On May 23, the NYC-based hiphop magazine XXL dropped a bomb on the 206 called "The New New: 15 Seattle Rappers You Should Know." No one saw it coming. It simply fell from the sky and exploded on us. The people at the magazine certainly had no idea they had dropped anything like a bomb on anybody; they thought it was just a nice and harmless love letter to a city that provided the latest, biggest name in hiphop: Macklemore. So why did "The New New" do more damage than good to Seattle? The answer is easy: Some felt there were names that should not be on the list, and others felt there were names that were missing from the list. The net effect of these feelings? Hella hate.
Not too long ago, while writing at my favorite joint, the Station on Beacon Hill, I overheard some rappers (I will not name names) who were not on the list say things like "I know they are cool, but why are they on the list? They don't even rap," and "You can call me a hater, but what's wrong with hating sometimes—it's being real. I want to hate, and you want me to hide my feelings? That's not happening."
On another occasion, I ran into Blak, one of the best rappers in the Town and a member of Black Stax, a group that made XXL's list. When I congratulated Blak for getting the national attention that he and his partners (Jace Ecaj and Felicia Loud) deserve, I was surprised by the frown that he put on his face and the troubled words that came out of his mouth: "You know, I almost kind of wish I wasn't on the list—you won't believe the kind of hate that's out there. It's more trouble than it's worth." I have to say something about Blak: He is really one of the great human beings of Seattle. He is profoundly intelligent, intensely sensitive, very perceptive, and generally positive. So to see him all down like this about a great piece of publicity for his crew meant that things were really, really rotten in Denmark. (I later even heard someone, who again will remain unnamed, state that Black Stax made the list because their trumpeter, Owuor Arunga, tours with Macklemore.)
"Macklemore and that XXL article is making people crazy," Rob Castro said to me on the back porch of the Station on another day. Castro is the current bassist for Nite Owls, a former member of Grayskul, and the producer behind Black Stax's masterpiece "Like These." "What does 'New New' even mean? You know? People are bugging over an industry list, and that's all it is—it doesn't say anything about Seattle but what the industry thinks about Seattle. We got to get over that. There is this rapper I know and really respect, but the other day, I had to yell at him to stop talking about that list. I mean yell: IT'S JUST A FUCKING LIST! But he wouldn't back down. And you know what's even more strange about it? He hadn't even read the post, but he had to argue about it."
Facebook was also on fire. Barfly, former member of the once-much-admired Saturday Knights, founding member of Oldominion, and a rapper in Nite Owls, posted on his Facebook page: "There should be a '15 Rappers From Seattle' list released every day. You could power the city with all that butthurt." DeVon Manier, who runs Sportn' Life Records (the label that discovered and houses Fly Moon Royalty), posted on his Facebook page: "...and the whining continues"; Ezra Crowley commented on the post: "Rappers need to stay off the internet." And, if you go to the comments section of the article that started all of this grief, you will find these words: "If you ever wondered why Seattle rarely gets national attention for hip hop—scroll down and watch the crabs in the bucket." I did not scroll down. I live in the 206; I'm already in the bucket.