Amos Miller, a local hiphop producer and musician, released the album Rogers Thriftway just around the time Macklemore released his single for "Thrift Shop," in the fall of 2012. The whole world now knows the latter, and only a handful of local heads know about the former. Now, is it sheer coincidence that two local hiphop acts resorted to the politics of shopping to address some social concern? No. I don't think it was an accident. I think that both Miller and Macklemore were expressing something that was (and still is) in the air. The greatest cultural critic of the 20th century, Walter Benjamin, called this sort of thing (expressing feelings that reflect the state of a moment) "correspondences," which are "related expressions of and responses to a general social process."

But whereas "Thrift Shop" is about the green joys of recycling, as opposed to the unsustainable joys of buying what John Crown calls "dumb shit" on RA Scion's new jam, "Amalgam X," Rogers Thriftway is about how a shop in the hood became an important cultural node. Rogers Thriftway, explains the liner notes (which are printed on a receipt that comes inside the little shopping bag that contains the album), "is the story of a white owned grocery store that served the African American working class neighborhood it was in, and the upper class white neighborhood that bordered it. People from both sides of the tracks needed to eat. There were doctors, lawyers, hustlers and pimps, all shopping at Rogers. This is the story of lost identity, rebirth of culture, and the institution of race in America. This is our story. Shop with us." And the shopping is very mixed, in a good sense, but also full of melancholy.

This melancholy—which flows with almost no interruptions from the album's organ- heavy opener, "Convenient Store," (a track that's got all the humor of "Thrift Shop" but none of the laughter), to the finger-snappy closer, "Tightrope"—can be read in two ways. One, it's just a part of the Northwest mode. From Jasiri Media Group to Oldominion to Gabriel Teodros—this is how we do it: a little on the sad side. Two, Roger's Thriftway might have been the place where people from different walks of life shopped together (we all need to eat), but it was not a class or race utopia—it was an accident of history and location. The neighborhood was in transition; some people were coming in, and others were going out. The owner of the business was white, but could easily have been Asian or East African. Also, the pimps and drug dealers, who were probably black, could have been replaced by white hipsters. In short, there are no solutions to the larger social situation in Roger's Thriftway. There is only an awareness of what's going on, the politics and the realities of white wealth and black poverty. Because there are no solutions, there is no real joy, only this sadness—which, as with the closing track, "Tightrope," can be extraordinarily beautiful. (It's important to remember that Macklemore's first important contribution to local hiphop was a track that confronted the unresolved racial problems in our city, "White Privilege.")

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Speaking of shopping, while waiting in a line to pay for toothpaste at the Walgreens on Rainier and Genesee (a spot that's racially but not economically diverse), I spotted the rapper Raz Simone. I looked at him (tallish, a couple chains around the neck, a baseball hat), and he looked at me looking at him. He could see that I knew who he was, but he did not know me or how I knew him. I told him that I'd seen him the day before, in the video for his soul-smooth and melodic track "Sometimes I Don't," which features Sam Lachow, a rapper who is constantly growing, constantly working, constantly paying his dues. I thanked Raz for being so talented, and he thanked me for being so generous with compliments.

A month later, he released a solid EP called Solomon Samuel Simone. Raz raps slow, has a deep and raspy voice, and gives each line a careful measure of weight and force. Sometimes he can get very emotional (as with the track "Cold"), and often he raps about the difficulties of street life with the serenity of a person who knows that raising a big fuss about anything will get you nowhere. Even police harassment is not something you should get all worked up about. Yes, it's bad, but stay cool and keep your head. Three tracks on the EP were produced by Nima Skeemz, the man behind Sol's slamming "Stage Dive"; Elan Wright and Antwon Vinson produced the rest. Solomon Samuel Simone has put Raz Simone on the map. And why not say it: The space left empty by the talented Framework, one of the rappers who launched Seattle into a new era in 2005, might be filled by Raz. I just wanted to put that out there. recommended