Throwaway Style is a monthly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, the first Thursday of every new month on KEXP.org.
When Tacoma’s favorite rap heathens ILLFIGHTYOU first bum-rushed the scene in the early 2010s, music journalists far beyond the hills, industrial stretches, and marinas of the City of Destiny were referring to the trio as the next Odd Future. Anarchic, irreverent, often crass, and mostly hysterical, Khris P, UglyFrank, and GLENN (formerly known as EvergreenOne) weren’t just compared to the collective whose motto was “kill people, burn shit, fuck school” based on musical and lyrical similarities.
In a rush for every media outlet to claim “firsties” and serve as kingmakers for every nascent, promising sound a decade ago, VICE interviewed the group after only their fifth show, hearkening back to when online music journalism’s hype machine churned at a breakneck pace.
But even without the breathless outside press or the benefit of hindsight, ILLFIGHTYOU’s self-titled debut provided a shot in the arm for Tacoma’s rap scene, which now boasts a near-majority of the very best hip-hop music coming out of Washington State. The group both individually and collectively were (and are) cavalier to the point of confrontation; hallmarks few Puget Sound rap artists (aside from, say, Nacho Picasso) strive for, especially in an age where performative wokeness is more profitable than ever.
Have the hellions of ILLFIGHTYOU softened in the seven years since their riotous debut, where they dropped verses with more shock value than a defibrillator? Well, they bleeped a slur out of “YOYO,” one of a large handful of standout tracks on their sophomore effort (aptly named ILLFIGHTYOUTOO), but aside from that, they still approach the form like a Molotov cocktail made from a half-drunk bottle of Monarch vodka. GLENN claims he’s seen the face of the Holy Ghost, but only in the context of feeling like he might have OD'd on something. Within the album’s first four bars, Frank is already engaging in anal with your lady.
If age has softened the Tacoma trio at all, it’s only ever-so-slightly: they haven’t exactly traded in the razorblades they cut coke lines with for minivan key fobs; the energy is still hysterically debauched. GLENN boasts of masturbating while playing Fortnite, drinking Flint water crisis-grade H2O, and using pay phones in 2020; Frank finds himself “flicking [his] foreskin with a razorblade.” Drugs are sniffed, snorted, swallowed, and otherwise abused. Money is chased to opposite ends of the earth. The spirits of David Bowie in Japan, Katy Perry in Florida, Taylor Swift in Portland, and Carole Baskin in a tiger cage are all channeled.
ILLFIGHTYOU are the friends who sneak cocaine blunts into the bar and start some shit with the bouncers who kick them out after they fire one up in the small, dirty bathroom. They’re the friends you have to leave with halfway through your first drink because you’re the one who drove and you don’t know anyone else there anyway. Your friends who get you into the same old shit you’ve been getting into since you were 17 – but you’re like 29 now; you have a good job and a nice apartment and you should know better than to drive them to another bar while they sniff whatever they’re sniffing off of a CD on your dashboard. Your significant other hates them and threatens to leave you, but they’re the friends who tap into a different side of you, one you should hate but always enjoys their time flouting social conventions and arcane laws.
They’re the friends who make you feel most alive.
The confrontational id of the group guides them through benchpress sets and threatening to fight their fans. Off-kilter references find them following the lead of Bill Bellamy (for the uninitiated, best known for his work as a primetime MTV host and VJ, as well as his starring role in 1997 comedy How to Be a Player). But removed from the context of flippant, often sophomoric humor people know them for, each of its members have refined their skills in the realm of rapping.
GLENN’s gruff demeanor – as well as his tendency to say the most off-the-wall shit – has aged incredibly well. Khris P proves the unwritten rap rule that says producers are most likely to find the most inventive ways to rap over their own beats. And UglyFrank raps with the same verve, confidence, and mastery of wordplay he did when rap nerds were arguing in his favor as the group’s all-around best MC, only with ¾ of a decade’s worth of more experience. Even when Khris and GLENN gleefully chide him for missing studio sessions, his talent can’t be denied; if you’re dropping 35 points every time out, your peers can’t be too serious about you no-showing practice.
Even more remarkable than the humor and outsized character of the rhymes is the breadth of the album’s production. Since the first ILLFIGHTYOU full-length, Khris P has grown into arguably the finest beatmaker in Tacoma’s bustling (and still growing) rap scene. Nearly every rapper in the town who is worth a damn has secured a Khris P placement on their album, including but not limited to superbly talented local stars Seaan Brooks and Perry Porter. Here, Khris spans a variety of tones for the group to unfurl their chaos: intergalactic bounce (“CHATTANOOGA”), low rider lurch (“YOYO”), and dissonant trap-indebted darkness (“BLACKREVOLVER”). Running through the undercurrent of “NIKECHECK” is what sounds like a violin struggling to be properly tuned. The brilliant sample flips on opener “GRAMSWITHGRAMS” and penultimate banger “FLORIDAMAN” could be Khris’ best turns as a producer, summertime levity retrofitted for chubby blunts and cruising with car stereo levels drastically bleeding red.
As Tacoma’s hip-hop scene continues to deepen and flourish in relative obscurity, ILLFIGHTYOU continue to justify the fleeting attention they received from major music media. Their credo of making mosh pit music where nobody leaves without a black eye, swollen elbow, or bloody knuckles finds them a little out of step with what’s trendy in music circles today, but never out of style. GLENN, Khris P, and UglyFrank continue to represent all the merry troublemakers who make rap fun and a little dangerous.
Mill Creek hip-hop artist KingDow describes his music as “genre transcending” alternative hip-hop. He’s been playing music since he was a child, refers to himself as a “Black Super Saiyan,” and flouts categorical conventions as often as he’s prone to spit or sing references to anime and sci-fi. His newest track, “Black Man” – armed with a stylishly futuristic video – carries a bass-heavy bounce with lyrics suspicious of American government and steadfast about the need for us to govern ourselves.
I reached out to King about “Black Man” and he had a lot to say:
"Black Man" came into fruition in the fall of 2020. I was compelled to write this song because of the state of the world and the conscious shift I was feeling within myself and the universe. I started meditating in October and really getting in touch with my spirit. Since my solo career started in 2018, I have always made conscious music that went deeper concept wise. My message of inner truth has not changed. The only thing that has changed is I am now fully embracing my higher self and "Black Man" reflects this.
Produced by Tophatt Productions, who I met via a Facebook hip hop group, when I heard the beat I knew I would need to address what I was feeling. When people see the title, they may think I'm speaking on black issues but it is more complex. I am speaking on the minds of humanity and how in this present moment the world is evolving past the norm. We are becoming a free nation of people that transcend 3rd dimensional issues used to separate us. I had my good childhood friend Malcolm Manson aka Krazymak engineer my vocals. I then took the session we did and brought it to fibonacci studios in Seattle owned by Robert Eyerman to be mixed over Thanksgiving week. Lake Stovall, the engineer at the studio mixed the session for me and brought the song to a whole new level to emphasize my musical growth. I made sure to document the whole process and turn it into a behind the scenes vlog which will drop March 1st.
After 3 separate mixing sessions, I teamed up with my trusted videographer and old high school colleague Zach Purnell to shoot the video. We have been working together on all my videos since 2018 going on four years. We also shot my first documentary "The Dow Doc" back in 2020 that depicts my musical journey. You wouldn't be able to tell, but we shot "Black Man" in his garage January 1st. In the video, we use his special LED lights and fog machine to portray the dark vibe the video gives off. You see me meditating with a candle and holding my Evil Eye given to me by my mother for christmas. I am all about spiritual energy and I wanted this video to give a feeling of me transcending the way I have been in real life. I am also a dancer and incorporate my dance musicality in this video. I want everyone who sees this video to feel that they are empowered to move to the 5th dimension of love and third eye awakening. Being my first solo video of 2021, I wanted to come in with a purpose and raise the vibration.
In 1991, Slim Moon and Tinuviel Sampson decided they were going to put out their friends’ records. Starting with a spoken-word 7” split with Moon and Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna, the label Kill Rock Stars was born. Since then, they’ve put out essential records from artists as diverse as Bratmobile, Elliott Smith, Gossip, the Decemberists, Marnie Stern, Thao Nguyen, Lithics, Throwaway Style Hall of Famers Wimps, and many more.
The influential label has already began their Stars Rock Kill (Rock Stars) digital covers series -- the first two volumes include Mary Lou Lord and Mikaela Davis recording a version of Smith’s “Some Song” and Mike Watt & the Black Gang taking on Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” -- and they’ve got a bunch of cool stuff in store for the remainder of the year (including events, reissues, and, spoiler alert, maybe perhaps a little something for our site). I’ll be periodically keeping track of KRS’s celebration and reporting back in this section of Throwaway Style, so stay tuned!
I’ve never spent too much time in Enumclaw, though I know people who live or have lived there. People who live in Washington know that anywhere outside of the major metropolitan areas of the state is known as “the country,” and the Southern King County town – derived from a Salish term that means “place of evil spirits” – is over 90% white.
If you’re tapped into Tacoma’s rap scene, you’re already well-aware of Lakewood artist Aramis, and if you’re not and have lived in the Puget Sound area a while, you might be aware of the warehouse parties known as Toe Jam. He was the co-founder of that movement, and now he’s the frontman of indie rock band Enumclaw. “Fast N All,” their debut single, is loose and slightly blown out, which is immediately reminiscent of the fleeting moments where Times New Viking actively tried to write pop songs. “Fast N All” is more or less a breakup song, humorous and kind of sad; pretty much the default setting of most good indie rock. Its video evokes quintessential Washington stuff: grey skies and light rain, 18-packs of Rainier, horsing around on damp streets, gathering your friends in a pickup truck to throw around the football behind the middle school.
I reached out to Aramis after becoming enamored with “Fast N All,” and here’s what he had to say:
The band originally started with myself, Nathan and Ladaniel in the summer of 2019. I convinced the two to join a band with me after a drunken night of “karaoke Monday.” They had already been playing together for Ladaniel’s solo project, Ladanyo. We started practicing together right away but it’s took us a while before we had any songs, probably because I couldn’t play guitar yet lol. By March of 2020, we had three demos recorded and were set to play out first show in April under our first name Jimbo. Then as we all know Covid happened.
With all the free time and change the songs just started pilling up. We picked out the best 6 songs out of 20 or so and focused on those during the summer and recorded them with Spencer Johndrew this fall. Shortly after that, we let my little brother Eli join the band on the bass. After Eli joined we shot the video for “Fast N All,” which to say the less was hectic but fun. My older brother Tristan and I directed the video and I don’t know if anyone’s ever tried to work with their older brother but it can be a bit much lol. Despite our falling out on the last day of shooting we were still able to put together something we were all proud of. Since then we’ve been working on finishing the next two music videos for our demo tape “Jimbo Demos” and the songs that’ll make up our next EP.
As the one known as Suede God alludes to in his latest project, not many artists can match his work ethic. Since we last left Suede in December 2018, he has released a staggering 13 projects – including last year’s Long May We Rain (which, in the interest of full disclosure, I wrote the liner notes for when it was issued on vinyl by Crane City) and four new volumes of his excellent Darth Sueder series.
Not resting on his laurels since three of those albums made the Seattle Times Critics Poll, DSVI finds Suede burrowing deeper into the wrinkles on his brain with a sampler and a carton of Backwoods, furthering his status as one of the finest rappers roaming Seattle today. On the beats he’s better than ever, taking his blunted boom-bap to new places on tracks like “Never Left,” the melancholic “Eureka,” and the languid and jazzy “Purple Punch.” “Fear” channels Buffalo-based Griselda Records’ in-demand producer Darginer (vintage 2016) with its Wu-Tang indebted weirdness, and “Spooky” lifts vibrating doo-wop guitar for a summer smoking session months early.
I know I’ve been one of the primary voices preaching the gospel of Suede God to an obnoxious extent, but if you’re still sleeping on him, now’s the time to jump on the bandwagon so you can say you were put on to one of the most consistently solid hip-hop artists around before he blew the fuck up.
Deep in the heart of
Amazonland South Lake Union, in the dog days of a global pandemic, Seattle institution Sub Pop Records has opened a store on 7th Avenue. After 32 ½ years of business, do you really need more evidence of the label’s legendary status? Just like Sub Pop’s airport store – minus the numerous and fastidiously secure checkpoints – Sub Pop on 7th will carry every album from both Sub Pop and its little sister label Hardly Art still in print, as well as more merch than any one person could conceivably need, because these days music is just an advertisement for merch anyway.
In a press release, Sub Pop president and co-founder Jonathan Poneman said, “This is Sub Pop’s flagship store. It’s long on goodies and short on hours, so beat the rush.”
Martin Douglas speaks with the rising Tacoma-raised artist about rap music, art, and his promising career.