Crossover is nothing new to Seattle either because its neighborhoods interact and co-mingle. Ethnicities, races and religions mix with each other in order to learn and share. In Seattle, hip hop is absorbed and enjoyed by so many people, regardless of traditional barriers, that it appears to be speaking many meta-languages which each individual understands in a different, yet profound, way.There is no one single word to describe the sound coming from the fertile Seattle underground hip hop scene, just as there is no one single hip hop artist in Seattle that defines the scene. The one over-riding message, though, is that the MCs, the DJs, the producers, the record labels and the fans have all formed a creatively vibrant and caring community.

As Bret Nielsen of the local premiere video production company, Fueled Creative, broke it down, “Given as a whole, Seattle’s independent hip hop scene is small and it’s an incredibly supportive family. Unlike the preconceived notions or unlike some of the other cities, all of the artists are very supportive of their fellow artists. There’s very little rivalry. They realize how much they’re reliant on each other. ‘Interdependence’ is a word I like to use. They really feed off of each other’s energy and their ideas…”

Hip hop is certainly not a new musical phenomenon to Seattle. The cultural movement started all the way back in the 1970s and 80s when breakdancing crews formed, like the Emerald Street Boys, and in 1985, when the first Seattle-based hip hop record label, Nastymix Records, was founded, which launched Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s musical career.

Caroline Li, a local reporter who has covered the Seattle scene for awhile, described how breakdancing became popular once again in high schools in Seattle during the 1990s and into the current day. According to Tim Uomoto and Ricky Chon, the founders of Outshine Productions, the common perception of breakdancing, mainly via the movies, is that it’s an aggressive competition between dancers who stake their rep on who wins and who loses. Li said Outshine Productions is an example of how a generation of hip hoppers has been able to mobilize their community and make a living out of what used to be a hobby. The dancing has become a creative outlet for many youth in the area in afterschool programs and beyond. This activity is meant to steer kids in a different direction by providing a place to socialize with their peers and receive guidance from mentors, and in the end, experience what a true community can really be.

Taking into account the music being put out by groups like Blue Scholars, Nam, D.Black, Grayskul and Common Market, and the many other artists doing their thing, there is a palpable mood that hip hop in Seattle, does not represent a fashion label or flashing dollar signs, but an ardent search for the humanity in each and every one of us. The messages contained in the music are numerous, sometimes ambiguous, but mainly on point about what it is to live in this city on the Sound, as well as what it means to struggle, survive and thrive.

Crossover is nothing new to Seattle either because its neighborhoods interact and co-mingle. Ethnicities, races and religions mix with each other in order to learn and share. In Seattle, hip hop is absorbed and enjoyed by so many people, regardless of traditional barriers, that it appears to be speaking many meta-languages which each individual understands in a different, yet profound, way.

Many Asian American youth identify and use hip hop as a tool to express themselves and explain their lives in the context of their families and communities at large. For many Asian American hip hop artists, this musical genre has created both a break from, and a melding with the older generation. They have used the art form to define themselves both against and within a country that historically excluded their people, and to come to terms with immigrants past who laid the groundwork for their children’s children’s lives today.

DeVon Manier, CEO of Sportn’ Life Records, said it best when he alluded to the promise, opportunity and possibilities represented in the artists of Seattle’s underground hip hop scene.

“Right here, thats [money] never been the forefront of things. It’s more the craft, being creative. ‘I’m doing this my way, I’m forging it all myself.’ It’s definitely more heartfelt music. They’re still making it from the ground up right here. We may continue to be that kind of place. I’m not going to ever sit here and say that we’re going to strike like New York or Atlanta, because we may not. We may be that city that’s just known for making good music.”

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