Nowadays when people bring up Seattle music there’s only one person that pops into everyone’s thought bubbles: Macklemore. With his thrift shop style, fresh originality and passion for portraying his opinions on national controversies through songs, he and friend/producer Ryan Lewis have taken the country by storm as of late.
It’s not that Mack’s getting too much attention, or even all of it for that matter; he’s just become more mainstream and easily recognized compared to other guys from the Northwest. That’s why it’s no wonder people might look at this article funny or scratch their heads when Raz Simone and his latest musical drop, the Solomon Samuel Simone EP, is mentioned as another of Seattle’s great up-and-coming artists.
After poking around on the Internet last semester I came across the 5 Good Reasons EP, a small project put together by Raz and his friend, rapper, producer and fellow Seattle native, Sam Lachow. It’s hard to not dig what these guys are doing on the other side of the country. Each track brought lively, catchy instrumentals with organic sounds that make them all so refreshing. There was really no debating that the duo had great chemistry, quite reflective of Big Boi and Andre 3000 of OutKast, ironically Sam’s favorite group.
In and of himself, Raz is a very interesting individual. As a young child he sang in church and didn’t even hear his first 2Pac song until middle school. In fact, his musical career was built on his love of poetry and his works for school. His poetry slams were eventually applied to musical tracks.
He raps with a raspy voice that makes him sound like an old man, which may be fitting because of the amount of wisdom and love evident in so many of his songs. From his videos, he may look like the typical image of a rapper: gold chains, rings, jewelry, crew always with him, etc., but when you listen to the content he puts forth, the image suddenly changes.
Raz must go into a room with a crystal ball every time before he writes. His ability to remove himself from the image bestowed upon rap, the past, present and future, and put together songs built from his own experiences with no bias and just lessons, is almost unheard of in rap today. In a lot of ways, he is an excellent teacher through a medium many of us understand best.
Among video and song releases like “Brave,” “They’ll Speak” and “10 Feet Tall,” Raz has not only been working on individual projects for himself and with friends like Sam, but has put together the Solomon Samuel Simone EP that was released March 19.
The EP is a five song collection including, “These Kids Throw Rocks,” “Cold,” “Good Run,” “Sometimes I Don’t (Featuring Sam Lachow)” and “Formula to Life,” and videos have already been made for “Cold” and “Sometimes I Don’t.”
The leadoff track, “These Kids Throw Rocks” sets the tone for the rest of the songs. Raz starts out with addressing his elderly characteristics including the raspy voice and eventually moves to talking about the stresses life causes, wrongful things that happen right under our noses that nobody does or says anything about, needing the bad to appreciate the good, weeding out loyal friends from real ones, and struggling to succeed in Seattle music scene. The EP is kicked off with a mellow beat that is a theme throughout its entirety and is made with just drums, saxophone and airy synths.
“Cold” was the first song I heard as the video was released months before the album, and it’s another thoughtful one. The quiet synth, crisp drums and bass guitar set the perfect stage for Raz to let loose about controversies and concepts that can make people and the world cold. From topics like premarital sex, hypocrites in society and lies, to trust and anger issues, he spreads understanding and intelligence in a simple form that’s incredibly relatable for anyone.
“Good Run” may be my least favorite track, but Raz tackles the hard truth of a break-up, making for another great addition to the collection. Instead of looking at it in a depressing light, he takes a look at what went wrong during the relationship and how to move forward. The chorus is pretty catchy and yet again, a light synth is the best compliment to his style.
The one song with a feature is “Sometimes I Don’t” with Sam Lachow, and the collaboration is another home run from the pair. The beat is hands down my favorite, still incorporating organic sounds with strings, drums and horns. It’s also very interesting how the two tackled the topic of internal struggle between right and wrong. Sam talks about the hardships of his goals and wanting a clear view to follow his dreams while his college friends are content with hanging out and not making any moves, while Raz on the other hand dives into the struggles between being involved in the street life and having to be a bigger man in certain situations.
The final track to round out the EP is “Formula to Life.” Stemming from the title, Raz plays professor and attempts to teach lessons and make recommendations on how to handle people you might meet, their personalities, and your own downfalls. The combination of another light synth, drums, quick hi-hat and horns give it a floating, saintly feel.
If you’re expecting party tracks or bangers this isn’t the album for you. I for one was happy with the step back from the “hard” club rap and emphasis on lyrics that make you nod your head and feel everything about the music. The delivery, tone and telling makes for a new and unexpected experience in a realm where we’ve become comfortable being fed the same thing by different artists.
Now, hopefully when someone mentions good music coming out of Seattle, Macklemore isn’t the only name that you can relate to the great Northwest. Raz, Sam Lachow and many others are making cases to be included in conversations of the heavyweights.
If you’re interested in finding any music mentioned here you can find the Solomon Samuel Simone EP and the 5 Good Reasons EP for free to download at DatPiff.com Also, look for Young Seattle Part 1 and 2 on YouTube where Raz, Sam and the rest of the young talent that resides in Seattle are showcased in one video.