2019 was incredible for the music scene in Washington. So many artists released highly anticipated projects that ended up being, in my opinion, the best of their career so far. I also feel like the Northwest popped up on the musical radar of the rest of the country, and even across the globe.
So, when Michael Rietmulder of the Seattle Times reached out to me for my list of the top ten local albums of 2019, I started sweatin’ just thinking about how difficult it would be to narrow it down. I couldn’t even begin to rank them from one to ten, either, because each album on this list is such a uniquely successful project. From the jump, I never wanted to stop at ten; I knew from January that the year was going to be magical for album releases. So, I’ve compiled an alternate list, on top of my original one, that features ten more of Seattle’s top local albums of 2019.
I decided to take a deep dive into every album and explain to y’all why I was rockin’ with each one. There are no rankings here, just a long list of diverse music to satisfy your ears. I’ve even included a Spotify playlist that features all 20 albums.
Seattle’s Top Local Albums of 2019
Top Ten Albums Chosen For The Seattle Times
Porter Ray, Eye of the Beholder (from Dec 2018)
In 2018, the deadline to submit our picks was in early December. This left out the artists who ended up releasing their albums after the deadline passed, but still technically within the year. Michael let us critics know that those releases would be fair game to include. On December 14th, 2018, Porter Ray released the hypnotic album, Eye of the Beholder, and there was no way I was letting this album not get recognized.
After listening to the album just once, I don’t think you’ll argue with me that Porter Ray deserves to be on my list. The dreamy atmospheric beats and his poetic rhymes peak through, what seems like, a curtain of blunt smoke as this cohesive album envelops you into an alternate reality. It’s an emotional ride from start to finish, but making it through to the end is worth it every time.
MistaDC, Sorry We Lost You (from Dec 2018)
This is an album that I had been waiting to hear for a long time. I had seen MistaDC perform, had listened to his collab project with Samurai Del, MistaSamurai, and had streamed his song, “Sunrays,” a good couple thousand times. I was more than ready to hear his debut album, Sorry We Lost You.
It seems like it could translate into a theatrical play. You can almost envision the curtains pulling back as the first song begins. A running theme throughout the past couple of years has been unapologetic emotional honesty and DC gives us that in this mystical world that he created. His track, “Don’t Call,” with Parisalexa, is a quintessential duet for any music lovers library.
Ellis Prescott, In Love With Heartbreak
I feel like In Love With Heartbreak came out of nowhere and was something that I had no idea I needed in my life so badly. I was very familiar with El’s work with TownENT but had no clue he was a rapper/singer himself. But when he dropped his debut album, it gave me the same feeling that I used to get when I would spend hours listening to R&B late at night in my room. I would sing into my mirror and torture my soul with songs of heartbreak over and over and over again. *Cue up Usher’s Confessions II music video*
I’m a romantic at heart, which is a huge reason why I connected so strongly to this album. But, it’s undeniable the catchiness of his hooks and melodies throughout the album. Combine that with a crispy clean mixdown and we got ourselves a recipe for success.
Sol, Soon Enough
When I want to embrace my emotions, I listen to Sol. Whether that’s to smile, to cry, or to contemplate the complexities of life, his music takes me there. Listening to Soon Enough feels like watching a summer sunset at Golden Gardens. It feels like driving down Lake Washington Blvd in the springtime. Sol evokes, in me, the same feeling I get at Green Lake in the fall, when I’m hella blunted and excessively appreciative of the foliage. Overall, to me, Soon Enough is as beautiful as the city is when it’s dressed up for the holidays and for that, it’s undoubtedly one of Seattle’s top local albums of 2019.
J’von, Dream Surfer
There once was a time in my life where I had a magical thing called free time. A time where I could hang out all day on the couch playing video games. J’von puts me back into that light-hearted mentality with his video game-inspired album, Dream Surfer. He takes an animated, and often acrobatic, approach to his delivery creating a dynamic landscape for your ears to explore.
Macntaj, Trappy Gilmore 2
The Trappy Gilmore concept was born from a joke during a phone call but has turned into a major moment in Macntaj’s career. The first Trappy Gilmore tape was released at the end of 2018. Then, in July of 2019, he brought his humorous side to Trappy Gilmore 2, giving us a collection of great one-liners throughout.
The diversity of tracks takes you on a journey from start to finish with high energy bangers intertwined with slower more dramatic and heartfelt songs. A series of music videos accompany the release adding to the overall cinematic-nature of the project. After running the album back many, many times, I can confidently say that I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
Perry Porter, Bobby Ro$$
If I were to name an album the absolute best of 2019, Perry Porter’s Bobby Ro$$ would probably be the one I would choose. Every aspect of his album release was done exceptionally well. From the color theory concept behind the album to the live performances throughout the year, the album was firing on all cylinders.
Then you start to peel back the layers of the songs. Not only does he have a sonically pleasing album, but the content within has substance to it that promotes self-reflection and expression. As artsy as this album is, Perry is still spittin’ out some of the nastiest bars I ever heard.
Travis Thompson, Reckless Endangerment
Travis Thompson’s growth over the past few years has been dope to watch. In September, he released Reckless Endangerment, his first album since signing with Epic Records earlier in the year. You can hear the progression of his talent in every song. Even the album art sets the tone for the elevated experience. Also, who else released a song, in recent years, that features, not one, not two, but three of the biggest Seattle hip-hop legends? His track, “Glass Ceiling,” features a verse each from Prometheus Brown a.k.a. Geo of Blue Scholars, Macklemore, and friggin Sir Mix-A-Lot, the OG King of the Northwest.
Blake Anthony, Blake Anthony
Blake Anthony got real soulful on his self-titled EP. He got town legend, Vitamin D to mix and master the entire album, as well as production from frequent collaborators, Wffls and DJ Grumble.
Tonally, Blake’s voice is smooth but smoky; a unique sound that probably only develops from smoking blueberry Swishers. He flows over each beat, switching up his cadence to match the undertones of the beat, whether it’s jazz, g-funk, or reggae, BA finds the pocket. Words seem to fall out of his mouth effortlessly, making even the most slanted of rhymes seem like a natural fit.
Def Dee and LA, Symmetry
One of my favorite duos in the city, Def Dee and LA, has been making bangers for years. I still have their 2012 release, Gravity, in my heavy rotation. When I heard they were releasing another project, I got SUPER excited.
Symmetry makes me want to grab a boombox, throw down a cardboard box and start breaking. LA makes rapping seem easy as he serves up dozens of freshly baked bars. The way his delivery blends seamlessly into Def Dee’s production brings it to another level. The project is quick, but mighty, lingering in my ears long after it’s finished. Forever, it’s 96 ’til I d-i-e.
Another List of 10 of Seattle’s Top Local Albums of 2019
LIVt, Black Girl Unbothered
LIV’s, Black Girl Unbothered, has only been released for a short time but has already made a major impact on the scene. Her EP came in at number 11 on the Times’ list of Seattle’s top local albums of 2019. If I could have presented 11 titles, this one would have rounded out my original list.
I feel like LIV has tapped into the depths of her soul and is now on a path to create some of the dopest music this region has seen. Between her sultry lyrics and Shayhan’s brilliant production, this project will be in rotation for a very long time.
Bruce Leroy, Laura Charles EP
Bruce Leroy can make you a fan in just four bars or less, guaranteed. His smooth swagger helps transcend the dual rhythmic relationship between his rhymes and some of the classic boom-bap beats behind them. In February of 2019, he teamed up with eTc Tacoma to release the Laura Charles EP. As pure as hip-hop gets, this EP has no frills, no gimmicks, just solid gold bars.
Raz Simone, More Than Sex
A lot of romantic music was released this year and we saw a huge resurgence of R&B with that. Raz has always had a softer poetic side to him, so when he released More Than Sex, I wasn’t surprised by it. He’s always been one of my favorites, ever since he and Sam Lachow released their 5 Good Reasons EP. Any music that sparks an emotional reaction in me deserves to be on my year-end list and More Than Sex does just that.
MistaDC, HappyER Now
Picture yourself in those sweet, sweet moments when nobody else is around. You have nothing time-sensitive to do and you truly feel free to be yourself. Those times where no one is around to judge you for your awful dance moves or off-key singing. MistaDC’s 2019 release, Happyer Now, captures that essence in just five songs.
For 15 minutes, MistaDC makes all of life feel like those moments when you’re dancing while no one’s watching. The music will fill your bones and lift your spirits allowing you to embrace a ‘happyer’ outlook on life.
Dave B, Bleu
Been a fan of Dave B. since he released The Coffee EP after winning Sound Off! in 2013. Steadily over the years, he has released one incredible project after another and Bleu is no different. He truly has a unique sound that sets him apart from everything else around him. I recently received the vinyl from Crane City Records, and let me tell you, it is a must-have for any collector. Even my late grandfather would have loved this album and for that, it deserves to be in my list of the top albums of 2019.
AJ Suede, Darth Sueder IV
AJ Suede has slowly crept his way into being one of my top rappers at the moment. He first caught my attention when he dropped the “Brujeria” music video from his album, Darth Sueder II, which was released at the end of 2018. Suede went on to release a total of five projects(!) throughout 2019.
In March, he gave us the fourth installment of the Darth Sueder series. The beats behind the tape were completely produced by AJ Suede himself. Overall, Darth Sueder IV feels light and effervescent, almost like the feeling I get while watching the snowfall through a window while I’m cozy and warm inside.
Guayaba is an incredibly talented songstress that can hit runs that even Usain Bolt would have trouble keeping up with. When you press play on Fantasmagoria you are stepping into another spiritual realm. Her haunting vocals follow you as your spirit wanders from track to track. With a heavy Latin influence, the album embodies the meaning of Dia De Los Muertos and the honoring of spirits passed. Whether those be the spirits of your past selves or previous relationships, songs like, “Triste Domingo,” emphasize the concept of death within life.
Jay Loud, Nap Town
The album is catchy as fuck. Loud flaunts his singing voice in between verses packed with lyrics that stick to your ears. Bouncing between hip-hop and R&B, Jay Loud showing us his diverse range. He has all the makings of a successful artist and I think we’re going to see his career propel forward in 2020.
Gifted Gab, Cause & Effect
You’re just silly if you ain’t rockin’ with Gifted Gab’s album Cause & Effect. Another project that balances between being hip-hop and R&B, Gab split the tracklist to give us the best of both of her talents, singing, and rapping. On top of that, Gab designed the album artwork as well, adding a unique and personal touch to the album listening experience.
Her technical ability has been polished over the years, allowing her to serve up bar after bar flawlessly throughout the album. The production from Antwon Vinson amplifies Gifted Gab’s emphasis on the classic sounds of hip-hop while, oftentimes, incorporating modern approaches to the beat.
Aaron Cohen, Raw Every Day
If you want some gritty, face-full of pavement type bars, listen to Aaron Cohen. His album, Raw Every Day, is certified Grade-A beef that is best served over the loudest speakers you have. It’s overflowing with hearty rhymes that will fill you up from start to finish as Aaron flips through cadences like the pages of a book, using every track to tell a different story.
This is the kind of album you put on when you need to release some energy. Whether you’re angry at the world, working out at the gym or just want to vibe out and dance, Raw Every Day has something for everyone.
Stream T’$ Top 20 Local Albums Of 2019
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