The past few years have seen a revolution in Seattle hip-hop. And no, I’m not talking about Macklemore and the insane popularity of “Thrift Shop”. Instead, the real Seattle hip-hop revolution is happening with groups like Shabazz Palaces, Thee Satisfaction, and the Cloud Nice record label. While Macklemore may be proving to the world that Seattle does in fact have a hip-hop scene, these artists are proving that Seattle hip-hop is not just poppy songs about going to the Goodwill.
Cloud Nice is an independent record label found in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. The label is one of the strongest Seattle hip-hop labels out there right now, and Kingdom Crumbs is their poster child. The group consists of Tay Sean, Mikey Nice, Jarv Dee, and Jerm D, four rappers and producers who call Cloud Nice home. As opposed to bigger area names like Shabazz Palaces or Fresh Espresso, Cloud Nice is a much better model of the Seattle hip-hop aesthetic. Everything is built in-house, with the rappers playing just as key a role in the production as anyone else. Cloud Nice uses a self-described DIY approach, with great success.
Seattle has a history of making music that is counter to the main-stream. When arena rock was getting huge we had Nirvana. When garage rock was becoming popular we had Fleet Foxes. Kingdom Crumbs and Seattle hip-hop in general is no different. While much of modern rap is known for bravado and is very in-your-face (ie. Lex Luger, Rick Ross, and Kanye West), Seattle hip-hop is thoughtful and overtly musical. Kingdom Crumbs raps over simply beautiful electronic beats, influenced just as much by Caribou and Aphex Twin as other traditional hip-hop influences. Tay Sean and Mikey Nice are incredibly creative behind the boards, with some songs using two or three distinct and powerful beats. If you have never listened to a Seattle rap group before, the production may need some getting used to, as it is incredibly different from any hip-hop outside of the northwest. There is a lot of stuff going on in these beats, and they are much more complicated than a simple Lex Luger piano riff. However, they are musically genius, and rewarding to the careful listener.
Listening to Kingdom Crumbs is an experience unlike many other rap albums. Kingdom Crumbs is a relaxing album, more so than most other hip-hop albums I’ve listened to. Kingdom Crumbs have some of the best production in the game. Now if only their lyrics can catch up. Aesthetically, their rapping is pretty good. Maybe even above average. However, their lyrics don’t bring anything new to the table. If you’ve ever listened to any indie or underground rap, you’ll have heard much of the same stuff that these guys are rapping about. Since I’m from Seattle, I love the 206 shoutouts sprinkled in throughout the album. However, to everyone else, these will sound like any other city represent. Considering that this is the groups first album, I expect great things from them in the future. They have work to do, but I am incredibly impressed with these rookies. Kingdom Crumbs is a must listen for any self-respecting Seattleite.