got taken home, hit up by a Seattle rapper bearing a mixtape. The dude was Bryce Bowden, who tells me from the intro on his 206 Entertainment release The Great White Hype, that old chestnut, that "the game needs him." Does it? You be the judge. Listening to Hype, you'd have to be mad (as in "u mad") to say he can't rap—he does so pretty good. Bowden's got flow, tidy bars, and is clearly clever—but even when being so, he can demonstrate a certain conceptual limitation: "Call me Yukmouth, I smoke weed and I Rap-A-Lot." Truth be told, though, he barely talks about weed, more about how he raps. A lot. He also loves and reps Seattle to death, even though he appears to hail from the "greater Eastside," specifically Kingsgate, a part of Kirkland, the same hood that Kung Foo Grip have no problem claiming—and that alone likely connects to a lot of like-minded rap lovers. But I have a certain fatigue regarding ability, honestly. See, in 2012, believe it or not, hella people can rap, and even rap pretty well—so in such times, to quote the GZA, "What's the meaning of dope?" If you're like me and have been listening to rap since before Bryce was born (in 1989), you probably want some flavor, some personality, something that you couldn't get from another MC here or elsewhere, past or present. At this point, I ain't quite hearing that.

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Though maybe I'm just old? "Most of these rappers are like 40 years old, it's crazy/Pass the torch and let me take my fucking shot to make it... at least let me in, these other rappers are playin'/They ain't representing the city how I want people to see it." Words—I know—that a lot of you feel, because I've heard it before, plenty, and will likely hear it all my life that I listen to rap. First you have Young Gun 101, the impatience to be "on" coupled with contempt for what came before. There's the angst over these perceived geezers (who, in reality, are probably barely 30), sucking up all the oxygen that YG could be using to spit mad hot fire. Here, reality can help, and help anybody thinking the same: Who is really blocking you, rapper? Is the club full of haters, or are you self-conscious? But more importantly, can you get a bunch of people who are excited about you talking about you and bumping your music? Can you get a bunch of them to come to your shows? Boom—then you don't have to worry about anybody blocking you, you're doing something, so keep doing it. As for representing the city in the fashion you'd prefer, that's on you, too—no other artist is here to serve as an agent for your personal vision.

That said, let me remind you again: Bryce Bowden can rap, and he raps like he (really) wants to win, so y'know, keep your eye on him and check his Hype if it sounds like what you'd like. That was, after all, the point of all this. recommended