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206 Zulu spotlights local hip-hop producers in annual competition

Four men lean over their laptops with wires and headphones strewn across a black tablecloth. They're in front of Miner's Landing in Seattle's waterfront.
206 Zulu
Producers do not mix live, instead having beats already produced and played from their laptops. But there will be live performances from the beatboxer Audiopoet and the dance group Massive Monkees.

The 12th annual competition for local hip-hop producers takes place this Sunday at Seattle's Westlake Park.

Armed with just a computer, each producer has the opportunity to impress a panel of judges with two 60-second beats to move on to the next round. The competition is bracket style starting with 16 producers until the final round when the top two will go head-to-head.

Daniel Kogita, better known as King Khazm, has been around Seattle's hip-hop scene since he was a teenager growing up on Beacon Hill in the '90s. In 2004 he founded 206 Zulu, the organization that puts on the Beat Masters competition. The nonprofit has a mission to use hip-hop to educate, empower others and advocate for social justice.

206 Zulu puts on a variety of events centered around different elements of hip-hop like music, dance and visual arts. They've organized a graffiti mural competition, run after-school programs teaching students the basics about beat production, and a weekly open dance night.

"We really wanted to preserve the essence of hip-hop, which sometimes gets lost in translation, especially through the co-opting and commodification of music and in the industry," King Khazm said.

The Beat Masters competition is an event that was created to showcase the music side of hip-hop, specifically the producers.

"A lot of times when you think of hip-hop, you think of the emcee, or the rapper is kind of in the forefront a lot of times," King Khazm said. "Not much is really known about the mysterious person behind the actual music. And so it was kind of an attempt to spotlight music producers, hip-hop producers." 

Previous participants include OC Notes and Chong the Nomad and past judges include Jake One and Sir Mix-A-Lot. This year the panel of judges includes Wizdumb, Specs Wizard and Sho Nuph.

King Khazm said the competition is an opportunity for producers to come together and for the community to engage with the local hip-hop scene. Attendees will enjoy original beats plus a dance performance and workshop and a beatboxing performance.

The event is free and open to the public.

Grace Madigan is KNKX's former Arts & Culture reporter. Her stories focused on how people express themselves and connect to their communities through art, music, media, food, and sport.