Local Product: Jake One & Mike Clark (Seattle, WA) Pt. 2
Sir Mix-A-Lot – “Posse On Broadway”
from SWASS (Nastymix, 1989)
This is part two of Jake One & Mike Clark’s Sea-Town retrospective. Click here if you missed the first part.
Jake: So at that time Mike was the cohost on KCMU and when I was that age in the early 90s that was the only outlet. So to get your music played on the Local Music Spotlight was kinda like making it. And you guys used to play a lot of people’s stuff that I never even met or never heard from ever again. They had one song and that was it.
Mike: And you know what was crazy about that was, when I came onto KCMU Nes was already there and he had done Local Music Spotlight a couple years prior to that and he stopped doing. And I asked him why and he said “people don’t bring me music.” That was really interesting to me. When I started working there I started seeing that was true and then I started soliciting people as I would go to shows like “yo… if you’ve got a song… give it to me and I’ll play it. We’ll let the listeners judge as to whether or not it gets in rotation.” And that’s kinda what spearheaded that back in there. Nes started going to shows to and we both started soliciting people. It was weird that we had to solicit artists to play their records. But as long as it was radio playable we kinda came up with an unwritten rule [to] give it at least one spin and let our listeners decide whether or not we would play it. There were some things that we didn’t think were good at all but the phone lines would blow up wanting to hear that particular artist over and over and over again.
Ghetto Children – “20 Bucks“
Ghetto Children – “Questions“
Noz: Who were some of the artists doing things in the ’90s?
Mike: The ’90s were beautiful, man. You had Ghetto Children, Sinsemilla, Source of Labor, Blind Council, Ready and Willing, LSR…
Sinsemilla – “If They Only Knew“
from If They Only Knew Cassingle (Tribal, 1994)
Jake: There was a lot of groups with a particular sound, even. Well it kinda split in the early 90s. I guess [it did] everywhere, but pretty flagrantly here. You had the people that went more towards what people considered an East Coast sound and then people who went towards a Bay sound. That was really the dominant sound of the city. Everybody was listening to E-40 and the mob music. It just completely took over. There was a lot of groups that did that sound, like Self Titled but for whatever reason it never really popped off. And we had Funk Daddy who was producing E-40 records and that was a big influence on me that someone from here could work with E-40 and do a classic song like “Sideways.”
Mike: That was an interesting story how that all happened, too. His manager went down to the Bay Area for the Gavin convention with a one way ticket and a bunch of Funk Daddy beat tapes and just sat in the lobby of the hotel just slinging them to people. He met up with E-40, gave him one, gave him the contact info and heard from him like two weeks later. He flew them guys down there to Vallejo and they did In A Major Way which was E-40′s first album on Jive.
Jake: There was also these guys Redwine and Kevin Gardner who were from here. They were older R&B guys that were doing beats for 40, Mac Mall, pretty much everybody down there. But for whatever reason [Seattle] didn’t have an artist that popped off.
DMS – “Back Up Off My Tip“
from Takin’ Ends (Shot Records, 1994)
Jake: The closest thing was a group called DMS that was signed to D-Shot’s label and they put out an EP that was actually pretty dope. But yeah, that was an interesting time. In ’90 people were like “alright, it’s hip hop.” And then when E-40 and all that came out it just turned into “this is mob music, that’s east coast.” There was a literal “we hate East Coast music” thing going on.
Noz: We had the reverse out here on the East Coast.
Jake: When I talk to anybody on the east coast, they just do not respect [West Coast] music. Which is crazy to me, but I guess maybe you had to be there to understand the impact.
Mike: What’s funny is even though you have that division here, you go right down the coast to the Bay Area, which had the same diversity but I remember going down there once to see… I can’t think of the name of the group off the top of my head… but one of the mob groups and Digital Underground and Souls of Mischief were all at the show hanging out and kicking it. That’s one of the things I always appreciated about the Bay. Look at the unity that’s there, they support their own. And I think that was one of the missing elements here.
Jake: There just wasn’t pride in the region. People weren’t proud to say they were from Seattle whether it was in music or anything. And that’s something that’s come along in the past five years and that’s probably why the scene is stronger now because these guys are actually proud of being from here. Everybody wanted to be from the Bay in the early 90s.
Noz: Well I think nobody out here ever thought of Seattle as a hip hop city. We knew Mix but we didn’t really make that connection. We were hearing more about Nirvana and grunge.
Jake: Exactly and that’s an impossible thing to overcome. I think some of those people that would have made a mark to change that just didn’t have things together. Like Ghetto Children, which is probably my favorite all-time Seattle group.
Jake: Mike managed to get them a deal on Geffen Records.
Mike: They were signed about the same time time as The Roots, it was when Geffen really started taking more of an interest in hip hop. I got them a demo deal and they were working with the Dust Brothers at the time.
Jake: And that was exciting because I knew these guys, we were all friends. But they kinda took Ghetto Children’s sound away when they made them work with the Dust Brothers, because their sound was Vitamin’s production. They had them working with these other guys who were dope in their own right, but it didn’t make sense.
Noz: Now what was the Seattle response when Mix-A-Lot became the “Baby Got Back” guy.
Jake: I want to say that people didn’t really pay him no mind, as far as in the scene. There was people talking shit but I honestly didn’t care either way. He put out some good records and [then] he made a hit, so that’s great.
Mike: I was managing a record store at that time, so I was lovin’ it! I couldn’t keep it in stock!
Jake: It was a pop thing. He completely went pop. I mean, he drove a Lamborghini to my video, he’s still making money off that song.
Mike: I was happy just because I felt like I was connected in the very beginning. I was going to his parties at the Boys & Girls Club in ’82 when he was spinning. What a lot of people probably don’t know was that Mix was nice on the tables. So I was really happy to see his success over the years. Was he my favorite artist? No, not at all. But I was proud that somebody from the area had quote-unquote made it and was opening up the doors for what we’re starting to see here today.
Jake: That’s not really a song I’m gonna listen to on my own time, but there’s something to be said to make a song that’s lasted that long. It’s gonna last forever. That’s not easy to do. Everybody tries to do that and they don’t.
Mike: You know, somebody we didn’t mention either was Ish from Digable Planets.
Jake: Yeah Ish is from Seattle. He grew up here, went to high school here and obviously he made a huge impact. But he wasn’t known for being from here.
Noz: What do you think the future holds for Seattle hip hop?
Jake: At this point we have as good a chance as ever to succeed. Sometimes I think it’s too little, too late just because of how difficult it is to break out now, it’s really not easy for a new artist. But there’s definitely some up and coming talent. I think the rappers have gotten better. I think over the years that was really our weakness. We never really had that dynamic personality of a rapper to be… I’m not even gonna say a star, but whatever it is that makes certain people appealing beyond just their rapping. But it seems like things are moving in the right direction. I don’t really know if anybody’s gonna blow up, whatever the fuck that means, but some of these guys might have their records known by other people in other areas, which is not a bad thing either.
Mike: It’s exciting for me. I’ve known Jake for along time and it’s exciting to turn on the TV and see a Jake One video. B-Mello just recently took a big position at the newly formed Death Row Records. I forgot what his title is, but he’s doing that.
Jake: On the producer side we have guys making a major impact. Beyond what I’ve done, there’s these guys Tha Bizness who are from here that did Lil Wayne’s “Every Girl.” I’ve known those guys 7 or 8 years. But they had to leave to make it happen. They’re working on T-Pain’s album and doing a lot of things and people probably don’t even know they’re from Seattle.
Mike: As long as I’ve been involved in this industry, this is the first time that I finally see people taking control of their own destiny and they’re really making it happen. Whether it’s Jake, whether it’s Vitamin, whether it’s Tha Bizness, Blue Scholars and groups like that. Whatever the case might be, it seems like people are finally doing whatever it takes to make it happen. And a lot of it has to do with getting outside of Seattle. Whatever their blueprint is for making that happen, it’s working, because they are getting the attention that they very well deserve.
Jake One f/ Vitamin D, Note, Maneak B and Ish – “Home”
from White Van Music (Rhymesayers, 2008)
Noz: Are there a lot of acts cultivating a following at home in Seattle?
Jake: Definitely. There was actually a big show last night, this artist named D. Black who I’ve known for like ten years, I kinda watched him grow up, he’s got an album coming out that I produced on and Vitamin produced on. There’s another group called Dyme Def that’s also really dope. These are all younger artists. Spaceman, The Grynch, there’s a lot of them and they’re getting people to come to their shows. And when I started I just didn’t see that as much. So it’s cool to see people have pride in it and support some local music.
Mike: You hit it right on the nail. There’s pride and people are actually patronizing these cats and going to their shows. You are seeing a little melting pot of genres of hip hop going to these shows. It’s not the backpackers just going to the backpack shows anymore. Everybody is just coming together now.
Mike & Jake’s Seattle Top
Ghetto Children – “20 Bucks”
Ice Cold Mode – “Union Street Hustler”
Mix A Lot – “Posse On Broadway”
Incredicrew – “High Powered Hip Hop”
Chelly Chell – “He’s Incredible”
Sinsemilla – “If They Only Knew”
Related: 206 Proof: Seattle’s Hip Hop Forum