w/Aesop Rock & Murs
Saturday, 5:45-8 pm, What's Next Stage
Friday, 12:30-1:30 pm, EMP Sky Church
by Samuel L. Chesneau
No one can say that Northwest hiphop has been the strong, silent type in recent years. Although it may not yet be making a big splash on the pages of national music magazines the way the Northwest rock scene did in the early '90s, artists from the Seattle area are blowing up in their own right.
Some of the standout just-under-the-radar events at this year's Bumbershoot are hiphop related: Northwest artists like the Oldominion crew's Onry Ozzborn--whose new album, The Grey Area, has set a standard for the underground in Northwest releases--and Sleep, whose debut solo record, Riot by Candlelight, put him on the map, as well as Boom Bap Project, whose new album will feature One Man Army, Rakaa-Iriscience from Dilated Peoples, and Gift of Gab from Blackalicious.
The Stranger recently caught up with Onry Ozzborn, Sleep, and Karim and DJ Scene from the Oldominion/Boom Bap Project camp to get their thoughts on the current state of the Pacific Northwest's excellent hiphop scene.
What's most exciting to you about Northwest hiphop right now?
KARIM: Every move someone makes out here is like a piece of history in itself. Since the Northwest has no established [hiphop] "industry," and a lot of talent has gone unheard and unnoticed, this is a very exciting time. People are starting to take note, and things are slowly starting to move.
What have been some big Northwest successes over the past few years?
KARIM: The fact that groups and artists like Cool Nutz, Source of Labor, Oldominion, and us have toured the country plenty of times has shined some light on the region. We get major radio love in prime markets like Los Angeles [Friday Night Flavas] and New York [Future Flavas]. Jake and Vitamin D are working with the likes of Busta, Dre, Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples, and G Unit, which does nothing but good as well.
DJ SCENE: Portland's Lifesavas are taking shit to the next level and have national distribution and marketing, and I think Seattle is about to have an artist or group do the same. Onry Ozzborn just dropped some serious heat on One Drop/BSI. I think that really puts Seattle on the map for underground hiphop. The Brainstorm battles the past couple years were huge successes in the Northwest. Seattle got international exposure from those events and set the standard for MC battles.
ONRY: The collaborations that some of the crews are doing with artists outside the Northwest--building relationships with heavy hitters in the underground and mainstream--are making outsiders realize there is some noise to be made out here.
Where could the Northwest hiphop community stand improvement?
ONRY: People that hate. When they see somebody doing it the right way, instead of stepping up their game, they try to pull people down and complain or be negative about it.
DJ SCENE: People need to use each other's resources and contacts more, and work together. The [local] commercial radio station could use a show that had more street credibility, like they have in every other major market. I think more artists need to step up their game. Do some research and get lots of feedback BEFORE releasing your project. Cats are doing it ass backwards: releasing shit, then asking, "What do you think?"--at that point, does it matter?
SLEEP: Obviously the radio, they keep us a second market and don't make any effort to try and break anybody. If they do break somebody, it's on some favor or political reason and not because of the music.
KARIM: Cats need to improve their rapping and stop following some formula. Stop trying to make blatant pop or stop trying to be from New York. Everyone complains about lack of unity and all that crap, but the bottom line is that [problems] stem from lack of talent and business sense. No one has really helped any of us along the way till now--we've done it all ourselves.
What have been some big boosters for the scene?
ONRY: I think the b-boys have a lot to do with big boosts because crews like Circle of Fire and Massive Monkees win competitions, get flown out to different cities and countries, and bring fame to the name of our community here in Seattle; certainly graffiti writers also help when they bomb.
DJ SCENE: Yo, Son! at Chop Suey has been a huge booster for the hiphop scene. I think it opens people to sounds that they normally don't hear in a packed weekly night and proves that people don't just want to dance to everything in heavy rotation on a commercial station. Hip-Hop 101 TV has really helped the hiphop scene by continuously giving local artists a place to get their music heard, and Seaspot.com has also helped propel Northwest hiphop worldwide.