Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Stranger Articles

A plethora of coverage of hip-hop in the town via The Stranger. Click and read the links below.

The Program
What We Learn When Northwest Hiphop Comes Together in One Room

RA Scion: Why do you think that is? Why is the scene younger?
Vitamin D
: Technology probably. We didn't even come up on the internet. You know, to us that was some expensive, privileged shit. That's how my generation still kind of looks at it, especially in the hood. I mean, the older cats don't got Gmail; they don't know nothing about Gmail. And we're not on these chat rooms. I won't be on this—what do they call it?—206 something.
: 206Proof.

All Together Now
Hiphop Entrepreneurs Blend Art and Commerce
Behind the register is Porter Sullivan, a 19-year-old Seattle Central student from South Seattle who initially came to Laced Up for an internship in clothing design and retail management. Belair gave him a job instead. "We're trying to educate, to provide opportunity," Belair says. "We can give back to the community, doing it instead of talking about it. I'm not putting this store in South Seattle; I'm putting it where everyone wants to shop. I want people to see our lifestyle, understand the meaning of hiphop. We're giving people a different perception of the music."

Eight blocks west on Pike Street, Goods is Seattle's original hiphop lifestyle boutique—though co-owners Paul Williams, Steve Gonzales, Nin Truong, and Scott Downing wouldn't call it that. The focus here—a store open since 2003 that's three times the size of Laced Up—is high-end streetwear, a style associated with skateboarding, which is associated with hiphop (the era of punk as the soundtrack to kickflips is long gone). The hiphop influence is less obvious, though the music on the sound system, the club nights Goods sponsors, and the skate videos they produce give it away.

Northwest Passage
The Other Two Factors in the Seattle/Vancouver/Portland Equation
On the Portland Scene
Wicked might be the single-most talented member of the Portland hiphop scene, but as far as groups who are garnering the most buzz, only one word comes to mind: Sandpeople. A 10-man crew of heavyweights, Sandpeople emerged onto the scene only a few years ago and already have three albums, numerous sold-out shows, and more fans in town than any group besides Lifesavas can boast. Their special relevance is not in their originality—listeners of other "underground" acts will not be surprised by their song topics or styles—but in their prodigious skills.

On the Vancouver Scene
"Everything is wrong with [the local scene]," says Web, who first generated buzz as one-half of Vancouver's Usual Suspecs. Though he currently bounces between Toronto, Los Angeles, and New York pursuing a solo career, he's temporarily back in Vancouver for family reasons. "From the talent pool to the way business is conducted... it's kind of perplexing to me how [Canadian media outlets] only support artists that seem to be mimicking [American artists] and doing a really poor job at it, to the point where it's embarrassing."

"It seems that people are struggling to find themselves," says Moka Only, a veteran of the city's hiphop scene. He is, somewhat unwittingly, best known for his affiliation with Swollen Members, with whom he garnered three Junos, the Canadian equivalent to the Grammys. "I can name a bunch of artists here who are doing their thing, but I've heard a lot of unsavory stuff. It ain't a good look, just following trends."

Here Comes the Neighborhood

Despite What You've Heard, Hiphop Is Saving America

While it shouldn't be surprising that lots of Seattle-area MCs, DJs, b-boys, and aerosol artists are deeply committed to community service, you'd be forgiven if it were. Many only knew about DJ DV One's résumé of selfless service after his high-profile assault case. Sportn' Life Records' co-CEO and rapper D.Black—who himself has been described on more than one occasion as a "gangsta rapper"—is in fact heavily involved in the Union Gospel Mission, having worked in their middle-school program and now looking to get involved with their high-school program.

Similarly, the socially aware raps of artists on local label Mass Line Media are all buoyed by their very real presence in the community centers and schools. "I'm not formally involved with any organizations as far as that goes," says MC Gabriel Teodros, who's in area schools on almost a weekly basis, performing as well as teaching songwriting and recording to teens. "It's real random for me. I'm in a different school all the time talking to these kids. I wish I was at a single site consistently." Teodros also mentors kids in the Youth Speaks programs, and records young up-and-coming MCs in his home for free.