What you know about TacTown? No really, what do you know about Tacoma? Our neighbor to the south has long been a virtual unknown to me—and I've often wondered about the strain of hiphop to be found in the southlands. In the interest of 206-253 solidarity, I thought I'd check out two of the Tac's finest.

Sawchosiz (saw-ko-sis) made his name about the Sound freestyling on KUBE 93's Roll Call, beating out other contestants for months (and twice getting banned for offending the hosts). He's since gone hard into the mixtape game, dropping joints such as Kal-El Is the Future (peep www.myspace.com/sawchosiz), where his slightly-behind-the-beat delivery, simile-packed punch lines, and sing-songy hooks bring to mind another mixtape underdog, Chamillionaire. When I first heard Sawchosiz's name, it was behind various lyrical beefs he had with other local MCs, such as Livio, until he gave up his beef-mongering ways. "That was me as a teenager," Saw says. "I'm grown now." As he digs into industry beats like the old Shaq and Biggie classic "You Can't Stop the Reign," you can hear what he means.

When his boy Jay Barz dubs himself "Tacoma's favorite white rapper," and hawks T-shirts bearing the inscription FUCK JAY BARZ, it's simply because he's equally adept at smirking self-deprecation as he is at instilling hometown pride (just check the bouncy Tac anthem of "Rainier Fitted"). "I'm just a kid from Tacoma that lived in the suburbs, growing up on Ice Cube," says Barz. Rapping since age 13, Barz got serious about his craft in the last few years. "I'm just trying to get it poppin'," he laughs. "Just trying to put the Tac on the map like bulletin boards!" He's got the right idea too—his newest set of original and mixtape tracks, the cracking Hunger Pains 2 (coppable at www.myspace.com/jaybarzonline), is a rep-making collection absolutely brimming with rap quotables and nuff arrogant flair; well known all throughout the area for his work solo and with the Street Academy clique, Barz has pushed around 30,000 copies of his mixtapes and original releases in the past four years. So naturally haters and detractors abound back home—and the more I heard about the scene 45 minutes south, the more it reminded me of some all-too-familiar Seattle standards. "The thing about Tacoma is that it's got that crab-in-a-bucket syndrome," Barz says. "Tacoma rappers will dis the next dude to get to the top to be the first to 'make it.' Outside of Tacoma, it seems like there's just more unity. Also keep in mind, Tacoma being as gangster as it is, a lot of events simply get shut down due to violence in the crowd." Clubs that do host hiphop shows close their doors indefinitely, and city officials ban national artists like Young Buck for fear of gang activity. As bad as cats sometimes claim we have it in Seattle, there are always those that know how to turn nothing into something. Is this what's in store for us, Mr. Nickels? Tacoma to Seattle, it's all the same shit; no tricks in '07—it's time to BUILD. recommended