Class is now in session with Dr. Daudi Abe....
Class is now in session with Dr. Daudi Abe.... Courtesy Daudi Abe

Before MOHAI's Legacy of Seattle Hiphop exhibit opened and did its best to mock my contributions to local hiphop journalism, I worked closely with Dr. Daudi Abe, Seattle's only certified hiphop scholar (he lectures at Seattle College), and Larry Mizell, former Stranger columnist and current KEXP DJ, to build a body of knowledge that could explain and locate the emergence of Seattle hiphop in the early 1980s and to describe its path to the point at which it stood in the middle of the previous decade.

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The insult of the MOHAI exhibit immediately brought an end to my work in this area. But Dr. Abe continued gathering and consolidating and refining this body of knowledge. It's now in the shape of a book that you should buy even after Black History Month is done and gone: Emerald Street: A History of Hiphop in Seattle. The book has a forward by none other than the king of the 206 himself, Sir Mix-A-Lot.

There is no way I can review Emerald Street, because I played a major part in its formation and development. As Abe explains, the birth of the book was a short piece I commissioned from him in 2006 that concerned "early Seattle hiphop." And a lot of my journalism, which for the people at MOHAI was of such negative value that they did not do it the honor of just ignoring it, is referenced and quoted—as is Mizell's, the real hero of local hiphop journalism.

But what I can say is that Abe is the real deal. The scholarship in this book is of enormous value to our city. His writing not only explains how this and that came together and to be, but, most importantly, he presents the story of late-20th century/early-21st century Seattle from the perspective of its 40-year hiphop story, from the Emerald Street Boys to THEESatisfaction.

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For example, when Abe describes the South Seattle that gave us Blue Scholars, Sportin' Life, Gabriel Teodros, and Shabazz Palaces, he correctly notes that it was, until about 10 years ago, one of the most diverse zip codes in the US. The cultural and economic trends are matched with those in the music. And what one finds on every page of this book is some aspect of this city's cultural underground that deserves attention, that needs to be preserved, that must not enter oblivion.

Now, there is this new TV show on Hulu called Hip Hop Uncovered. It throws light on five "unsung heroes" of the billion-dollar industry called hiphop (Big U, Deb, Trick Trick, Bimmy, and Haitian Jack). I wasted no time watching this series, and it wasted no time disappointing me. I had hoped it would reveal the story of those who were foundational for Dr. Dre or Too Short, for a Wu-Tang Clan or a Jay-Z, for an Eminem or a Jay Dilla, a Sir Mix-a-Lot or a Macklemore. These are the underground (unsung) artists who booked shows on their own dime, toured the state on their own dime, released CDs on their own dime, and, more and more, by dint of sheer effort, turned, wherever they were, the local attention to hiphop from outside to inside. These are stories I wanted to hear on Hip Hop Uncovered, but instead it was about some street hustlers who have hiphop cred because they are so street.

Emerald Street, however, has the actual content that should have made the Hulu series. In this book are the unsung souls of rappers, producers, and organizations who, collectively, shaped the staircase for a few to climb up to the heaven of pop music.