"Got so much pride in them three numbers" - Stalley
"Gotta be true to yourself individuality always secures your fate" - Vitamin D
By means of an introduction to the topic of Townbiz, allow me to direct you an interview recently done at the Coolout Network's 20 year anniversary party held at the Crocodile Cafe. Conducted by local promotions guru Gene "Mr. Miyagi" Dexter and Sacha Starr, among others they spoke to J. Moore (who I was introduced to back in 1995 as Wordsayer from the group Source of Labor) and my man Larry Mizell Jr about the significance of the evenings festivities. While Mr. Dexter initially downplays his ability to form a "groundbreaking" question, he smartly opens up the door for J. Moore to drop some serious science about the history and journey our Northwest scene has taken these last two decades, making reference to a time where it was difficult to get hip-hop shows booked in and around Seattle.
When it comes to defining the difference between making music now and how it used to be, this fact is as similarly significant as are the finite increased costs of producing your own music 20 ish years ago compared to now. Stumbling blocks such as these, alternatively known at the time as "paying dues" are largely unknown in the current media climate. Imagine if you will the frustration of trying to carve out a career as a hip-hop artist where exists a teeming pool of people desperate to drink in just about any aspect of hip-hop culture, but held back from that audience by promoters and venue owners who were skeptical about putting on hip-hop shows, regardless of content, audience or the actual factual dollars that could have been made.
To that point, here are J. Moore's comments (you can watch the whole thing if you like, or fast forward to the 2:25 mark to get right to the healthy spoonful of knowledge):
"...All of the things that I may have done, It's not I, it was always done with the collective sense of we and for something and a purpose beyond just myself. So, it's always been my city first, my community, my crew, and anything that follows that.
...Seattle you know, 20 years later, it's still kind of pushing along and everybody is always waiting for something to break through, but I don't think it's a breakthrough thing. It's a thing about growth and just evolution and natural maturation. We're like a self sustaining ecosystem in our own environment here. We can do shows like this and events and have our own clubs and everything and be respected on an international level.
...We've gotta continue to recognize that Seattle is world class, and as long as you treat it that way from your own perspective and mind state then rest of the world will follow."
The man's MC name is Wordsayer for a fucking reason.
I've recently thought often about J. Moore's words, both with regard to our "scene" but also considering my own musical habits. As of late I have enveloped myself fully (save for the above referenced Salley mixtape and Big KRIT's new one - both excellent) in the a never ending torrent of quality Seattle music, and I have not wanted for quantity, quality or variation. For whatever direction my ears and id desire to take, I can find an artist from the 206 (no shots 425, 360, 253 - you get love too) to satisfy that particular desire. What does this mean? Should I impart some special significance to the music I listen to because it originated from the same area code as I did ? Yes as a matter of fact I should - and I do.
Maybe this is how it feels to be a New Yorker. Not like the gentrified, post Giuliani / Bloomberg faux New Yorker that J-Zone so eloquently rails against. I'm taking about the super obnoxious stereotypical loud and mouthy New Yawker - who's tunnel vision extends no farther than their precious five boroughs as a hard boundary for anything significant and worthy of recognition. You know, the assholes.
As much as I have an unhealthy amount of contempt for the New Yawker (mostly because of the Yankees), I am coming around to the idea of respecting their nearly delusional affection toward New York. I mean, without that kind of blind worship, how does someone like Papoose carve out even the most meager of careers, not to mention being lumped in with a bakers dozen of other artists who were going to "bring New York back" - whatever the fuck that meant. It's that kind of allegiance and affiliation, sometimes blind and sometimes not, that I am beginning to understand and appreciate.
Specific to our own situation, I think that right now within Seattle exists a large number of people who have a heartfelt yearning to embrace something that is unquestionably ours. Perhaps this is more emotional shrapnel from the theft of our Sonics, and for more on that particular issue I defer to the good people at Sonicsgate. Either way, I do believe that among other factors, within the crater of that void you will find a significant reason for why people seem to search for something, anything to bring us together, and right now that thing is music.
I thought that in part explains Macklemore's success, culminating with the recent three sold shows at the Showbox. Undoubtedly, his career has been one long in the making and born from tireless amounts of shows, music, media, etc., but I still believe that the particular emotional climate of our city plays a part. Consider the fact that that he and Ryan Lewis are able to get a predominantly 21 and under crowd to respond frantically to a song who's dualing subjects are a recently deceased baseball announcer (The Great Dave Niehaus) (not exactly Sexyback) and a 1995 Mariner team who's artfully recapped expoits are from a time when the average audience member was less than 5 years old. Why is that (c) KRS-One?
I also suspect some of reason for that response is a natural blowback from how disingenuous most popular music is currently. For a teenager looking for anything that resonates with even a hint of emotion, a song about cough syrup and pill addiction, or a song about the beauty of baseball and what Dave Niehaus meant to to us stands out as a beacon of light in comparison. Past those macroeconomic truths however, I still believe that what J. Moore says rings true. We are our own ecosystem.
The Seattle hip-hop scene is now in generational in it's longevity, and there are clear linear lines linking artists of our past to artists of our present. Certainly this occurs because artists who broke ground, broke moulds and paid dues in their past continue to be relevant. I'm not talking about relevant in the sense of putting in half hearted feature appearances and robotic repetition. I'm talking about relevance through progression of the craft. Perfection of the art form. Fearless innovation. Artists who continue to etch in stone their legacy by putting hard fought talent and abilities - again, acquired in a time period where there were existentially more costs to do so - on display for you and I to enjoy.
To that point, this whole post about the thriving ecosystem that is the Seattle music scene would be nothing more than sycophantic bullshit were the actual music not absolutely excellent. It is. And without a doubt I have railed against the sea change that has taken place with regard to music in the last two decades - the decreasing importance of a physical and purchased music product and the increased priority on free music, viral and social network marketing, blah blah blah - but without these breakthroughs there is simply not the freedom of access that allows this music to be heard and be spread.
Maybe I'm wrong, and my theory about some sort of city or region-wide yearning for togetherness vis a vie music is just some writer bullshit. Fine, but then let me then speak for myself. I have a fairly large music collection, and recently I've seriously contemplated dumping all of it, save for Seattle music, just so I can that much more easily keep this Townbiz shit at the forefront of my mind. I'm not saying that I would. But I'm saying that I could.
I feel legitimate pride in the successes and the progress of our Northwest musicians, and I could care less whether the rest of the world notices. Within this thing of ours, there now exist means for the artists to be successful and recognized simply on the strength of their resonation within our own region.
We don't need your approval or recognition. I am *invested* in this. Motherfucking Townbiz.