Today, Friday, June 19th, beloved online music marketplace Bandcamp are yet again waiving their revenue share on all purchases for 24 hours — but this time, they're doing it as an act of solidarity with "those rightfully demanding justice, equality, and change, and people of color everywhere who live with racism every single day." From midnight to midnight Pacific Time, you can purchase any digital or physical merchandise on an artist's Bandcamp page, and Bandcamp will donate 100% of their share of sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. (They'll also be donating an additional $30,000 to "to partner with organizations that fight for racial justice and create opportunities for people of color." And better yet, these are both actions they've committed to doing annually.)
KEXP's Digital Content Team is spotlighting just a few of the amazing Black artists in our community that we think you should check out (even after the clock strikes midnight). We hope our suggestions below help inspire your own shopping sprees. (And just a reminder: many Bandcamp releases are priced with an "or more" next to it. Don't hesitate to use it.) To find even more Black artists to support on Bandcamp, check out this crowdsourced list.
Is the inclusion of this early 2020 minor masterwork a convenient loophole in the rules or proof Seattle should and will claim one of our very best rappers even though she recently moved to Brooklyn? I’ll leave that decision up to you while I continue to jam one of the most enjoyable rap releases from the past couple of years on infinite repeat. Before having to relocate to the East Coast, Stas THEE Boss recorded On the Quarner during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic while most of us were cradling our sourdough starters like newborns and binge-watching Mad Men.
Let’s break it down in terms of Black Constellation’s most celebrated MC’s. If Ish is the way-ahead-of-his-time literary icon, combining impressionistic futurist street narratives with African American sociopolitical insight; and Porter Ray is the poet introvert, trying to make sense of trauma and grief and dope dealing and ancestral weight and trying to raise his son in an America that historically hates Black people; Stas is the sculpture artist, building statues out of every musical element possible, stacking rhyming sounds and pitch-shifted harmonies over musical but minimal loops and drums, making them all come together in a way that complements the whole of the piece. She’s a stylist of the highest order, whether unpacking complex thematic concepts or simply rapping circles around even the best of her peers just for the hell of it.
Stas is in rare form here, demolishing her beats with twelve-syllable rhyme patterns and a library voice, her quotable lines packed in the EP’s 15-minute running time like dynamite. She’s backed by a clique of witches, crafts sonic memorials for a host of avatars of Black excellence, and runs so many plays she should be featured in an NBA documentary titled After the Last Dance (as well as delivering couplets like, “I’m Baby Shark and you just a sea whale / You got no bark, you just a tree shell”). With bite-sized beats conveying a wealth of different tones, clips from An Africa People’s Only Livestream, and Stas’ fragmented, artful, intricately written shit talk fused together into one continuous track, On the Quarner warrants uninterrupted listens rather than skipping around or putting your favorite tracks into a playlist. It’s an experience meant to be taken in as a complete work, over and over again. — Martin Douglas
Parisalexa doesn’t put out anything less than greatness. In a world that constantly feels like it’s crumbling apart, her music is a reliable constant. The Seattle songwriter has been captivating us since she released her “Like Mariah” single in 2017 but cemented herself as a force to be reckoned with 2018’s veritable left and right hooks with the Bloom and Flexa EPs. After steadily releasing sensational singles throughout 2019, she returned this year with her excellent new project 2 Real.
While she’s always sounded like a chart-topper, 2 Real feels it should be blaring out the speakers of cars – not just in Seattle but across the nation. I’ve written about Parisalexa numerous times and I feel like maybe I’m running out of hyperboles. A songwriter by trade who splits time between Seattle and Los Angeles to pen songs for other artists, Parisalexa brings the same level of finesse and perfection to her own work. If you have ever thought of yourself as a “poptimist” or have even a passing affinity modern pop and R&B, or just appreciate precision songwriting in general, 2 Real is an essential listen.
2 Real feels like a celebration. From the dazzling bombast of “Bentley Truck” and “Slimthick” through the slow jam sprawl of “Chocolate” and the title-track, she brims with confidence and mesmerizing vocal performances. It’s her boldest and most refined release in a discography already full of bold and refined releases. – Dusty Henry
Earlier this month, Colemine Records launched the Brighter Days Ahead singles series, a response to the stay-at-home orders and the subsequent loss of income from canceling tours, postponing release dates, and ceasing the manufacturing for LPs and 45s. "We wanted to come up with some way to give our fans and our artist's fans something to look forward to," explained label owner Terry Cole. Starting on May 22nd and running through the summer, Colemine will release a new track every Friday on their Bandcamp page with 100% of any revenues generated going directly to the artist. "Our goals are simple: put a little bit of money in our artist's pockets and get our fans some new tunes," Cole summarized.
The series kicked off with Seattle's own Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio covering Marvin Gaye's 1971 track "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" off his landmark album What's Going On. The lyrics convey the despair of the bleak economic situation of the times, the lack of support from the government, and police brutality. (That sounds depressingly familiar.) But, in the hands of maestro Delvon Lamarr, the song sounds almost joyous as an instrumental. Guitarist Jimmy James adds a funky groove to the track, and drummer Dan Weiss picks up the pace from Gaye's original composition. Listening to it makes you believe, there might really be brighter days ahead. — Janice Headley
Shaina Shepherd’s voice is a brass siren summoning the hammer of the gods. It is the clarion from the back of the bar announcing last call. It can scare away the demon on your back or alter the gravitational pull of your clothes, making them fall to the floor. Shepherd is a fantastically gifted singer blessed with a variety of emotional tones, and only some of such gifts are gained by practice and experience. Backed by a talented group of instrumentalists who are adept at highlighting that variety — darting from hard rock to 3 am blues and Sunday morning soul as if supported by muscle memory — BEARAXE is what you always want the house band at the neighborhood bar by your friend’s house to sound like.
2018’s Last Call EP still serves as the best introduction to the rock quartet, self-described as a “soul-punk three-piece and a biscuit.” “Brown Liquor” remains the band’s best foot forward; heavy but not in a sludgy, grunge sort of way, guided by a crispness highlighted in the song’s tempo change. (Though “Uber” comes very close, highlighting their emotional range.) Throughout, Matt Williams unspools blistering solos and a woozy funk riff on “For the Kill” and the rhythm section of Jon Lemmon and “Nukkles” Tuitama provides a heft which makes the power and charisma of Shepherd’s voice seem otherworldly. — MD
Following last year’s lauded color theory-themed full-length Bobby Ro$$, GREY sees Perry Porter team up with prior collaborator OldMilk, a Seattle-based producer who’s constantly cranking out new beats for locals like BlkSknn, Rozz Dyliams, LIVt, and Blake Anthony. The duo gathered together a crew that includes Romaro Franceswa, Astral Trap, SWANS, Nobi, Mr. Hentvii, MistaDC, and Fox Desmond to lend their voices to the smooth new addition to the Perry Porter canon.
The tone is set with an opening clip of Bob Ross, a recurring character in Porter’s musical motif, teaching a lesson on how to paint solely in grey tones after being inspired by a blind man. Indeed, there is a distinct one-note vibe that pulses throughout the album: ice cool. The kind of effortless cool that one can’t strive for, either you have it or you don’t. Porter and his crew saunter and stunt without the need for any machismo braggadocio because they know they’ve got it.
When a saxophone enters on “Move My Feet” it feels like the sax player might’ve just followed Porter into the studio, sensing that’s where he belonged. And even when Fox Desmond takes over completely for Porter on “No Talking” for a mid-tempo dance track, it’s still languidly smooth and leisurely cool. While it might not be as vibrant as his prior work, Porter proves there are many shades of grey and expertly explores them all. — JA
Okay, so this release isn’t really new. But Reverend Dollars’ Arson EP feels like it could’ve been dropped in our timeline from the distant future. (And, truthfully, it’s most recent Reverend Dollars release available on Bandcamp – you can find her most recent releases on Soundcloud.) True to its name, Arson has the righteous intensity of a burning building. Merging elements of house, bass, noise, and dance music, Reverend Dollars burns everything down in sight with these four tracks.
Even as the EP brims with intensity and volume, it’s also jubilant and exciting. Throwing on this record is to be transported to a sweaty dance scene, getting lost in the jagged rhythms as you contort your body to the visceral sounds booming out of a shaking PA system. As a member of the QTPOC collective BabexHouse, Reverend Dollars is one of the many artists reimagining Seattle’s club and dance scene. That this record is from 2013 gives you an idea of how far Dollars and other artists are pushing this city into the future. - DH
After their 2016 breakthrough record Black Trash/White House, which saw Guayaba flex their rapping skills and birthed the dancefloor-ready hits “Santa Sangre” and “Uh Oh” as well as one of the most chill-inducing ballads I’ve ever heard, “Paloma,” 2019’s Fantasmagoria is a massive departure, to say the least. Intended to be consumed in one sitting, the eclectic concept record is a journey through nightmares, trauma, surrealism, and the fear of death.
Dramatic from the onset, Guayaba finds a way to meld bossa nova, trap beats, and lush orchestral arrangements to create an atmosphere that is simultaneously captivating and ominous. “I’m inspired by these extremely dramatic operas where someone is descending the staircase covered in blood,” Guayaba told KEXP's Dusty Henry earlier this year. Indeed, to press play on Fantasmagoria is to step into an operatic world where pain is draped in chiffon, a beautiful burden placed on our doomed protagonist.
Before returning to waking life after the 26-minute pilgrimage into Guayaba’s gossamer nightmares, they send us off with a cover of Billie Holiday’s “Gloomy Sunday.” Calling it “one of the saddest songs that exists in English,” Guayaba’s flawlessly sung rendition adds a bossa nova flair that’s both heated and heartbreaking. Which begs the question, what can’t Guayaba do? — JA
If the Dirtbombs were read Our Band Could Be Your Life instead of bedtime stories when they were children, they might have turned out like Beverly Crusher. Alongside Max and Sam Stiles (on bass and drums, respectively), frontman Cozell Wilson sounds like a soul singer at the basement punk show, wailing heartfelt pleas after hydrating his throat with several cans of lukewarm beer. Pills Pills Pills, released in 2016, is described by the garage-punk band as “riff-heavy with obnoxious solos and whiny lyrics about ex-girlfriends and devil worship,” but could also be referred to as an infectious collection of irreverent, breakneck rock ‘n roll tunes which will send you stumbling out of Belltown Yacht Club soaked in sweat and Rainier backwash.
“Pills” is less about drugs and more about the controlled substance of affection you just can’t seem to get enough of from someone who doesn’t really love you back. “See Jane Run” is a literal sprint that occasionally slows down to a halt and starts back up again. “New Fangs” is either about the taste of someone new or a literal vampire, depending on your perspective. “The City” contains a hallmark vocal performance and crying guitar solo from Wilson and some deceptively sharp drumming from Sam Stiles. Pills Pills Pills as a whole is an exercise in using garage-rock as a fulcrum for exhuming whatever’s inside of you and leaving it all over the venue floor. — MD
I always love to watch the reaction when I put on a BlkSknn track for friends. Without saying anything or giving him an intro, I wait a moment before inevitably someone says, “wait, who is this?”
BlkSknn’s been underrated since he dropped his excellent debut Small World back in 2017 and he’s only gotten better. There’s always been something classic about his work and he seems self-aware of this fact. On standout track “Len Bias,” he calls himself a “90s baby, old soul, old flow.” His beats – produced by Soufend Music – leans toward ‘90s g-funk and jazz samples, his voice feels cool and detached as he thinks aloud about his next moves.
Yet even as his music harkens back to the past, BlkSknn never feels like a nostalgist. Maybe timeless would be a better word. Even still, his music feels prescient to the time and space he’s occupying. The EP breezes by in under 10-minutes and no song breaks the two-and-a-half minute mark. In a time where we’re consuming 15-second Instagram stories in a constant, endless stream, BlkSknn uses brevity to his advantage while also challenging the concept. When a song ends, there’s almost an inherent obligation to repeat it.
Soufend’s beats scratch an itch of hip-hop classicism, only heightened by BlkSknn’s fresh perspective while he contends with his under-appreciated greatness. He sums it up best (again) on “Len Bias” he says, “I’ve been dope for way too long, they just ain’t notice but that’s cool.” — DH
On their Soundcloud page, Da Qween introduces themselves on a mission to “encourage all queers to take the unconventional route and be the star the beauty the love they want in this world by giving them the tools to get free through music and performance.” One listen to Renaissance Bitch and you’ll feel that sense of freedom, rebellion, ingenuity, and unabashed self-love.
Da Qween can rap and sing with the best of them – look no further than songs like “Right Away” and “On My Mind” to see them effortless move between both – but it’s their magnetic personality that takes the project to the next level. Lines like “My flow organic, yours come straight from concentrate” (“Life Path #1”) and “Can’t get my pronouns right but swear that I am the drug” (“S.T.F.U.”) are just brief glimpses of the lyrical windows Da Qween blesses us with throughout the 13-song LP.
Anytime Da Qween steps up to the mic, no matter the beat, their sense of royalty and confidence overflows. And it’s hard not to let that confidence carry over to you as well. With every syllable, Da Qween bestows us with empowerment for ourselves. Long live Da Qween. – DH
Sassyblack is one of the hardest working artists in the city. And that goes beyond just her music. She teaches songwriting classes, makes short films, and even occasionally makes acting appearances on shows like Broad City and Vinyl. She’s been putting in this momentous effort since before she and Stas Thee Boss made their debut as THEESatisfaction in the early 2010s and continues to have a prolific solo career.
Her first release of 2020 (with another one on the way next month), iBeBae, is exemplary of Sassyblack’s mastery of what she’s dubbed “hologram funk.” Her intergalactic love songs are just as transfixing and stunning as far off nebulas, twisting in vibrant colors and shining against the abyss. Her voice draws out and croons effortlessly over her sparse beats. The way she builds a whole universe while keeping a minimalist aesthetic is just one facet of the mastery of her craft. – DH
Forever-Seattleite (in our minds anyway) and former KEXP DJ Stas THEE Boss makes a second appearance on this list (scroll up for Martin's praise of her EP On the Quarner) with her contribution to this spacey new single from Shabazz Palaces. "MEGA CHURCH" is a fitting follow-up to the previous collaboration with their Black Constellation cohort, the track "Bad Bitch Walking" off the LP The Don of Diamond Dreams (and WHOA, how is it this album just came out in April? 2020 has felt so long, I thought for sure this came out in 2019). This Bandcamp-exclusive single was released earlier this month when the website did another of their charitable revenue-waiving days earlier this month. (For real, Bandcamp have been heroes this year.)
"MEGA CHURCH" has that "is-this-record-on-the-wrong-speed" wobbliness we've come to know from the project, with vinyl skips and jumps lagging behind as Ishmael Butler duets with a drunken robot. Stas steps in calmly for her verse, which ends with a dizzying recitation before the track fades out. Is it any wonder why we worship at this temple? — Janice Headley
For his third solo album, filmmaker and Dark Smith frontman Danny Denial expands on the distinctly unique blend of goth, grunge, emo, and nearly everything under the “alternative” label that he unveiled on 2017’s Goodbye and 2018’s Dead Like Me. While the prior records were intimate confessions of his struggles and anxieties over being queer, black, depressed, and lonely, fuck danny denial brings in a squad of heavy-hitting local artists, also struggling with similar thoughts and oppressions, that gives the record a feeling of community-based grieving. A kaleidoscope of WOC artists like DoNormaal, The Black Tones’ Eva Walker, Rat Queen, and Razor Clam fill in and commiserate with Denial about how “Totally fucked up” everything is.
Constantly shifting in genre and tone, Denial integrates several well-placed samples, also a new trick in his bag, that makes what should be a depressing listen into a dynamic, engrossing, and — dare I say? — fun journey into the depths of a hypersensitive mind. Working with New York producers Bibz and Jamie AcArdle and Seattle engineer Aaron C. Shroeder of Pierced Ears Recording, everything from Still Corners to Hole to a clip from Gregg Araki’s classic queer film Totally Fucked Up make their way onto fuck danny denial. The result is a maniacally bewitching raw ode to the emotional intensity of being a black queer artist in Seattle. — Jasmine Albertson
Denial had this to say about releasing fuck danny denial in the midst of the BLM protests:
"Releasing a record in the middle of the protests in Seattle was a scary experience for me, because George Floyd's death and reignited movement from it really stirred a lot of emotions in me and moved me to get involved immediately. Remembering that, ‘Oh, I have a record coming out in a week that doesn't reflect all of these changes in me’ felt dysphoric at first — but now that it's out, it's helped me trace my own path to self-discovery in a way. The record is about a loss of identity, loss of anger, and living in a haze of emotional confusion, and becoming an activist has reconnected me with my own identity, my own anger and given me a sense of clarity I haven't had in years. I'm feeling affirmed in my own sense of self and my pride right now, and I want to help other people of color take that back for themselves, too."
The Seattle trio, led by the talented Nicolle Swims, release the first single from forthcoming EP Stay Evil and Swims pens a short but searing essay about being exhausted and Black.
Gabriel Teodros talks with musician, poet, attorney, and former mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver on the protests and social justice movement in Seattle.
On Friday, May 1st, Bandcamp will yet again waive their revenue share on all purchases for 24 hours, in a gesture of support to all the artists who've been impacted by the coronavirus lockdowns. KEXP's Digital Content Team has rounded up some of the things we'll be adding to our carts today.