206ness 2013: A Celebration of Seattle Hip Hop [Bracketology]

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Live from occupied Duwamish territory, I bring you this massive post celebrating the Seattle hip hop scene.

I originally considered writing this article in my younger days when I first started this blog back in 2009, but decided against it for two reasons. The first was that I don't believe in ranking songs/albums/mixtapes as better or worse than each other. Good music should be appreciated as good music without the pressure of being quantified.

The second and frankly more pressing concern was that there wasn't enough of a Northwest hip hop scene to make it worthwhile. Had I put together this bracket four years ago, it would have been composed almost entirely out of Blue Scholars, Common Market, and Dyme Def songs and I would have had to stretch it to include 64 songs.

So, what's changed over the past four years? We've seen the continued emergence and growth of post-Massline generation acts like Dyme Def, The Physics, Fresh Espresso, and Grynch to name a few. We've seen the reconstruction of Nissim (formerly D. Black), the resurrection and subsequent explosion of Macklemore, and the emergence of talented young producers in P Smoov, Ryan Lewis, and Brainstorm.

For me, this post isn't so much about determining what Seattle songs are better, so much as celebrating the artists and songs that have transformed the city into a shining beacon within the hip hop community. Far removed from the draconian burdens of the Teen Dance Ordinance, hip hop in the Upper Left is alive and thriving.

The quality of the music has reached the point where, in the process of compiling this article, I narrowed down the potential songs to a quote-unquote "short" list of 187 songs. There are so many talented local artists that classics such as "Second Chapter," "White Privilege," and "North By Northwest" didn't make the final cut. Four years ago, I probably would have had to include "Baby Got Back." Today, it didn't even make the song short list (though "Posse's On Broadway" made the short list--the song is a lot better than memory serves).

Artists from 25 groups make at least one appearance on the list, pushing even the revered Blue Scholars song, "The Ave," (probably my favorite of their live songs) off the final 64 song cut.

The difference between #42 and #90 was minuscule, so an argument could be made for many more songs making the list. If you can't believe that I left off Song A or had Song B beating Song C, please be sure to give your preference and describe, in great detail, precisely how brain damaged you believe me to be in the comments section below. I encourage the conversation and enjoy hearing what other people's favorites are (especially if you believe that I overlooked an artist).

Considering the songs that just missed, the final 64 is a fairly select group that's also fairly representative of the music scene as a whole. As I mentioned, emcees from twenty-five local acts make at least one appearance on the list with Massline, Sportn' Life, Out For Stardom, and most local consortiums being represented. But enough of me talking. You want to hear the music.

(I'll apologize in advance for the scrolling. Blogger.com evidentially doesn't understand the benefit of multiple page posts)

A couple of ground rules on the tournament/eligibility before we get started (skip unless you plan on critiquing the selections):

1.) I'm not referring specifically to Seattle artists, but to Washington artists as a whole (e.g. Dyme Def's from Renton). For our purposes, a northwest emcee is defined as someone who a.) grew up for a large chunk of their life in Washington and either still lives here or is only a recent transplant elsewhere. GMK is considered a Northwest emcee even though he moved to L.A. a couple years back, whereas Y-O of U-N-I doesn't count because he moved from Seattle to Inglewood when he was young. Or b.) someone who was based in Washington when they made their music. RA Scion counts even though he's from Kentucky, Fresh Espresso even though they're from Michigan, Geo even though he grew up in Hawaii.

2.) This one's going to be controversial, but to be eligible at least half of the emcees on the song must be Northwest emcees or it must be featured on a Seattle album. Ishmael Butler's work as Shabazz Palaces counts, but his work as 1/3 of Digable Planets does not (so no "Cool Like Dat"). Even though Geo kills it on the "Oh Really Remix," that doesn't count either. I realize that Northwest producers are unsung and deserve all the credit that they can get, but if we let Jake One's work with De La Soul, 50 Cent, Royce Da 5'9" or countless other national acts be categorized as Northwest songs, it really opens up the floodgates to songs that few would consider as such.

3.) As long as it follows rule two, songs from mixtapes, EPs, demos, and remixed songs count. (So "The Last Hope," which is a remix of a Drake song, but features all Northwest artists counted and made the short list, but not the final cut).

4.) To avoid redundancy, in the case where the song is a remix of a Northwest song that doesn't change the lyrics drastically, only one version will be selected (Hence the original version of  "The Town" making it over the Sabzi Remix and Ryan Lewis' remix of "Big or Small" making the short list over the original). Loyalty I & II both make the list because they're drastically different lyrically and from a production standpoint.

5.) Who makes the tournament is entirely subjective, based on my own personal preference.

6.) The seedings are based on popularity based on quantitative measures (sum total number of views from the top three videos of each song on YouTube). The remaining songs that aren't listed on YouTube (of which there are six), will be ranked based off of play counts on my iPod. It's not the most fair seedings and gives a lot more weight to Macklemore's overnight celebrity, but it puts the seedings out of my hands and also sets up the potential for some crazy upsets (including one first-round shocker).

7.) Based on their seeds, songs are placed into one of four regions: Bayani, The Heist, Space Music, and Oh, That's Hella Filthy.

8.) Who advances is, again, subjective, based on my own personal preference.

Now that we have that out of the way, we're finally moving on to round one. Note that this is your last chance to leave the page. Push back everything. I've got you for the next 20. To quote the Physics, "It's about to be on up in here. Hit the Music!"

Round 1:


(1) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - "Can't Hold Us" (feat. Ray Dalton) vs. (16) Spaid - "Love Affair"
I'm a fan of Spaid's soulful ode to the open road, but it isn't really a match for The Heist-single. More on that in the next round.

(8) The Physics - "Ready For We" (feat. Miss Malice) vs. (9) Blue Scholars - "BUTTER&GUN$ (Loyalty II)"
A tough early match-up between two great songs that I went back on forth on. Loyalty II has some of Sabzi's best production matched by Geo's revolutionary rhetoric, but I'll go with the song that introduced The P-H-Y-S-I-C-S.

(5) Common Market - "Re-Fresh" vs. (12) Grynch - "Memory Lane" (feat. Sonny Bohono)
Another tough early round draw between two northwest classics (get used to it, the top 64 is the creme de la creme). I totally connect with this nostalgic Grynch song because I'm in that right age demographic where I woke up early on Saturdays to watch Ninja Turtles and remember more than a few birthdays bowling at the Sunset before it closed down. It's one of the best tracks about growing up, but there's no denying the first track off Common Market's self-titled debut. The allusion to Illmatic in the form of the passing train is warranted. Common Market was a triumph of golden age sound. The minute those horns kick in, you're hooked. RA Scion's superb lyrical skill is an added bonus.

(4) Macklemore - "I Said Hey" vs. (13) GMK - "Music Swinger"
To call this Songs For Bloggers song catchy would be an understatement. Had GMK's "Music Swinger" drawn a lot of the other songs on this list it would be moving on, but I'm a total sap for this Language of My World gem. More on that later.

(6) Common Market - "Black Patch War" vs. (11) Grynch - "Smoke and Mirrors" (feat. Geologic & Tunji)
Only RA Scion could rap from the perspective of a nineteenth century tobacco farmer and make it sound cool. Sabzi's absolutely epic instrumental has a lot to do with it. It's an absolute banger that's further proof of one of the golden rules of hip hop: you can rap about whatever you want, so long as you have filthy beats (see Talib, Mos Def, PE, countless others). You can't have conscious lyrics and conscious beats or the song loses a lot of steam. "Black Patch War" advances over the Geo and Tunji-assisted closing track off The Chemistry EP.

(3) Blue Scholars - "No Rest For The Weary" vs. (14) Khingz - "Southend's Finest"
Life's too short for just 'Fuck You, Pay Me'/ Gotta new sport, that's 'Love You Crazy.'
Whenever I hear "Southend's Finest," I have to rewind the first verse at least 3-4 times. Even over this mellow instrumental, it's that good. But it's still not beating this legendary track off the Blue Scholars' self-titled debut. No Rest For The Weary, Blue Scholars keep goin'.

(7) Champagne Champagne - "Soda & Pop Rocks" vs. (10) Dyme Def - "GetDown"
I love this grimy introduction to CC, but "GetDown" moves on. People forget how groundbreaking Dyme Def's sound was. When I first put Space Music into my car, it was like nothing I'd ever heard before and was certainly like no sound that had ever come out of Seattle before. Sure, OutKast had been doing outer space since ATLiens but never with BeanOne/Brainstorm beats. This was before that next wave of KiD Cudis and Lil' Waynes started saying they were Martians and the album still blows me away today. Space Music proved that you didn't have to be a conscious rapper to be popular in The 6, opening the door for the post-Massline generation of acts like Fresh Espresso, State of the Artist, and Champagne Champagne. This song, the second after the superb introduction, hooked you in and let you know that this was something special. Don't cry for Champagne though, they're moving on elsewhere.

(2) Grynch - "My Volvo" vs. (15) Dyme Def - "Conscience"
I love this track off of 3BadBrothaaas. While not directly related, I see it as an interesting reversal of Eminem and Dre's "Guilty Conscience." Still, it's not upsetting Grynch's love letter to his '86 Volvo.

The Heist

(1) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - "Irish Celebration" vs. (16) Dyme Def - "Breathe Easy"
In the shocker of round one, The Vs. EP powerhouse falls to a Dyme Def song that doesn't even have a YouTube video. Stay with me. Both songs have Sweet 16/Elite 8 written all over them, but were unfortunate enough to meet in Round 1. The only reason that "Breathe Easy" wasn't seeded higher is because it was on DD's Sportn' Life Demo and most people haven't heard it (hence, no YouTube). Where "Irish" succeed with its crisp, refined sound--it's Beirut sample and conscious, but still party-anthem worthy lyrics--"Breath" succeeds for its raw, uncut sound. It's a triumph of rough simplicity. Its instrumental is essentially just a drum kit and hefty amounts of bass. Lyrically the Dyme Def trio is as sharp as they've ever been, giving stabbing verse after stabbing verse. "Breathe Easy" has a raw vibe that isn't really heard in hip hop these days and gives that same feeling you get when you listen to early Wu-Tang.

(8) Fresh Espresso - "Lazerbeams" vs. (9) D. Black - "Welcome To The Life" (feat. Dyme Def)
I didn't particularly care for D. Black's debut album and Fresh Espresso's Glamour. was one of my favorite 2009 albums. But in a clash between these two individual songs, I'll give the nod to the DD-assisted, BeanOne produced track with a high noon feel.

(4) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - "Crew Cuts" (feat. Xperience) vs. (13) The New Deal - "Untouchable"
Macklemore may be great at tetherball, but the Ghost of Biggie Smalls pushes The New Deal into the next round.

(5) Common Market - "Nothin' At All" vs. (12) Dyme Def - "3BadBrothaaas"
This may be a beautiful Common Market track, but the Still Living Spirit of Ad-Rock pushes Dyme Def into the next round.

(6) Scribes - "Roll My Way" vs. (11) The Physics - "These Moments"
Two great summer tracks. Scribes is good, but when they're at their best, few in The Town match up with The Physics. "These Moments," which opens Love Is A Business, sees them at their best. (Note: I'm referring to the explicit version that they released as a single...For some reason, The Physics have a bad habit of releasing clean albums without releasing the explicit version, which is my one big pet peeves.)

(3) Common Market - "Tobacco Road" vs. (14) Dyme Def - "Intro-Ducing"
Your wallet seems real heavy, a little too heavy to carry,
I'm just trying to help 'em out by any means necessary,
Suddenly I'm in the game and suddenly I'm legendary,
Suddenly your permanent position's turning temporary,
Turn away before it's too late, I'm too great,
No more time to eat you old n***as, I'm on a new plate.

The intro track to Space Music is one-liner on one-liner on one-liner, tight rhyme schemes, BeanOne beats, and Dyme Def swapping bars with such skill that it would make the Beasties blush. But it's still not upsetting the heartfelt title track to CM's sophomore album.

(7) Fresh Espresso - "Diamond Pistols" vs. (10) The Physics - "Love Is A Business"
Great Physics lyrics (Last night I had a strange dream/ I was drifting through the Town Floatin' on Cloud 16/ Trying to paint a picture on your brain like the Sistine/ The Black Michaelangelo, but prone to spit clean.) edged slightly by one of Seattle's best young producers. "Diamond Pistols" moves on.

(2) Macklemore - "The Town" vs. (15) Dyme Def - "DontEverGo" (feat. Choklate)
Soulful 3BadBrothaaas song, but it doesn't quite measure up to "The Town."

Space Music

(1) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - "Wing$" vs. (16) Fleeta Partee - "Sincerely Yours"
A tough draw for Fleeta. If more people knew about this song and it had been seeded higher, I could have seen it going to the Sweet 16. As it is, this undiscovered gem isn't quite on the same level as Wing$.

(8) D. Black - "This Is Why" vs. (9) Fresh Espresso - "Something New"
P Smoov may or may not compare his beats to carbombs in Jerusalem and that's part of the reason he and Rik Rude are moving on.

(5) Dyme Def - "ForTheWorld" vs. (12) Boom Bap Project - "Welcome To Seattle"
For every person born, another person dies,
So I'm not having kids just to save my brothers' lives.

"ForTheWorld" is one of the most beautiful tracks off Space Music (I'm serious when I say that the album had it all), but from the moment you hear, "Seattle can get done with a big 206ness," you're all in. Boom Bap moves on with this grimey Jake One beat and aim as steady as Ichiro's swing.

(4) Sol - "Stage Dive" vs. (13) Fearce & BeanOne - "I Want It All"
I love this endearing Solzilla track off his debut LP, Yours Truly. It's unfortunate that it ran up against a song that I'd be more than content playing on repeat until the end of time.

(6) KnowMads - "Saturdayzed" vs. (11) The Physics - "Good" (feat. Macklemore)
She keeps telling me I got game, 
Nah baby, just trying to dry hump you, bump some T-Pain.

The geeks may in fact get clowned when the clowns get geeked, but between these two uproarious summer songs the hilarious Macklemore verse proves to be the difference.

(3) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - "Kings" (feat. Champagne Champagne & Buffalo Madonna) vs. (14) Fearce & BeanOne - "Heart Breaker"
Jump n***as 'cause they thought I was a pawn,
But knowin' I'm a king, I'm about to get on.

This TGTN track is good, but not quite "I Want It All," and not even in the neighborhood (sorry, I had to) of the best track off Vs.

(7) KnowMads - "Sidewalkers" vs. (10) Spac3man - "Intro 40"
Spac3man can be hit or miss, but he's firing on all cylinders on this intro to Greetings Earthlings. One liners on top of one liners and the music video is something to behold. If I'm not mistaken, at one point he claims to have that Seattle heroin flow (injected with the Space Needle). Also, it remains a mystery whether the producer of this song, Jus Blaze [sic] is a misspelled Just Blaze or an enterprising young man riding his coat-tails. He's moving on, but the KnowMads still have songs elsewhere.

(2) Dyme Def - "LetitBe" vs. (15) Dyme Def - "MovinHigher"
In this battle between Space Music songs, "LetitBe" moves on.

Oh, That's Hella Filthy

(1) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - "Otherside" vs. (16) Dyme Def - "StickemUp"
Another Space Music track, but this one falls to the Macklemore's deeply personal drug addiction ballad.

(8) J. Pinder - "Go Far" vs. (9) KnowMads - "Sunrise"
With the soaring Kuddie Fresh instrumental, great message, and some of Pinder's best lyrics, "Go Far" is a Sweet 16/Elite 8 track. It just happens to meet the KnowMads' best track in the first round. "Sunrise" moves on.

(5) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - "The End" vs. (12) Fresh Espresso - "Right Here"
The Vs. EP remains one of my favorite seven-track runs ever and this was the perfect way to wrap it up. Lewis gives Haggerty the perfect instrumental (a touching combination of brass and piano) as he pens a thank you to the loved one who helped him battle his addiction. Whether he's talking to his fiancĂ© or to hip hop itself is left to the listener to decide. With all due respect to Fresh Espresso and one of the best tracks of Glamour., Macklemore and Ryan Lewis move on.

(4) Common Market - "Winter Takes All" vs. (13) The Physics - "Coronas On Madrona"
Another great summer song from the Physics, but it's still not going to upset this gorgeous Tobacco Road track.

(6) Symmetry & Ryan Lewis - "Feel Right" vs. (11) KnowMads - "Home"
Ryan Lewis' instrumental almost carries "Feel Right" to the next round, but there's only so far that a song without any actually rapping can go in this bracket. The nod goes to the KnowMads track off Saturdayzed.

(3) Blue Scholars - "Loyalty" vs. (14) State of the Artist - "What You Asked For" (feat. Champagne Champagne)
I know you sick of hearing, 'Champagne always simply killin,'
I was a good guy, now I'm a fuckin Super Villain.

If you had told me that neither version of "Loyalty" would make it out of Round One, I would have been stunned. When I first copped Bayani, it was in constant rotation for a few months. Part of it is the luck of the draw. These two songs are incredibly close and happen to be matched up in the first round. But a huge factor is the rapidly improving Seattle hip hop scene. "Loyalty" is a staple in The 6, but Champagne Champagne pushes "What You Asked For" over the top.

(7) Blue Scholars - "Hello" vs. (10) Dyme Def - "Fresh2Def"
The nod goes to the best song off OOF! over the Space Music bravado track.

(2) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - "Make The Money" vs. (15) Gabriel Teodros - "Beautiful World"
A tough draw for a gorgeous GT song. This is another one that could have gone far if not for the seedings.

Round 2:


In this battle between the laid-back Physics gem and legendary hype track, The P-H-Y-S-I-C-S just can't keep up. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis march on.

(5) "Re-Fresh" vs. (4) "I Said Hey"
Given the right seedings, both of these tracks are Elite Eight/Final Four worthy, but only one can advance. Despite the golden age horns and superb lyricism on "Re-Fresh," the Budo-produced "I Said Hey" lives to fight another day, setting up some Haggerty-on-Haggerty action in the Sweet 16.

(6) "Black Patch War" vs. (3) "No Rest For The Weary"
In this faceoff between Massline songs, I recognize that "Black Patch War" has the better lyrics, the better Sabzi instrumental, and the more frantic energy, but "No Rest For The Weary" is too important to the Seattle music scene to be knocked out this early. Plus, it must be kept in mind that, no mater how cool "Black Patch War" sounds, it's still about a splinter cell of the KKK.

(10) "GetDown" vs (2) "My Volvo"
One of the best Space Music songs, but as a broke college refugee Grynch's love song to his run down car speaks to me. The chopped and screwed Kanye hook slays me every time and that's why Grynch and his V-O-L-V-O move on.

The Heist

(16) "Breathe Easy" vs. (9) "Welcome To The Life"
In this match-up between two pre-Space Music tracks, it's really a matter of taste. Both have their fair share of one-liners and share a similar gritty nature that DD started to lose after Space Music. In most cases, I'd side with the BeanOne instrumental to break the tie, but "Breathe Easy" is one of those rare tracks where the sparse nature of the beat adds to the greater whole. That punches its ticket to the Sweet 16.

(12) "3BadBrothaaas" vs. (13) "Untouchable"
Expect me to grab my chips and cash in?
That's like asking Nazis to shave off their mustaches.

Biggie vs. Beasties. The New Deal vs. Dyme Def. Both songs feature ample one-liners and sampled hooks from esteemed artists. "3BadBrothaaas" has the slightly better instrumental. "Untouchable" has the better sample. It's close, but I'll put the New Deal into the next round, if only because they have more flows than bros have sandles.

(11) "These Moments" vs. (3) "Tobacco Road"
My favorite Physics song vs. my favorite Common Market song. "Tobacco Road" is one of the best songs to play when you're missing home (which I've done my fair share of having spent 90% of the past five years out of town). It doesn't matter that RA Scion is rapping about Kentucky, this is a song that can connect with just about any listener and it's getting the nod.

(7) "Diamond Pistols" vs. (2) "The Town"
The Seattle Anthem gets the nod over the Kickdrum Anthem. More on it later.

Space Music

(1) "Wing$" vs. (9) "Something New"
I'm partial to Wing$ because an early version of it was included in my first Macklemore post. I still prefer that powerful, chill-inducing spoken word rendition, but that doesn't take away from the power of this song. "Something New" may have a great instrumental, but few soar to the level "Wing$" achieves in terms of real substance.

(12) "Welcome To Seattle" vs. (13) "I Want It All"
In the Northwest, we're stubborn,
Got a problem with authority,
So we slide under the radar of the so called majority.

"Welcome To Seattle" perfectly summed up the feelings in Seattle hip hop at the time, but the soulful BeanOne sample and the fact that I can't stop playing it gives "I Want It All" a slight edge here.

(11) "Good" vs. (3) "Kings"
Young world, this the story of the kings,
A n***a couldn't decide should I rap or should I sing.
And since God blessed me with my wings
I'm like a lil' nappy-head Bill Russell with the rings, feel me?
Lately globetrottin' through a lotta traps,
Friends become rats, I'm talkin Judas in expensive slacks.
Fuck 'em, to tell the truth now I'm over that,
Suckers will be suckers, it don't matter that you roll with pack.
I steady grab my nuts and you can roll with that
Pardon my back, and the weight on my shoulders black
History's on my side, these niggas hard in they cars
But in the streets they can't look me in the eye.
-Thomas Grey

The Ryan Lewis instrumental and Champagne guest appearance is more than enough to help Macklemore knock out Macklemore (and The Physics).

(7) "Intro 40" vs. (2) "LetitBe"
Spac3man may hit with joke after joke and seemingly unlimited energy, but it's not enough to topple this Northwest heavyweight (more on it in later rounds).

Oh, That's Hella Filthy

(1) "Otherside" vs. (9) "Sunrise"
"Otherside" is the soaring, moving ballad about drug addiction that really put Macklemore on the national map. But on playlists, I typically have "Sunrise" follow directly behind "All Falls Down" and it more than holds its own. The first track off their first release remains the KnowMads' best and, after taking down a one seed, it's going to the Sweet 16.

(5) "The End" vs. (4) "Winter Takes All"
While Seattle hip hop has an increasingly diverse sound, something that's becomes increasingly obvious as we work through the bracket is that distinct Seattle sound. If a similar bracket were made for ATL (well, another one besides Rembert Browne's Stankoff), more and more trap music would come to the forefront. From LA, there would be more G-Funk. From NY, there would be a more diverse sound, but from Seattle (at least according to this writer's taste) we see more and more laid-back, but deeply profound songs emerging as we progress deeper into the bracket. This match-up is a perfect early example of those songs. Both are very even, so I'll give the nod to the Tobacco Road song because I prefer RA Scion's rhymes and delivery on the song.

(11) "Home" vs. (14) "What You Asked For"
The Champagne feature may have gotten them to the second round, but its not enough to get past this underrated KnowMads gem (more on that later).

(7)  "Hello" vs. (2) "Make The Money"
"Make The Money" has the better instrumental, but the best track off OOF! has the better lyrics and its moving on.

Sweet 16:


(1) "Can't Hold Us" vs. (4) "I Said Hey"
In this battle between old and new Mack, the Language Of My World song wins the day. As fun as "Can't Hold Us" is and as much shine as it gave to the region, it doesn't hold a candle to this absolutely gorgeous love letter to hip hop. "I Said Hey" is right up there with "Bird's Eye View" and "I Used To Love H.E.R." and it's going to the Elite 8.

(3) "No Rest For The Weary" vs. (2) "My Volvo"
This is the point where Grynch's volvo finally breaks down. From Renton to Shoreline, today's Seattle hip hop scene owes everything to the Blue Scholars. They were the first group to make it after the Teen Dance Ordinance and really helped to resurrect hip hop in the city. "No Rest For The Weary" is the swan song off their self-titled debut and one of their best live songs. For me, one of the group's crowning achievements will always be opening for (and demolishing) Kanye West at Bumbershoot 2006. It was a signal to the region and the entire country that Seattle artists could hang with just about anyone. That concert, and the next year's set at Bumbershoot when basically every Seattle emcee freestyled over "North By Northwest" were two of the early breakout moments for the latest revival of Seattle hip hop.

The Heist

(16) "Breathe Easy" vs. (13) "Untouchable"
The Ghost of Biggie Smalls can only take you so far. He can't be counted on because, at some point when you're working with him, someone else, somewhere in the world will say his name into a mirror three times and you'll be left without someone to rap your hook. In this (admittedly weaker of the eight) Sweet 16 match-ups, the nod goes to the rugged Dyme Def demo track.

(3) "Tobacco Road" vs. (2) "The Town"
The skyline is etched in my veins,
You can never put that out, no matter how hard it rains.

For fellow Seattle transplants, these are two nostalgic songs that, no matter where you may be, can immediately bring you home. "The Town" is Ben Haggerty's beautiful ode to Seattle's hip hop history and presents the true value of the music within the community, summed up by Haggerty's thesis:

And as a public school student,
I learned from my teachers but became through my music.

It's a breathtaking song that happens to be going up against a song that pulls at the heartstrings just a tad harder. It used to be that I preferred the golden age sound of Common Market's self-titled debut. But in the past couple years as I've played their sophomore album with more frequency, I've realized that Tobacco Road is a northwest masterpiece in its own right. RA Scion is one of the only emcees that I have to listen to with a dictionary close by. He's a master of the English language to whom storytelling comes naturally. This closing track to the album is simultaneously a touching tale of growing up, lost friends, the lasting effect that one's home has on their lives, and finally of leaving home. In a tight bout, "Tobacco Road" moves on.

Space Music

(1) "Wing$" vs. (13) "I Want It All"
Despite the supreme bumpibility and ease with which Fearce & BeanOne's "I Want It All" floats into your ears, it doesn't match this powerful, moving Haggerty/Lewis collaboration. The last number one seed lives to fight another day.

(3) "Kings" vs. (2) "LetitBe"
Fearce gets payback for "I Want It All." The Champagne Champagne feature and Ryan Lewis's production lifts "Kings" to an epic scale, but it isn't enough to topple the interpolated Beatles beat and beautiful tale woven by the Dyme Def emcee. More on that later.

Oh, That's Hella Filthy

(9) "Sunrise" vs. (4) "Winter Takes All"
In this coin-flip match-up, both songs are superb lyrically as well as from a production standpoint. "Sunrise" gets the edge because of its importance (first KnowMads song on their first album) and the beautiful sample of The Impressions' "People Get Ready."

(11) "Home" vs. (7)  "Hello"
Now everybody put a hand up, 'cause if 'Who?' is the question then 'You' is the answer.

In a surprisingly easy match-up, another Massline song falls, setting up an all KnowMads Elite 8 match-up.

Elite 8:


When you spit, you exist in that moment,
And if you'r sick with that gift, then you rip it when you perform it,
Then all the shit that you live begins to lift off your shoulders,
And the audience, well they gets go experience what your soul is,
'Cause I'm an emcee, won't be the first, won't be the last,
Just another B-Boy and I'ma die in my stance.

Not that seeding matters, but the Bayani region has gone down pretty much in terms of popularity. The regional finals sees a match-up between two relatively older Seattle tracks. Despite its importance, "I Said Hey" is a better song than "No Rest For The Weary." There are other good songs on Language Of My World, but there's a reason that "I Said Hey" is the only one still consistently used in Mack's live set. It's one of his only older tracks that lives up to and surpasses his newer material (though I'd argue that "White Privilege" is up there). No more class. Professor Macklemore hands the teacher his pink slip.

The Heist

(16) "Breathe Easy" vs. (3) "Tobacco Road"
 They say that life is what you make it, but really life is what makes you

The Heist region was a mess in terms of upsets, but that trend doesn't continue in the regional finals. Breath Easy's miracle run comes to a close as the Tobacco Road title-track moves onto the Final Four.

Space Music

(1) "Wing$" vs. (2) "LetitBe"
The Space Music regional finals sees the only one seed-two seed match-up in the entire bracket. Both are incredibly worth Final Four songs, but only one can advance. Both differ in perspective, "Wing$" being Macklemore's epic ballad about the influence of Air Jordans on hip hop culture and "LetitBe" being a down to earth honest confession about being raised by an abusive father, relationship troubles, and everyday trials in Fearce Villain's life. Despite everything that he's goes through, the song is able to maintain an uplifting message in the form of its chorus:

One-two. One-two. One-two. One-two. One-two.
And when I get to three, I'ma let it all go and let it be.

Both songs are incredibly easy to connect with and you can't go wrong with either. I'll go with my favorite Dyme Def track off my favorite Seattle album.

Oh, That's Hella Filthy

(9) "Sunrise" vs. (11) "Home"
I inhale, exhale, doubt myself then prevail,
I breathe in the melody then release a street tale
Of three that came together and stayed true to there dreams,
Reminding you to never give up on these daily routines.

In the OTHF regional finals, two KnowMads songs enter. One KnowMads song leaves. Then later the other KnowMads song leaves after being declared the winner. The KnowMads are a direct descendant of the Blue Scholars and Common Market. Soulful street philosophers that can continue to carry the conscious torch in Seattle hip hop. It seems only fitting that, in a bracket celebrating Seattle hip hop's growth, two KnowMads songs should meet in the Elite 8.

"Home" is a gorgeous song that has been scientifically proven to be the best thing you can play on the way back from SeaTac (especially if your path home takes you on the viaduct which, for now, still offers the best view of the cityscape). But "Sunrise" has too many factors going for it. It has better lyrics, wordplay, structure, the better sample, and was the song that first introduced us to the KnowMads. That and Tom Pepe's last verse is enough punch Sunrise's ticket to the Final Four.

Final Four:
I Said Hey. Tobacco Road. LetitBe. Sunrise.

Four incredibly heartfelt songs from four incredibly talented artists. If there's another hip hop scene better at producing deeply profound tracks that tug at the heartstrings, I haven't heard them. It's only fair that four such songs have made it so far. That and I'm a total sucker for these types of songs, but I'll share the blame 50-50 with the city.

I Said Hey vs. Tobacco Road

Over the past couple years Tobacco Road has grown to become my favorite Common Market album and a great deal of it has to deal with its closing title-track. From the opening sermon to the fiery "Trouble Is" to "Slow Cure" to "Winter Takes All" to "Nina Sing" to "Tobacco Road," there isn't a single skippable song on the eighteen track LP. It's a more mature album than the group's self-titled debut. Less hopeful than the debut, Sabzi loses the golden age horns of "Re-Fresh" in favor of more subtle synths, organs, and drums while RA Scion confronts personal loss and effects the growing recession, while honoring those no longer in his life. The title track encompasses all of these themes, but leaves the listener hopeful. No matter where you're from, "Tobacco Road" perfectly encompasses the experience of growing up, maturing, and eventually leaving home.

I've been bumping "I Said Hey" since sophomore year at Garfield in 2005 (even though, at the time we all thought that he had been a Roosevelt student). It's a song that really speaks to the power that music has in shaping your life. I was one of those kids (with an iPod instead of a walkman), that Mack was speaking about, so this song has always spoken to me:

Now I don't know if it's the clothes, the hoes, or the cars
That makes people rap like they're trapped inside of these bars.
This shit ain't complicated man just be who you are,
Too busy searching for the light and missing the fact that you're a star.
Now who's got passion? Stand the hell up,
'Cause I want to hear somebody rapping who's got it inside their cuts,
Or you can get intricate displaying your fancy cadences,
But if you're not speaking the truth you might as well not be saying shit.
I said 'who's going to teach the kids?'
You'd rather blow up and get famous so you can get some new rims.
All the money in the world can help you look like a star,
But money can't buy you the heart to go and put inside your bars.
And I like nice shit too.
Believe me, I got a closet full of Nikes and a whole bunch of Lenore suits,
They'll give you the white tees and the icy earring like the whole youth,
Population of hip hop but look beyond it when I record through,
These beats, 'cause if I don't speak me
What's the difference between my lyrics and what you hearin' on MTV?
People fear that if they're steering away from the mainstream
Then their album won't sell.
Well I could give a fuck,
I'm just goin' to freestyle and spit what's in my gut,
And if you want to you can go and label me conscious,
But remember there's a kid at a bus stop beat boxin'
Who's life will be effected by what's inside of his Walkman.

"I Said Hey" is proof that, even from a very early point in his career, Ben Haggerty had the talent to accomplish great things. Thank god that he was able to conquer his inner demons, hook up with Ryan Lewis, and give Seattle the proper shine that it deserves in the hip hop community.

Both songs are flawless, but I'll go with "I Said Hey" to advance to the finals.

LetitBe vs. Sunrise

Both of these songs come off of their respective artists' debut albums. Both remain their respective artists' best work. "Sunrise" was the subject of this site's first ever post and has two of my three favorite Tom Pepe verses (especially the closing one):

It took a long time comin', now I'm back to where we started from,
Reminiscing on when the best days were the hardest ones,
Darkened Suns, brightened souls,
True thoughts, and broken homes,
Hold the hope and made the most of what was not the life they chose,
I write for those, the kids I met in poverty, illiterate,
'Cause I was blessed with opportunities I ain't been using yet.
Millions in this world have to struggle to suffice,
But she held me like she never seen a tear in her life.
A girl who knew the stars and Sun,
But not how many years she was,
I guess sometimes it takes a child's eyes to make it clear to us.
So here we was the purpose to do more than what the others do,
The choice is yours or mine, until you find your way and make it true,
And as for me, well actually, I just started breathin',
'Cause you ain't really livin' if it isn't for a reason,
And if she ever heard my voice again in Guatemala,
I'll tell her to find herself and that's the one who I'll be followin' home.

But while "Sunrise" remains a gorgeous song, "LetitBe" is a transformative one. From the Beatles sample to the chorus, to the BeanOne instrumental, to Fearce Villain's lyrics and storytelling, EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS SONG IS PERFECT.

The song is catchy, playful, profound, relatable, serious, sweet, heartwarming, hopeful, and has a beautiful message. It doesn't matter where you're from. Whatever your mood, whenever you play this song it's guaranteed to put a smile on your face. It's one of my favorite songs of all time regardless of genre and it's moving on to the finals.

206ness Championship Game:
All apologies to Macklemore and his pair of zebra pants, but I'll still know all the words to "LetitBe" when I'm 90, senile, and have forgotten my own kids' names. It's the best song from (what I hold to be) the best Seattle album--an album that totally broke the sonic mold for what Northwest hip hop could sound like and has stood the test of time, remaining in my Top 10 favorites of the genre. Whenever I share music with friends from out of town, Space Music is the first album I recommend and "LetitBe" is the first song.

I've spent the better part of the past week compiling, cutting, and writing this post, but I've really been compiling this post for 5+ years. Either way, I'm going to go pass out now.

For those of you who made it to the end of this behemoth, I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you for reading/commenting and keep checking back in.

This city and its music is engrained in my soul and I'm always happy to rep my hometown to the fullest extent short of being arrested for kicking David Stern in the balls. It's my pleasure to share the best music coming out of the Upper Left and plan to do so for years to come.

Peace, Love, & Town All Day,
NxNW Noah

*Note: After completing this monster of a project, I realized that I had left off Dyme Def's "FreshInMyKicks," a beautiful song that's up there with "Wing$" and deserves credit in its own right. It probably would have made it far in this bracket, but it slipped my mind. (But if I'm being honest, there was already enough DD in the bracket.)

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