The end of the year is finally here and everybody is weighing-in on their list of top ten insert-whatever-topic-here. This year, we wanted to present our 2018 Northwest Hip-Hop awards a little differently. So, we teamed up with Seattle’s Gary Campbell of Crane City Music to help us weigh-in on the local artists. But, we also asked Portland’s Mac Smiff, Editor of We Out Here Magazine, what his thoughts were and he sent “a few Portland ass opinions” for us.
Off top, Pacific Northwest hip-hop has had an incredible year. The genre as a whole has seen amazing releases from just about everyone. But, Seattle alone has seen one of the best years in hip-hop that we’ve ever witnessed. Artists from our region are touring, deals are being signed, and the industry eyeballs are closing in on more artists than just Macklemore.
Along with an incredible year of hip-hop releases and growth outside of our region, we’ve also been struck with immense tragedy. Our scene has lost a handful of young and talented kings. We wanted to take a moment to remember some of the talented artists we lost this year.
Rest In Peace
A few words of remembrance from Respect My Region founder, Mitch Pfeifer
At the start of the year, the Tacoma rap group MKF was catching momentum. They amassed over a million streams without any industry or media support and the Tacoma region has shared the shit out of everything we posted on their movement.
Tragedy struck in February when Glewie’s life was senselessly taken at a show in Seattle. The group took some time away from music but more recently began to release new music. The Tacoma Police Department is still investigating the murder and blocking them from performing shows.
I’ve never seen as much support in the town as I’ve seen for an artist like JuicetheGod. I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t as hip to the Seattle rapper before his passing. But, the numbers don’t lie, he was on his way to surpassing being a “local” rapper.
Juice was a local icon as the leader of a new movement with producer DJBASSKIDS. His legacy has lived on through his people. You can catch large canvas photos and full-size cardboard cutouts of Juice at sold-out shows around the metro area. One of my biggest regrets as a journalist is not covering Juice before his passing.
I first met Kari online when he was a young burgeoning skateboarder. I’ve always tried to make a point to reach out to the talented youth and offer inspiration whenever I notice a movement coming. Kari had talent and style on a skateboard that was destined for success. After a few injuries at a young age, he picked up the mic and started to make a name in a new scene. He went on to discover and propel Lil Mosey‘s career but his life was cut short. It’s Kari’s World forever mayne, long live Kari Kash.
That’s Dope, Syko was truly a Pacific Northwest hip-hop legend. While he hailed from Portland, OR, he also spent a considerable amount of time living in the Seattle area. He was most known for (but not credited for) creating classic instrumentals for Mac Dre like, “The Thizzle Dance.” But, he was also far from a slouch on the mic himself.
Syko was more than just a producer and an emcee. He was a father and one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met in the PNW hip-hop scene. He supported countless artists and producers without ever riding waves or showing out for publicity. Behind closed doors, he was a pillar and motivator for many. He was always a huge supporter of Respect My Region and myself.
We miss you Uncle Syko.
Portland hip-hop legend Idris ‘Starchile’ O’Ferral passed away from health complications earlier in 2018. The promoter and hip-hop ambassador was responsible for creating Portland’s Hip-Hop Day and curating countless events like Mic Check.
Local Hip-Hop Year-End Review
Closest To Mainstream Success in 2018
Mitch: Lil Mosey — He’s not close to success, he’s there! Mosey has a gold record single and two Billboard charting hits and he’s only got his debut project on the market. While he blew up quickly online surpassing the local scene, he had no problem selling out the Showbox for Toe Jam. Many people were upset over some of his comments on No Jumper but, there is no denying the success Mosey has seen. As of late, he’s been providing a platform for other local producers and artists too.
Taylor: Travis Thompson — Trav opened up for Macklemore on his Gemini tour and performed on Fallon with him in 2017. He has hit over a million views with multiple music videos on Youtube. As well, he went on his own independent tour and packed out venues around the country. Ending the tour and 2018 with a highly successful headliner at the legendary Showbox at the Market.
Just a boy living his dream. Nothing to see here lmao. SEATTLE! I’ll see you on Friday for the most important show of my life! ✨
— TRAVIS! (@travisxthompson) December 19, 2018
Mac: The Last Artful, Dodgr
Gary: Laza — Until recently, Laza went by the name Misundverstood. Throughout 2018 she released only a handful of smart singles with the likes of Dave B, Kung Foo Grip, Parisalexa, Shawn Parker and Travis Thompson. It’s a strategy that paid off. In early December, she announced she’s been signed to Warner/Chappell Music in LA. We can expect a major-label debut sometime next year.
Gifted Gab — In February, our longtime folk hero of the Central District had an unexpected viral success with “Come Correct.” A one-off single with Oakland’s Blimes Brixton. The two have since formed the group B.A.G. Gab moved to LA to take B.A.G. to the next level, record an album, and spend much of the year performing at major music festivals across the country.
Biggest Mover and Shaker of 2018
Mitch: Travis Thompson
Taylor: Gifted Gab, Macntaj — Macntaj spent most of the year on the road, even making it out to perform in India. He worked with several different producers, released a fuck ton of songs and music videos, as well as selling out a headliner at Barboza.
Mac: Keith Canva$
Gary: The Ruby Room — This hidden gem, a recording studio run by Elan Wright and Nima “Skeemz” Abbassi, is our town’s star-making hit-factory. Many of the most-talked-about local projects of 2018 – be it Parisalexa, Travis Thompson, Romaro Franceswa, Kung Foo Grip, Sol, J’Von, and even more – were all recorded and sprinkled with magic at this unassuming building in Northgate.
Toe Jam — Much praise to the crew running Toe Jam. Not so long ago, they were throwing these raucous underground parties in Tacoma. In the past year, they’ve evolved their size and scale and expanded to Seattle. They’ve done this while keeping true to their roots, and that’s hard. Their latest event was a sold-out show at Showbox, co-presented by Red Bull, featuring Tacoma talents Bujemane and Ghoulavellii and viral sensation Lil Mosey.
Breakout Artist of 2018
Taylor: Laza & Parisalexa — She started the year releasing the EP, Bloom, and selling out her album release party at Crocodile Back Bar. Then she released another EP titled, Flexa. The track “Ballin” received major attention landing her on Spotify’s Fresh Finds playlist and gaining over a million streams. She closed out the year by selling out Chop Suey and having Sango remix her hottest track.
Mac Smiff: KayelaJ
Gary: Parisalexa & Jango — He’s been playing sold out shows out there in Spokane and in Seattle, too. Carolina Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton recently used Jango’s song “Legacy” (Feat. Kung Foo Grip) in a promo video. His dedication to raising the profile of every artist in the Upper Left demonstrates that you don’t have to live in Capitol Hill or Los Angeles to make it big.
Favorite Engineer(s) of 2018
Mitch: Chris Pack, P. White, and Milo Eubank.
Taylor: Sendai Mike, Milo Eubank, and Seth McDonald
Gary: Sendai Mike — Sendai Mike’s small SODO recording studio is the secret weapon for many up-and-coming talents. He’s the man who effortlessly transforms a rapper’s raw clay into gorgeous pottery. “Marlowe” from L’Orange and Solemn Brigham was recorded there, as was the latest from Nick Weaver, Shorty Fresco and many more.
Favorite Video Director(s) of 2018
Mitch: Town ENT, Dylan Fout, and Justin Frick.
Taylor: Dylan Fout, Jacob Hill, and Justin Frick — Justin is one of the nicest and calmest guys in person, but he’s ferocious with a camera in hand. This year, he won the award for the best music video at the Oregon Independent Film Festival for Karma Know’s song, “Sugar.”
Gary: Dylan Fout & Noah Zoltan Sofian — Auteur director Noah Zoltan Sofian released two of my favorite videos of the year. He’s got a unique, demented and hilarious style, best exemplified in his short film “Fantasy A Gets Jacked,” a 25-minute odyssey starting Fantasy A, everyone’s favorite rapper with autism. He also directed the video for “Ego Slave” by DoNormaal, which is another heady trip, as she fights off zombies on her way home from the grocery store.
Favorite DJ(s) of 2018
Mitch: K Phi, Tr3nt, Chong The Nomad, and BassKidsOnTheBeat
Taylor: Indica Jones, OC Notes, Stas Thee Boss, Umoore, and Wffls
Mac: Verbz & Drae Slapz
Gary: OC Notes — Prolific musician and producer OC Notes took over KEXP’s Sunday night Street Sounds from 6-9pm and created a new mind-expanding show, Sunday Soul, that’s got an original identity all his own. For most of 2018, he was also a resident DJ at Uppercuts, Monday night’s must-attend event at Sugar Hill Seattle alongside Def Dee. Until it folded in September, that was THE place to hear the best Seattle hip-hop, past, present, and future, and those in the know knew to be there every single Monday night. I certainly was.
Favorite Producer(s) of 2018
Mitch: Non-Stop Da Hitman is up for three Grammy nominations for working on some of the biggest projects of the year for the likes of Drake, Cardi B, and Migos. Eric G, who made the best record on Mac Miller’s Swimming album. I also can’t mention PNW producers without showing love to the incredible slap makers BassKidsOnTheBeat, Ike Watson, and Rob Reeves.
Taylor: Def Dee, Qreepz, Chong The Nomad, Vitamin D, Andrew Savoie, Elan Wright, Nima Skeemz, Keyboard Kid — THERE ARE A LOT OF TALENTED PRODUCERS OUT HERE
Gary: Chong The Nomad — In February she put out a self-released six-song EP, “Love Memo,” and then released a pair of epic singles in the summer. The strength of her recorded output, and a tour-de-force performance at Capitol Hill Block Party has catapulted her onto a much larger stage. She was recently on the cover of The Stranger, where they said “Bid adieu to Grunge, Chong The Nomad is about to blow up our music scene” while NYC’s Tom Tom Magazine declared her as a “young multi-instrumentalist shaping the future of dance music.” Not too shabby a set of accolades for her very first year on the scene.
— chongthenomad (@chongmakesmusic) October 4, 2018
Favorite Hip-Hop Band(s) of 2018
Mitch: Marshall Law Band and All Star Opera.
Taylor: All Star Opera & SUS — One of my favorite producers this year, Andrew Savoie, is not only in wicked hip-hop duo Remember Face, but he also plays drums in this sweet five-piece hip-hop-neo-soul-jazz-funk band, Sus. Their debut album, See U Soon, landed at #9 on my personal list of the top ten albums released in Washington for the Seattle Times.
Mac: The Pariahs
Gary: Kung Foo Grip — They dropped a bunch of hit singles, some viral videos and performed at SXSW, Upstream, Soundwave, Bumbershoot, opened for Macklemore at the Washington State Fair and sold out a bunch of other shows. On December 22nd, they played a sold-out Tractor Tavern with local legend Sir Mix-A-Lot. In the summer they did an in-store record signing at Sonic Boom in Ballard and some fans were asking them to sign their faces.
Favorite Release(s) of 2018
Mitch: First, on my list is Travis Thompson’s YOUGOOD? The Seattle native released a well-rounded album that has amassed millions of streams, a sellout show, and a full-length movie with videos to every song on the project (that also sold out). Campana’s The Burner Tape and Making Ends Meet. While the emcee has previously been more known for his work with Cosmos The Band, his solo EP’s this year have been nothing short of incredible. I’d also give nods for See Red by Aaron Cohen, Raz’s Drive Theory, the Mafiaoso album from Mafi D and Frenchy Oso, Glewies World from MKF, Copestic by Taz Allen, 6 Days 6 Nights by Ralphy Davis, Cookie Jar by D. Mikey and Micstro, Kiss The Sky from Romaro Franscewa and Sugar by Karma. (Damn man…so much good music this year, I’m missing some and I’ll probably be crucified for it).
Taylor: Bloom by Parisalexa & Sorry We Lost You by MistaDC — I know every word, every bass line, every little nuance to both of these projects. I have incorporated them into my daily routine, spinning each album start to finish at least once a day. Too many notable releases to name them all but from this month alone; Making Ends Meet by Campana, Before There Was Nothing EP by Def Dee, and Eye of the Beholder by Porter Ray.
Gary: I’ve got a three-way tie here:
Darth Sueder by AJ Suede — I love the sparse, minimal and mostly drum-free backdrops that bring AJ Suede’s storytelling and wordplay to the fore. This record feels like you’re walking around the town, shooting the shit. It’s comfortably rooted in a real place. AJ Suede drives home some very pointed criticism of policing and race, and then stops to rap some ordinary, daily moment, like “you can catch me by Revolver trying to buy a torta.”
Local Dope Dealer by BlkSknn — I’ve lost count of how many times I listened to this CD. It’s been a permanent fixture in my car since it was released in September. The verses are catchy and the production, from OldMilk, is so, so much fire. It’s a deeply inventive and poetic, and there’s a cool series of skits throughout as the guys try to beat the latest side-scrolling video game.
Channel Surfing by Perry Porter — Manic, punk and confident as hell. “Channel Surfing” dropped in January like it was from another planet, with a muppet cartoon commentator who appears throughout and unifies the stoned high energy chaos. This is some strange and magical shit.