Free EPs are a-flying, fresh faces are making noise, vets are doing their best work, and more and more Seattle hiphop is catching critical shine among national tastemakers—did you miss Pitchfork reviewing Shabazz Palaces? Brand-new fans—I mean, future bloggers—got freedom of choice and a dope summer ahead of them (once the weather gets nice, that is—typically just in time for your July 4 barbecue).
Attention-payers will be aware that the time is finally here—that guy Ninjaface, that is to say JFK of Grayskul (the NW's premier Rhymesayer, beloved from here to Madrid), is at long last dropping his solo debut, Building Wings on the Way Down, finally completed after a studio break-in crippled his initial efforts. Those wanting to know more about one of Seattle's very best MCs won't be disappointed. Breaking from the Skul's metaphysical melodrama, JFK uses palettes from Ones Jake and Bean, Mr. Hill, and Clockwork's Take One (among others) to paint a self-portrait of his past and present—from his violent Virginia Beach past to his current juggling of rap life and the all-too-real—in no uncertain terms. Love, family, drugs, death, paranoia, money—it's all in there, delivered in Ninjaface's instantly recognizable vocal tone and studied cadence (owing to masters of the form like Eminem and Ghostface Killah, who inspired JFK's own rapping initials—classmates once dubbed him Jeff the Filipino Killer). Guest shots from Candidt, XP, Canary Sing, and Sandpeople's triple threat Sapient certainly don't slack, but a personality like JFK's couldn't be displaced if Don King were in the room with him. June 3 at Nectar is the Building Wings CD-release party, with his pals Sonny Bonoho (who's guaranteed at some point to claim to be JFK, and vice versa), Neema (who's actually about to drop his own LP, The Essence), Syreeta (no relation to the braided '70s Motown singer/Stevie Wonder's ex-wifey, FYI), and hosted by the guy who wrote all this bullshit you're currently reading.
The CD release for producer Jack the Ripper's debut compilation, Don't Look Back, hits Nectar on June 5. He's bringing along the cast of thousands who provide the project's vocals, cats such as Dyme Def, Grynch, Khingz, Spaceman, Juga Hill, Sol, and Papa Black, to rock their respective selections. The project has grown on me since first listen; like the State of the Artist LP, it's a good showcase for a ton of local talent known and under- exposed (Juga Hill, Cash Clepto, Rockwell Powers, and Papa Black all deliver), and Jack acquits himself well on the boards when not going into full-blown Top 40 Auto-tuna. It is interesting, though, that Jack largely reserves these crossover moments for local MCs many would categorize as "backpack" (Blue Scholars' Prometheus Brown, Sol, Scribes) while giving more club-ready cats like Dyme Def the patently introspective vibes (incidentally, "One Way Road" is one of my favorite new DD tracks in a sec). Lovers of the local-rap movement—right up there with local-food crusaders—will find a rich gumbo to enjoy if they pop in. I gar-on-tee.