Various Artists – All Your Friend’s Friends
I love K Records.
OK, I don’t have most of their catalog. I’m a Beat Happening, Mirah, Dub Narcotic Sound System, Halo Benders fan for the most part. But every release I’ve ever heard on the label is undeniably cool, because the integrity of the art is audible. I do have a CD from short-lived Tacoma rap group Black Anger from the mid-90s, and it’s one of my all-time favorites of the genre.
So to see a new hip hop compilation from K, featuring beats surrounded by material from the label’s vast vaults of recordings, my interest was piqued. With All Your Friend’s Friends, I’m happy to report the long tradition of cool continues in Olympia.
Nineteen tracks feature more than 30 vocalists (as a group, Thee XNTRX) in various line-ups and styles, propelled by the production of Old Dominion’s Smoke M2D6. A co-producing credit should go to Eprhyme, who conceived the idea with Smoke and brought it to K honcho Calvin Johnson, who enthusiastically handed over the goods. I don’t recognize most of the source material utilized by Smoke’s free reign of the K vaults, though the vocal samples of Mirah, (Built to Spill frontman) Doug Martsch and Calvin Johnson are hard to miss.
Stylistically, All Your Friend’s Friends does offer a tasty mix. Early favorites include the striking modern soul on “Evolve Away” with strong vocals from XPerience (one of four appearances); electro-flavored “Good Bad Girl” featuring Heddie Leone’s K.Flay-style flow; and the dark, acoustic-bass-backed big-beat of “Blackfist Brokenfont” with the tenor-to-alto group vocals of Silent Lambs Project and Nyqwil.
Throughout the collection, samples of electronic keys, acoustic and electric guitars, strings and a mix of vocals remind me of the breadth of musical styles that the gang at K Records has been dishing out for 30 or so years now. Surprisingly, the more soulful groups on the label – I’m thinking mostly of Dub Narcotic and Black Anger – aren’t to be heard in the mix. Actually, it’s a bit disappointing at first, but the quality from top to bottom more than makes up for it.
The topics around the compilation’s tunes vary, though there are several lines celebrating our dome of grey, from Seattle to Portland. And we’ve got a lot to celebrate in the talents of these MCs, including members of megacrews Old Dominion and the Sandpeople (Onry Ozzborn, JFK, Barfly, etc.) as well as the cleverly named new-to-me voices of Free Whiskey, Jesus Chris and Hash Adams. There’s not a weak voice in the bunch, and the wild mic-passing of “Jump Kick the Legs” includes twelve MCs spitting “I’m-gonna-top-that” phrases that fly at you like Bruce Lee’s fists.
It’s such a seamless mix of K Records goodies and next-level modern hip hop that by the time “Welcome to Forever” from Simple & Smoke closes the collection, you’re left only marveling at the quality of the music. In the end, that’s what K Records has always done: let great artists make great art.
Album release parties are in Seattle at the Rendezvous on Thursday and in Olympia at the Olympia Ballroom Saturday. In Seattle you’ll find Onry Ozzborn, XPerience, Wildcard, Candidt and Everybody Weekend; the Olympia show includes XPerience, Wildcard, Free Whiskey, Miz and Ang P. Both shows open with Selector Dub Narcotic (DJ Calvin Johnson). Both shows will be preceded by an 8 p.m. showing of the All Your Friend’s Friends “making of” documentary, directed by Red Williamson and produced by Eprhyme.
All Your Friend’s Friends hit stores November 11. A trailer for the documentary and the video for “Jump Kick the Legs” are below.
Thank you, goodnight!
(Abe Beeson is the host of Evening Jazz weeknights from 7:30-midnight on 88.5fm KPLU. He’s infrequently also heard on fellow public radio station KEXP, where he hosted The Live Room live local show from 1993 to 2002.)