This was the strongest year for local hip-hop that I can remember. I confidently believe for the first time that our city’s top artists are just as skilled as any other major city’s top artists. Here are my top-picks for local hip-hop in 2015.
Artist of the Year: King Leez: I asked Leez what the hip-hop highlight of his 2015 was and he said,
“Flying to New York to shoot the video with Smoke DZA in Harlem. I respect New York and I know New York respects lyrics. So getting that love in New York meant a lot. I loved riding around looking for places to film, seeing all the famous bridges, the World Trade Center, the Brooklyn Zoo! Ol’ Dirty Bastard talked about the Brooklyn Zoo! The trains, the subways, eating at famous restaurants, and landing in J.F.K. – I just loved it. It was snowing there!
Break-out Artist for 2015: Cally Reed: Cally rose to the top of the local Hip-hop scene is building a name regionally. He told me what it was like to have his biggest year in music yet. “I’m not content, but this year was dope. I knew Second Family got a lot of love, but going solo is totally different. I didn’t know what to expect and not a lot of people had heard my solo material. But once I had that sold out show at ETC, the love just kept coming. I really want to thank them for that cosign. My next step is just taking it to the national level. That’s a whole different monster. It helps that I can see Leez doing it.
Album of the Year: Don James “For the Love”: It was a wonderful surprise when Don James dropped his debut album on us. It ended up being some of the richest, deepest, most heart-felt material we got to enjoy. Don James has been around the scene for decades but this year he finally released an album. I wanted to know what took him so long. He replied, “I was just tired of being asked to put out music.
"Ever since 2013, people have been pressuring me. This was my way to shut them up (laughingly).
"Seriously though it takes a long time to put out an album with no budget and no funds. This is just how long it took me to get the right production without having to spend a bunch of money.”
Venue of the Year: Jazzbones: Jazzbones really stepped up their game this year, bringing in plenty of national acts. I wanted to know how Dan Rankin (the booker) was able to pull this off. He responded by saying, “Good shows come in waves. I always want the best. I was able to get Warren G, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Zion I, Kool Keith, Micky Avalon Dirt Nasty and Mad Child. I have more good acts coming in 2016 like Andre Nikatina and Kreyshawn. Jazz Bones name is growing so touring artists are finally hitting me up instead of me having to track them down. Honestly, it’s hard for me to keep up with local hip-hop because you all change your aliases so much (laughs) – but I like ILLFIGHTYOU, Almond Roca, Breaklites, King Leez and the Platinum Reign Family.”
Other venues that helped hip-hop grow this year were The Town, Cultura Event Center and Latitude ’84. Anthony Hayden with Reallionaire Entertainment continued to throw top-quality shows, events, and beat-battles as well. ETC, which has been open for more than a year now, deserves props for selling local wears and accessories and throwing unique listening sessions and shows for some of Tacoma’s hottest artists.
Along with the above mentioned artists, there are many notable contributors to the culture this year. I strongly recommend all readers listen to the music of Ugly Frank, Q-Dot, Mr. Von, Nena Kapone, Jacmov, Rockwell Powers, Bruce Leroy, Sonny Bonoho, Stuey Newtan, LDOT, J-Mar Da Sik, Sic Ill and Lil Ripp. In 2015 these artists gave Tacoma the best hip-hop this city has ever seen.