by Cecil Beatty-Yasutake

I can't tell you how many times I've heard friends and strangers alike complain that there is no place to go for good Rap and R&B music here in Seattle. And thanks to the controversial closings of Sharky's on Shilshole Bay and Pier 70's Iguana Cantina, two of the city's more popular urban music venues, things have only gotten worse. It's almost as if the Forces That Be here in the Emerald City have something against B-Boys & Girls gathering together and having a good time. Don't they know Hip-Hop is as much a part of this country as Rock and Roll?

The proof is everywhere. Anybody remember the following movies: "Independence Day," "Men in Black," "Enemy of the State," "Friday" or "Poetic Justice"? If you answered yes, then welcome to the world of Hip-Hop, because all of these movies featured rap stars in lead or prominent roles. In the world of fashion, just look at the nearest teenager. Is he or she wearing any of the following: baggy jeans or shorts, expensive athletic foot apparel or boots, or oversized jerseys or T-shirts with names like Phat Pharm, Mecca USA or Karl Kani on them? If you answered yes, then be advised, it's a hip-hop thang! And finally, let's not forget the well-publicized appearance of rap in a recently released bestselling novel by some dude named Tom Wolfe--what's that all about?

Twenty-six years ago "Kool Herc" introduced Rap to partygoers in the Bronx. Six years later the Sugar Hill Gang dropped Rap's first commercially successful single in "Rapper's Delight" and critics called it a fad. Now Hip-Hop is the most popular-selling music format in the U.S., racking up 81 million tapes, albums, and CDs sold in 1998 as compared to 72 million for country music--America's previous #1 musical format. Sales of Rap music have increased an incredible 31% from 1997 to 1998, while Country managed just a 2% increase and Rock a mere 6%. The industry as a whole averaged just 9% overall.

Seattle isn't the only place where rap music is struggling to get the attention it deserves. Jay-Z, a nominee in this year's Grammy Rap Album of the Year category, decided not to go to the show in protest of the fact that so few rap music categories were going to get air time, despite Lauryn Hill's phenomenal ten Grammy nominations. A message was sent on Grammy night, though, as Jay-Z won Rap Artist of the Year and Ms. Lauryn Hill took home five Grammy statues, the two most important ones being for Album of the Year and Best New Artist. Call me crazy, but not only is Rap here to stay--and thus Hip-Hop--it's running things.

Thus I set out with a lovely 20-something party bloodhound as my guide, a fistful of dollars, and a tank full of gas. We set out to find Seattle's perfect beat, and to see if the freaks really do come out at night, as Whoodini once sang about back in the day.

Saturday: 700 Club, (700 Virginia Ave., 206-343-1255). It wasn't Hip-Hop, but is was some serious Acid Jazz (for those who don't know what that is, picture Rap and Jazz colliding head-on--or the two styles married--then picture their offspring.)

VIBE: Tucked away hole-in-the-wall, once inside you'll see a walled-off seating section. On the opposite of the entrance are three or four smoky dark set-off rooms for those who want a little privacy or are pooped from dancing their asses off on the packed and springy (literally) dance floor.

PEEPS: Young urban/suburban, and a few 30-somethings. Ethnically mixed, more girls than guys. Dress was very hip to organic, no goth or rack types.

EARPOLLUTION: On this particular night it was Acid Jazz, which consisted of a DJ, drums, upright bass, organ, trumpet, trombone, sax and two female vocalists. Between sets the DJ played old school Funk and current Hip-Hop.

LEFTOVERS: Rope burn was nonexistent (I just walked in), drinks were generous in size and hidden spots were a nice touch.

Saturday: Art Bar (1516 Second Ave., 206-622-4344)

VIBE: Dark and narrow; come to get your grove on or play pool in the back.

PEEPS: Mainly African American Hip-Hop scenesters: Guys sporting everything from old school Adidas and Pumas to baggy jeans and hooded sweatshirts; gals are wearing the same baggy jeans, with the occasional skirt--high cut here and there. What sets the ladies apart is their upper body apparel: tube tops with an open blouse, something shimmery, metallic and very low cut.

EARPOLLUTION: Straight Hip-Hop old and new, the DJ lacked a real mixer's knack for presentation like you'd find in clubs back East or in California. But it was all good nonetheless.

LEFTOVERS: Minimum rope burn before 11:30 p.m., afterwards expect to wait. Some serious bump and grind takes place when the DJ finds the grove.

Saturday: Lox Stock (4552 University Way NE 206-634-3144)

VIBE: College watering hole/hang out by day and your typical spring break bash by night. High School society meets college crowd. KUBE radio on-air personality Bobby O and his hot mix show come to you live from this spot every Saturday.

PEEPS: Urban/Suburban, ethnically mixed and in full hormone overdrive! Way too much testosterone in this joint even from the females. It's pick-up city, very aggressive; even my beautiful party bloodhound was put off. Guys were in expensive athletic footware--Lugz or Timbo's--with baggy jeans and open shirts or oversized jerseys. Females were straight hoochie and tight for the most part, with the occasional well-dressed young lady here and there.

EARPOLLUTION: MTV-styled Hip-Hop and R&B presented in top notch style by host Bobby O and additional guest DJ's.

LEFTOVERS: Rope Burn was serious. Get there early, like before 10PM.

Friday: Re-bar (1114 Howell, 206-233-9873)

VIBE: Sweaty and dark dance floor, with plenty of out-of-the-way seating for people watching or catching up with friends. The whole feel to the place is laid back and mellow as hell. This is a gay & lesbian friendly joint so if you can't deal with that, don't come!

PEEPS: Generation Xers and up with just enough young bloods to keep it fresh. Dress organic to '70s style retro across the board. No glam here, that's another night.

EARPOLLUTION: Fridays feature the Funky Dread One (as I call him), DJ Riz, spinning Hip-Hop, R&B, and Funk. He's one of the best hosts in the Emerald City, period--a real DJ who can make a pair of 1200s smoke!

LEFTOVERS: Late-arriving crowd, beer and wine only. Rope burn is minimal.

Preliminary investigative work has uncovered two or three definite outlets for headz to go get the fix. I can't say we're quite up to New York or California standards, but there is hope. DJ Riz can definitely provide you with a Funk fix, East or West Coast style with all the trimmings. Headz from all over the map will feel right at home at the Art Bar. If you're young and looking for some action, Lox Stock is for you, especially if you like an MTV music format.

My lovely party bloodhound and I will be hittin' the streets again in the very near future in our continuing search for the perfect beat. So stay tuned, but for right now, I'm out. My pillow is calling me.

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