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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

November 30, 2009 at 6:21 PM

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The year in local hiphop: double-header concert Go! Machine wraps up 2009

Posted by Andrew Matson

Champagne Champagne headlines Go! Machine Friday. Photo by Rabid Child.

"Victim of the Modern Age" by Champagne Champagne feat. Fences

If you want to understand Seattle hiphop at the end of 2009, go to Go! Machine. The two-day concert wraps up the year quite nicely Friday and Saturday at The Crocodile with 12 local acts and a name that sounds like an energy drink.

"It's what's cracking right now," says Terry Radjaw (real name: Gregory Smith), who booked the event, "but also what I think will be taking over."

Radjaw raps and DJs in Go! Machine groups Mad Rad (Saturday headliners) and Fresh Espresso. He's definitely huckstering, but his prediction is sound. Go! Machine ably represents Seattle hiphop's new guard.

"Mad Rad has brought showmanship in Seattle rap to another level," says Go! Machine rapper Macklemore (Ben Haggerty) talking about Radjaw's crew. Mad Rad spits, stage dives, seduces women, gets kicked out of venues, and sells out almost every concert it plays. It also combines hiphop with dance music, a novel hybrid for Seattle. "They embody losing yourself on stage and giving everything to the crowd," he says.

Radjaw takes inspiration from Go! Machine act They Live!, a throwback '90s/West Coast-centric group whose concerts are choreographed blends of superhero posturing and breakdance pratfalls. "When I see them, I'm like 'God damn it, I wish I was rocking that show,'" he says

Go! Machine performer Taylor Brown (Helladope) cites lo-fi jazz-hop group THEESatisfaction as inspiration for artistic openness. The group's sound is defiantly nontraditional but maintains an assured grasp on hiphop. In the just-hit-the-internet song "Icing," THEESatisfaction rapper Stasia Irons (her girlfriend Catherine Harris-White sings) masters her own style. In a swaying, emphatic version of her regular speaking voice, she rewinds phrases, freely creative with words as sounds and images: "I'm Christ-ing, yes I'm Christ-ing like I just left church."

Irons says Friday headliners Champagne Champagne are big brothers in arms for identity wars. "I feel they're the male version of us as far as their grind and want for change. As much as they party and are in your face, they pack a message. They're really true to themselves."

Even though some Go! Machine artists don't hang out with each other all the time, within the past two years everybody's made a track with somebody else on the roster. Blue Scholars is still the dominant force and Shabazz Palaces has the best album in local rap this year (if you count the "Shabazz Palaces" and "Of Light" EPs as one album), but that neither group is playing Go! Machine is insignificant. They're still broadly part of the momentums it expresses.

"It's a progressive movement," says Taylor Brown. "It's not strictly business. And it's not strictly music. We're all the same. Well, not exactly the same."

"Similarly different" is how Radjaw puts it.

It all adds up to music that looks and sounds totally unique, the opposite of what's happening in Seattle rock, where the best bands are on downtown label Sub Pop and its offshoot Hardly Art and the rest sound like they're trying to get noticed by Sub Pop or Hardly Art. For all the excellent artists on those labels, the copycats they inadvertently spawned are woefully bland. By contrast, everyone involved in the new rap guard seems to be living for the moment, making grand statements without need for validation.

This is how the groups intersect via song. Better, more interactive graphic forthcoming.

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