My introduction to the Seattle Hiphop Scene™ came one day in 1997 as I pawed through the CD racks at some record store in Ballard (shouts to Grynch, who was like 10 at the time); I was instantly intrigued by the distinctive Specs One art that was the cover of 14 Fathoms Deep, a local hiphop compilation put out by Loosegroove Records—founded by Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard and Brad's Regan Hagar. (Crazy to think that I actually discovered local rap due to the largesse of the NW rock groundswell. Glad I bought that Ten cassette all over again.)
14 Fathoms became an everyday/all-day listen for me, as I first fell in love with the breadth and talent of the hiphop community in my backyard—and it still holds up. It also wasn't alone: Tribal Productions had dropped the classic crew comp Do the Math the year before—and 1998 brought us both Conception Records' Walkman Rotation and Classic Elements, put out by Olympia's K Records. Thus the compilation became the gold standard for local rap releases. The era continued with (arguably) Oldominion's One in 2001, the Sportn' Life Records comp of 2003, and Maraire Enterprises' Evolution of Hip-Hop comp in 2004. The Reigncraft series put out by KNDNM through the 2000s kept it going, though the compilation fever had died down by then in favor of the consistent artistic visions to be found on the landmark local albums of that age.
Back to ol' K Records, though—the ultimate PNW indie label founded by one Calvin Johnson, the label at the forefront of riot grrrl, the label whose logo was tattooed on Kurt Cobain's arm—the label that's dropping the first notable hiphop compilation in years, All Your Friend's Friends. Produced in full by THEE XNTRK (Oldominion ace Smoke M2D6 and BK/Oly MC Eprhyme), Friends' sounds were mined exclusively from the stuff of previous K releases by the likes of Dub Narcotic Sound System, Karl Blau, and the iconic Beat Happening.
Seeing as how Oly has long seemed the stomping grounds of, and the meeting place between, Oldominion and Portland's Sandpeople collective, the 15-track collection is deep with both team's rosters, alongside 360 mainstays like Afrok, Luvva J, the Real Life Click's Miz and Ang P, and wonkier Oly reps like Free Whiskey (plus a sprightly solo from FW's Heddie Leone). The first Barfly track since his Wolf Hotel project is here; the first Silent Lambs Project track in years—the stomping, Nyqwil-featuring "Blackfist Brokenfont"—is here. Xperience pops up a lot and tends to steal the show, as Xperience tends to. A lot of it works, some of it not as much—but this is rule #1 of the compilation. There'll be a release party for All Your Friend's Friends Thursday, November 13, at the Rendezvous.
I'd love to see this release signal the return of the compilation, the crew album, the individual-ego-eschewing strength-in-numbers model. Partly because of nostalgia—and partly because most of y'all don't have a good album between ya. Save the EPs, kids; match up and double your dollars (and by dollars I mean web impressions, or whatever). See you up top.