Who is Seattle’s next big rap star? Freelancer Mike Ramos has his eye on half a dozen in the trenches.
Editor’s note: With Kendrick Lamar’s new release, “To Pimp A Butterfly,” being hailed as one of the best rap albums in years, we thought we’d offer a roundup of rappers closer to home who might break out.
Porter Ray capped 2014 by releasing his “FNDMNTLS” mixtape and signing to local indie giant Sub Pop, home to two acts from Seattle’s “Black Constellation,” Shabazz Palaces and THEESatisfaction. Building on that connection in 2015 with a standout guest verse on the title track for THEESatisfaction’s recently released, widely acclaimed “EartheE” album, the golden-voiced, reflective, street-wise rapper is poised for a breakout year with his debut full-length on the way.
ROYCE THE CHOICE
This local spitter first gained some national attention for his scene-stealing guest appearances on radio mainstay DJ Mustard’s 2013 “Ketchup” mixtape (check the track “Midnight Run” for a prime example), and ended 2014 by signing to the L.A.-based hitmaker’s 10 Summers label. Thanks to the online popularity of a video of him freestyling on the New York-based “Sway In the Morning” radio show, Royce’s next release has a chance of reaching the mainstream audiences that made Mustard a multiplatinum household name.
Musically active for the last couple years, mostly as a producer on Moor Gang projects, Mackned’s benchmark 2014 included three impressive solo albums — “Alice Gla$$,” “Aquarian God Form” and “Critical Trap: Evil Ned Edition” — plus the wave-making “Thraxxhouse” mixtape with new-school Seattle heavyweight Key Nyata. Showing no signs of slowing down in 2015, the West Seattleite (whose dad, Tony Gable, is part of the funk-revival conglomerate Wheedle’s Groove) has already put out one album (“Cyber Magicka”) this year and did several sets at the annual industry showcase, South By Southwest, with his surprisingly deep Thraxxhouse crew.
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Though this 20-year-old transplant is originally from Minneapolis, he has some Seattle connections. His father was part of Minnesota’s indie hip-hop imprint Rhymesayers, which released albums by Seattle artists such as Grayskul, Grieves and Boom Bap Project, and the label also frequently enlisted the production talents of Seattle’s Jake One and Vitamin D. Last year’s “HerbsPenSoul” and “AURA” saw Amora improving his deft, conscious lyrics, delivered over retro-minded, organic beats. His next release should be a must-hear for those partial to that golden-age revivalist sound.
Like Dex Amora, Dizzi Slick is still unable to drink legally, but he is fast becoming a legend, known almost as much for his lengthy rap sheet as his dominance in Westlake street corner freestyle cyphers. With a strong pimp hand and grimy, meandering, ice-grilled flow often compared to a younger version of local underground champ Nacho Picasso — with maybe a touch of Slick Rick, as his namesake suggests — Dizzi Slick has released increasingly sharper tracks over the past year. Now linked with the sprawling UDF and Thraxxhouse collectives, Slick’s debut project should tap into plenty of supporting talent.
ASTRO KING PHOENIX
AKP’s fairly quick rise could be attributed to his collaborations with established local music renaissance man OCnotes, but Astro’s work provides plenty to prove he belongs right next to some of the city’s most talented artists. With an individual style that’s not quite “trap,” not quite “boom-bap,” but some kind of cosmic, Northwest psych-rap that’s been getting more defined with every track he puts on SoundCloud, Astro should find plenty of momentum behind his next release.