Celebrating Hip-Hop in Seattle: Past, Present, and Future

Often known for its coffee culture, seafood, and big technology names like Microsoft and Amazon, the city of Seattle also has a rich grassroots music and arts culture that creates a different kind of hometown pride amongst both locals and transplants that appreciate the Seattleite lifestyle.

This fall the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) honors the local Hip-Hop scene with “The Legacy of Seattle Hip-Hop,” an exhibit that explores the many facets of the local Hip- Hop scene including graffiti, deejaying, break dancing, production, and emceeing. Throughout the exhibit you’ll find first-person narratives and experiences of Seattle performers and artists.

Iconic clothing from the closets of some of Seattle’s most current and well-known Hip-Hop artists such as Macklemore, Raz Simone, and the Massive Monkees are on display. The exhibit also takes visitors back in time, explaining the journey of the early artists who built the foundation for the names we know now.

If you haven’t heard of producers like Grammy Award nominee Jake One or Vitamin D and organizations like NastyMix Records and Tribal Productions, then you’re in for a treat. Superstars aren’t born overnight, they’re often nurtured and lifted by a community, so it’s no surprise that the “The Legacy of Seattle Hip-Hop” lives at MOHAI, the largest private heritage organization in the State of Washington.

mohai seattle hip hop

Exhibit curators and Seattle natives Jazmyn Scott (The Town Entertainment) and Aaron Walker-Loud (Big World Breaks) talk about why Hip-Hip and why now.

Why do you think there is a need for this in Seattle?
Through working with Jazmyn and many artists/entities we have been blessed to collaborate with and learn from within the Northwest arts scene as a whole, including incredibly talented Hip-Hop artists of various styles, elements and eras; a ferocious underdog spirit has and continues to thrive. Aside from a very small number of Hip-Hop artists (dancers, emcees, producers, deejays and visual artists), the vast majority of this region’s talent is largely ignored by the local, national and international media. A lack of Seattle-generated music industry structure and capitol, periodic cycles of disconnect between local radio/media and local artists, as well as the pigeon-holed national stereotypes of what “Seattle Hip-Hop Culture” is, all contribute to the glass shield that most Northwest artists struggle to break out of. This exhibit would have been rich with noted accomplishments and unique culture even if it was curated by others ten-twenty years ago, yet Jazmyn and I feel honored to have been selected to take this anthropological challenge on right now, especially so that Seattle Hip-Hop foundational artists such as the Emerald Street Boys and DVS can enjoy celebrating what they helped build at this exciting time in our city’s story unveiled. – Aaron Walker-Loud

Was there anything new you learned during the curating process?
We have been excited to learn more about the lineage of learning and teaching in Seattle’s Hip-Hop community. Through uncovering artifacts and stories over the last several seasons, it is amazing to see how many artists, even some of the most established career-wise, have and continue to mentor aspiring artists in one or multiple elements. Whether in formal classes offered at schools or youth programs, or in recording studios and dance studios, the cycle of cultural exchange is heavily overlapped between multiple generations of Seattle’s artists. This all results in what we clearly see as Seattle’s exponential growth in overall artistic skill level and creative risk taking, in the increasing level of organized artist-driven entrepreneurship and in the sheer number of artists and crews generating new works for the public to enjoy – Aaron Walker-Loud

What do you want people to gain from experiencing the exhibit?
For people that are familiar (on any level) with Seattle Hip-Hop, I hope that they experience nostalgia, different perspectives and a new appreciation for our local culture and scene. For those that may not have any previous knowledge or connection to Seattle Hip-Hop, I hope that there are elements that they find relatable and that they learn something new about our diverse Hip-Hop community. – Jazmyn Scott

What are some highlights/gems that about the local hip hop community that visitors would find interesting?
Seattle Hip-Hop artists have had a global impact and that is something that isn’t always widely acknowledged. We have the opportunity to showcase trophies, awards and work from some of Seattle and the world’s best producers, emcees, dancers and designers. We have also included the Seattle Hip-Hop timeline, created by Dr. Daudi Abe; which highlights specific moments in local Hip-Hop history and we were able to associate many artifacts with those moments. The inclusion of this timeline provides us an opportunity to more thoroughly tell the story of The Legacy of Seattle Hip-Hop. The timeline in its entirety can be found at http://www.drdaudiabe.com. – Jazmyn Scott

“The Legacy of Seattle Hip-Hop” runs September 19, 2015—May 1, 2016 in MOHAI’s Walker Gallery.

Visit www.mohai.org/hiphop for additional information and programming.

MOHAI                     |                      860 Terry Ave N, Seattle                     |              206-324-1126