Independent Seattle rap label Sportn' Life Records celebrates its five-year anniversary Saturday at Chop Suey with live performances from...
Independent Seattle rap label Sportn’ Life Records celebrates its five-year anniversary Saturday at Chop Suey with live performances from the label artists and friends.
Run by co-CEOs DeVon Manier and Damian Black (aka D. Black), the label’s roots go back to the beginning of Seattle hip-hop.
“My father was part of the first rap group ever in the Seattle area, Emerald Street Boys,” says Black, 20. “My mom was a part of the girl group, Emerald Street Girls. That was in the late ’70s. As far as rap, it was just in me from the start.”
Black is talking from across a big L-shaped desk at Sportn’ Life’s headquarters, a medium-size room under the viaduct in the 100 block of Alaskan Way. He is surrounded by computers and boxes of CDs, calmly explaining his and Seattle’s rap history.
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He just came from The Pharmacy, a neighboring recording studio run by Seattle producer Vitamin D. SnL artist J. Pinder is finishing his mix CD there right now. The Pharmacy and Sportn’ Life not only have a symbiotic relationship, but to Black, Vitamin is like family. The Pharmacy was already a Central District institution when, seven years ago, Vitamin told his friend Manier he needed a new home for his recording equipment. Manier brought the issue to another friend and SnL business partner, D. Black’s stepdad, who offered his basement.
It was a windfall for the 13-year-old Black, who had already begun rapping as Danger. Some of the first tracks he rapped were made by Vitamin D. More tracks followed from another of Manier’s friends, Seattle producer Bean One.
Vitamin and Bean contribute tracks to all Sportn’ Life releases when they aren’t doing beats for De La Soul, Jurassic 5 or G-Unit, and Bean even designed Sportn’ Life’s logo.
When D. Black turned 18 two years ago, his stepdad stepped down from SnL and made Black co-CEO with Manier. Since then, SnL has solidified a diverse roster of Seattle rappers. It also changed its motto from “We Are The Streets” to “It’s The Life,” a sign of its broadening horizons.
In the past year, SnL released Black’s solid debut “The Cause & The Effect” and Fatal Lucciauno’s excellent “The Only Forgotten Son,” quickly establishing both artists as serious contenders to Seattle’s rap throne. Next up is J. Pinder’s Vitamin D-helmed mix CD and album, “Backpack Wax” and “The Backpack Theory,” both hotly anticipated.
SnL artists’ music is played on the radio, talked about on message boards, waited for in line at concerts.
Chop Suey should be packed to see D. Black and J. Pinder tear up the stage with local acts Grynch and Cancer Rising. It’s the perfect time for a celebration.
Andrew Matson: firstname.lastname@example.org