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Hip hop music in the Pacific Northwest


Hip hop music in the Pacific Northwest

Northwest hip hop is hip hop or rap music that originates from the Pacific Northwest of North America, encompassing major cities such as Boise; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia. Northwest hip hop music mixes elements from various genres of music to form a sound different from its southern neighbor, West Coast hip hop. For many years the scene existed mainly as an underground genre, but recently Northwest hip-hop has seen more and more mainstream acceptance, with artists such as Macklemore gaining nationwide attention.


  • History 1
    • Pre-1993 1.1
    • 1993 to 2002 1.2
    • 2002 to present 1.3
  • Notable artists 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4



During the late 1970s, high school kids from the Rainier Beach, Rainier Valley, and Central District areas in Seattle started to perfect early hip hop forms of dancing in the northwest defined as bopping. Many of the local underage clubs and high schools in south Seattle held formal contests called bop-offs where dancers would compete against one another.

In the early 1980s, soldiers positioned at Tacoma's military bases provided the foundation for a growing hip-hop fan base in the Northwest. This increased demand for hip-hop coincided with some of the first hip-hop dances in Seattle, which were held at public-housing recreation centers and featured the Emerald Street Boys and Anthony "Sir Mix-A-Lot" Ray. Simultaneously, “Nasty Nes” Rodriguez launched the Northwest's first all-rap radio program, Fresh Tracks, and soon Nasty Nes began airing self-produced tracks by Sir Mix-A-Lot, as well as the Emerald Street Boys, MC LeRap, PDQ, and Andy Hamlin. As Seattle's music scene evolved, so did the Seattle breakdance and graffiti crews, including B-Boy groups like Silver Chain Gang, Circuit Breakers, and Breaking Mechanism, and graffiti writers such as Spaide, DadOne, and Spraycan. At this time the Northwest was considered an empty canvas, which lagged behind other regions in creating a unique identity that was associated with hip hop. With this space there was room for an eclectic group of identities to form, however none were successful in formulating a Seattle identity. [1]

In 1985 Nastymix Records, the Northwest's first hip-hop label was founded with the local release of Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Square Dance Rap", which sold approximately 75,000 copies. Nastymix Records gained national recognition with Sir Mix's 1988 "Posse on Broadway", and reached its peak in 1993 with Mix's Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance for "Baby Got Back." Unfortunately this award came after Nastymix's last release, Criminal Nation's 1992 album Trouble in the Hood.

1993 to 2002

Seattle hip-hop culture was confined to the only venues that would play hip-hop, all of which were in Seattle's traditionally African-American neighborhood, the Central District (referred to in Seattle as "The CD".) In 1993, Jonathon "Wordsayer" Moore of Source of Labor approached Caroline Davenport of Tasty Shows, who was responsible for booking a popular Seattle venue called RCKCNDY.

The All-ages Dance Ordinance and hip-hop began its Northwest resurgence.

2002 to present

The departure of the Teen Dance Ordinance in 2002 meant small Seattle venues could afford to host local hip-hop shows. Currently, the Northwest maintains a self-perpetuating underground hip-hop movement, a culture that is maintained almost entirely by word of mouth, local interest, and internet exposure. In 2009 Seattle Vocalist Clyde Mcknight was signed to Queen Bee Entertainment, which lead to him appearing on Lisa Left Eye Lopez posthumous album, Eye Legacy pn a record Block Party, and also releasing a debut single Simon Sez.

The Minneapolis-based Rhymesayers Entertainment, a quickly growing record label, has signed multiple artists from Seattle such as Boom Bap Project, Grayskul, Grieves, Jake One, and Vitamin D, which also contributes to its growth. Blue Scholars and their label Massline Media are also beginning to receive national attention.

Macklemore is another hip hop artist from the Pacific North West who has recently received much national and international attention, skyrocketing to the top of the charts in the mainstream music scene. At the 56th Annual Grammy Award, Macklemore received seven Grammy award nominations, and won four of those, including the awards for Best New Artist, Best Rap Album (The Heist), Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance (Thrift Shop).[2] However, Macklemore's success has been met with frustration from many local PNW hip hop artists. These artists are frustrated because they feel that story and style are Macklemore not representative of the PNW Hip Hop scene. They feel that Macklemore's status as a white, middle class male has led him to his popular position and feel disheartened that the underground artists are not better able to represent their city and region [3]

Notable artists


  1. ^ Murray Forman (2000). ‘Represent’: race, space and place in rap music. Popular Music, 19, pp 65-90.
  2. ^
  3. ^

External links

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