This is the town of Sir Mix-a-Lot; We Live Right Here: Seattle’s Hip-Hop History Makes Fascinating Reading | February 9-15, 2022

From the outside, hip-hop is the last thing that comes to mind when I think of Seattle. Imagine my surprise when I learned, after reading “Emerald Street: A History of Hip-Hop”, that Seattle is not only home to a rich musical history after early 90s grunge, but also the foundations of hip-hop. .

“Emerald Street,” by Seattle-based professor and historian Daudi Abe, can be summed up in one line from the book: “Seattle’s well-established cultural and economic hip-hop infrastructure provided multiple platforms that served as a starting point for publication. exhibition and industry relations.

“Emerald Street” explores a side of hip-hop that has always been overlooked. When I think of hip-hop, there are a few key places you can’t miss, like the Bronx or Compton. I imagine few people regard Seattle as one of the founding places of hip-hop, and if they do, it’s not with the respect the city deserves.

After a fitting sneak peek from local legend Anthony L. Ray, better known as Sir Mix-a-Lot, Abe jumps right into the subject. Abe writes in a way that allows the reader to follow “hip-hop” jargon, such as the exact type of equipment used by DJs or the specific type of rapping or mixing of the respective artist. In doing so, Abe displays not only his expertise on the subject, but also the complexity of hip-hop.

Hip-hop is not just a genre of music, but a lifestyle that requires dedication, appreciation and determination. As we delve deeper into the book, there are many stories about the rise and fall of different acts or recording companies or studios. It’s the common thread running through every success (and failure) story: the resilience of hip-hop. If at first you don’t succeed, hip-hop teaches, then try, try, try again.

Hip-hop is resilient. As Abe described it, hip-hop has withstood many adversities, including the teen dancing ordinance, over-policing, censorship, the rise of new technology, and more. Yet, as we know from its continued popularity, hip-hop has rebounded. Thanks to its founding participants, hip-hop has continued to grow and prosper.

In “Emerald Street,” Abe explores other components of hip-hop culture, such as graffiti, fashion, and break dancing, each of which has played a unique role in rap culture. However, what’s even more interesting than how these aspects developed on their own was seeing the overlap between two or more of these components. Towards the end of the book, Abe even describes food as another important element.

Another thing Abe makes sure to explore is the diversity of Seattle’s old (and current) hip-hop scene. Different cultures from all over the world came together to create a new form of hip-hop which was a blend of the best things from different cultures. The presence of different ethnic groups, as well as MCs and female rappers, is important to note when talking about the roots of hip-hop.

The growing importance of media in the rise of hip-hop’s popularity is also explored in the book. Seattle’s early rappers (and the same can be said for rappers nationwide) experienced radio station obstruction. Yet it only took one station, KFOX 1250, to play a song to get the ball rolling and take hip-hop’s popularity to the next level.

As a reader, Abe’s love and respect for hip-hop is easily felt in the passionate way he wrote “Emerald Street.” Clearly, especially when delving into a piece of history that hasn’t been explored, Abe did his due diligence when compiling “Emerald Street.” Dates, names, quotes and images come together to not only share a story but to make it real.

Along with this praise comes a bit of criticism as well. While “Emerald Street” promises to explore the history of hip-hop in Seattle, suggesting a broad historical narrative over a specific period, I found it to be more of a career story. by Sir Mix-a-Lot. While Sir Mix-a-Lot was easily Seattle’s first major hip-hop star, other locals made the city equally famous, from Shabazz Palaces to Macklemore. Sir Mix-a-Lot’s name appears on almost every page of the book, sometimes twice, and the repetition quickly becomes tiresome. There is a reverence that is placed on his name that alienates the other people mentioned in the book.

Overall, the detailed expert opinions from different artists, images, and overall timeline included at the end of the book made this reading experience more digestible; the supporting documents act as tools to help guide the reader through the years. The timeline especially helped clarify dates and events that became lost to me as I read through the book.

Who should read “Emerald Street”? Historians and hip-hop enthusiasts, of course, but anyone who wants to learn more about Seattle’s important history should pick up this book. Abe’s dedication and energy clearly went into “Emerald Street: A History of Hip-Hop in Seattle,” and as I hold the finished project in my hands, I can definitely say that that hard work has paid off. fruits.

Osasere Ewansiha is a writer from the greater Houston area who specializes in media reviews.

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