by Brian Everstine, Leah Sottile and Mike Corrigan
The world of hip-hop has become synonymous with made-for-radio singles that predictably fly up the charts, but Seattle's Boom Bap Project is doing everything they can to change that perception. With their new album Reprogram, the group's three MCs are trying to accomplish two things: 1) To revive the all-but-forgotten true music and culture of hip-hop's roots, and 2) Once and for all, to put the Pacific Northwest on the map in the hip-hop world. These hip-hop revivalists will be appearing at the B-Side this Saturday night.
The Boom Bap Project's rise through the indie scene came on the back of the group's sound, which is a throwback to the glory days of hip-hop, the time of Run DMC, Public Enemy and KRS-one. For the past seven years, the group (made up of Karim aka Nightclubberlang, Destro Destructo and DJ Scene) has battled and pushed its way to a state of prominence. Now, with the help of Rhymesayers Entertainment (the label that was the home for Atmosphere and MF Doom, among others), the Boom Bap Project is ready to release Reprogram.
In the true sprit of hip-hop, Reprogram features the attitudes and beats that first made the genre famous. The disc features many guests including Dilated Peoples, Blackalicious, DJ Vin Roc and the Seattle crew Oldominion. Also, a team of producers, made up of Jake One, Vitamin D, Bean One, Mr. Hill and more worked on the album to bring the old-school sound mixed with a new sound that has been growing out of the Northwest.
A wave of hype has been building up for the release of the album, due to the group's considerably unorthodox sound. They call it the "Seattle Hip-hop," a sound that represents the Pacific Northwest, a region that has not produced many artists in the hip-hop world (other than Sir-Mix-a-Lot).
Seattle has risen to prominence in all styles of rock, producing artists that become famous and even legendary. With the rise of groups like the Boom Bap Project, the hip-hop culture in the Puget Sound area will be able to experience the same type of acceptance and success that other instrument-based rock artists have been enjoying for decades.
I say the word "rap," and what do you think of? Lemme guess: posses and bling. How about Bentleys, bitches and blunts? You're probably picturing Ludacris, or Lil Jon. Maybe Jay-Z, Eminem, Dr. Dre or Ice Cube. God forbid you're thinking of 50 Cent.
But it's probably pretty unlikely that your first thought was the Wu-Tang Clan. And that, my friend, is a damn shame.
Because with all of the 50 Cents and the Lil Jon's out there -- the talentless rappers -- you would think that clear talent would shimmer through the industry's pre-packaged haze.
While people are wasting what's left of their hearing on overproduced studio rap, the Wu-Tang Clan uses rap for a cause. Sure, theirs isn't clean or holistic in any way -- but it's rap that makes you think, that poses questions, that considers arguments and speaks to reality. And by reality, I'm not talking the false notions of riches and bitches of P. Diddy; I mean the reality of the streets, of gangs, of drugs and of poverty. And behind the nine-man rap army, in the shadows of the RZA, the GZA and Method Man, is Inspectah Deck. He's most the lyrically realistic of the bunch, and, now with Old Dirty Bastard long gone, Deck might be the one who can best speak to those hard-knock issues.
Considered one of the lesser-known members of the Clan along with Masta Killa and U-God, Deck is nevertheless one of the group's most verbally savvy members and one of its most well-versed in the recording studio. And it was those things that first attracted the RZA from Brooklyn to Staten Island in order to recruit Deck, who plays Fat Tuesday's on Sunday night.
After joining the Clan, Deck was quickly dubbed "Inspector" because of his quiet, observant style -- and, of course, in order to sound hip-hoppy, the "or" was dropped and replaced with an "ah": Inspectah.
Deck made a splash with the Clan with his raw, honest lyrics. Unlike so many rappers, he was actually from the projects in Staten Island -- and that's what he rapped about. His verbal stylings were first heard on the Wu's 1993 debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), sending the strongest message on the hit single, "C.R.E.A.M.": "Who explained working hard may help you maintain / to learn to overcome the heartaches and pain / We got stickup kids, corrupt cops, and crack rocks / and stray shots, all on the block that stays hot / Leave it up to me while I be living proof / To kick the truth to the young black youth."
In The Wu-Tang Manual, the RZA details that Deck's compelling style was part of the reason that he was chosen for the Clan. Fresh out of jail and living in the Park Hill Projects of Staten Island, he brought a fresh edge to the Clan. And he's kept that through the years.
But like all of the members of the nomadic Wu-Tang Clan, Deck tried his hand at a solo career in the mid '90s. He finally dropped his debut solo effort, Uncontrolled Substance, in 1999 and watched it reach the Top Five on the R & amp;B charts. He reemerged again on the later Wu albums, The W and Iron Flag.
Sure, he might not be appearing on Chappelle's Show or in Coffee & amp; Cigarettes like the other members of the Clan, but he's still a permanent member -- bringing the edge, the soul and the reality to the group's songs. And that's what keeps Wu-Tang the most real, most unadulterated group on the rap shelves. It's also what will always keep them behind those polished, pretty rappers; sometimes hearing too much about the "real life of the streets" is just too real for listeners to handle. -- Leah Sottile
Inspectah Deck performs with Afu-Ra, Planet Asia and Bad Penmanship OMT on Sunday, June 26, at 7 pm at Fat Tuesday's. Tickets: $10; $15, at the door. Call 325-SEAT.
Amy Martin is a folk singer/songwriter from Missoula, Mont., who promotes herself and her music the traditional way -- by getting out and hitting the hot asphalt. But as a modern woman, she's also hip to the wonders of the Internet and its promotional powers. Martin makes a stop at the Shop this Friday night for a performance at 7 pm with local folk artist Not Your Average Joe.
But it's through computer technology that she'd been able to make her music available to folkies in every corner of the globe. Last October, her independent label, Raven's Wing Records, launched a personal pay-per-download Web site featuring the artist's entire catalog of recorded music. Fans anywhere in the world can log on to www.amymartin.org and score Martin's music for a cool $1 per song or $10 per album. For Martin and working musicians everywhere, it sure beats sitting on a street corner with an open guitar case. --Mike Corrigan
Amy Martin and Not Your Average Joe play on Friday, June 24, at 7 pm at the Shop, 924 S. Perry St. Tickets: $7. Call 534-1647.
Out on the verdant, wind-swept prairies surrounding the small town of Davenport, Wash., summers take their own sweet time unfolding. And except for the creak of windmills and the occasional roar of crop dusters, it's pretty quiet out here. Scary quiet. That is, unless it happens to be the end of June and the Huckleberry Jamm Bluegrass Festival is in town -- as it is this coming weekend, June 24-26 at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds. Then you'll find that things get considerably louder -- even a tad boisterous -- prairie-style.
Structured as a family-friendly event with a designated kids' play area, kid-centric activities and whole-family ticket packages, the Huckleberry Jamm also rakes in some of the finest picking and fiddling talent in the region. This year's lineup includes the South Austin Jug Band, the New South Fork Bluegrass Band, Prairie Flyer, the Ross Nickerson Banjo Road Show, the South Hill Ramblers, Grass Act and the Seattle School Bluegrass Kids.
There will be plenty of food options at the site, courtesy of local vendors. Camping is available for anything from $7 (for a tent site) to $25 (for an RV hookup) per day. (RV hookups plus tent sites on a first-come, first-served basis.)
This thing is going down come rain or shine, so if you're planning on it, dress appropriately, bring something to sit on, leave the booze and wacky tobacky at home and get set to enjoy some brisk, old-time style and sweet mountain-music musings surrounded by some of the flattest geography Washington state has to offer. --Mike Corrigan
Huckleberry Jamm Bluegrass Festival at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds, Davenport, Wash., on Friday-Sunday, June 24-26. Tickets: $10; $30, family. Three-day passes: $14; $42, family; free, kids 12 and younger. Visit www.davenportwa.org or call (509) 725-2810.