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Hip-hop releases rise to the top of the 2020 best locally produced albums list

Shabazz Palaces
Shabazz Palaces

Hip-hop music is taking top honors. That’s according to the list of best local music albums of the year that the Seattle Times has releases annually. It’s voted on by local music writers, radio personalities and others who keep their finger on the pulse of local music. 

Michael Rietmulder is the music writer for the Seattle Times and curated the list. He joined me to talk about the three albums that topped the list, and started off by saying that this was the first time that the top releases all had elements of hip-hop to them.

#1: “The Don of Diamond Dreams” by Shabazz Palaces

Rietmulder: Shabazz was the first real significant hip-hop act on Sub Pop, and they have been a leader in sort of the experimental, more avant-garde hip-hop space. You know, they've been known for incorporating a lot of polyrhythms and these Afro, futuristic qualities to the music over the years. And with this new record, "The Don of Diamond Dreams," I think this one is really some of the best work of his career. But, you know, this is a guy who has been pushing boundaries in hip-hop since the early '90s when he was part of the jazz-rap group Digable Planets. And, you know, this album, I think it still carries a lot of that adventurous, psychedelic quality and is sort of abstract at times. But it's also the most accessible Shabazz album that I think we've heard. So, if you're maybe new to Shabazz Palaces, I think this is a great place to start.

#2. “2 Real” by Parisalexa

Rietmulder: She's an R&B singer, still only 22 years old, but has already been a local favorite for years, it feels like. And this album, "2 Real," is her first full-length project. And you can really hear her sort of identifying and honing in on her sound with this one. She's always kind of had this '90s R&B influence, and that energy is still very much present on "2 Real." And one thing that I think you see in her songwriting, particularly her pop smarts, are just a lot sharper and more refined.


Rietmulder: ILLFIGHTYOU are sort of underground heroes from Tacoma's very vibrant hip-hop scene. They put out their debut album back in 2013. Seven years later, we get this very highly anticipated follow-up. I think part of their appeal is the way that their lyrics are very sharp and irreverent and clever and absurd at times, with proudly low-brow punchlines that are just a lot of fun and not particularly radio friendly.

Michael Rietmulder is the music writer for the Seattle Times. You can see the complete list of best local albums of 2020 by clicking here.

Kevin Kniestedt is a journalist, host and producer who began his career at KNKX in 2003. Over his 17 years with the station, he worked as a full time jazz host, a news host and produced the weekly show Sound Effect. Kevin has conducted or produced hundreds of interviews, has won local and national awards for newscasts and commentary.