Seattle is known for many things: coffee, the tech industry, and of course, rain. But hip-hop is not on that list. We asked people on the street which rap artists come from Seattle, and the only ones they could think of were Macklemore and Sir Mix-A-Lot. None had heard of a rapper who has lived here his whole life, M-Eaze.
M-Eaze is using music as a way to put a spotlight on his city's hip-hop scene. He started rapping when he was seven. He says that when he realized he had a gift, he found his purpose: "I feel like my purpose is not to clean bathrooms and my purpose is not to make video game systems. My purpose is to make music that people can relate to, to dictate what their mood is going to be. Because I want my music to be the solution to everything."
M-Eaze performs many local shows, is working on his fourth independent album, and is CEO of Slap Did It, his record label. With all that work, he says he sleeps about three or four hours a day on average. "In order to be in my business," M-Eaze says, "you have to understand, sleep is for people who want to be broke! I'll remaster the same song 55 different times. And guess how long it takes me? Oh my gosh, about a month! And that struggle is what's going to make [you] way more appreciative when you get to the end. You'll be like, 'man I did that.'"
Hip-hop is part of a tradition where you say who you are and where you're from. But if you rap about being from Seattle, M-Eaze says no one really knows what that means. He believes that the Seattle hip-hop scene needs an identity.
M-Eaze says the way to give the city a unique musical style is "if we all embraced something that was just our own. Like it rains out here. You know, you don't ever hear anything about raining on any song. You can hear 'Make it Rain,' but we should have come out with 'Make it Rain' first because realistically it rains out here more than it does there. Just give us the exposure, and there's some of us who do know what to do with it. And we'll make the scene what it's supposed to be."
M-Eaze complains that "everyone wants to do something fun, and it's just not going down" in Seattle. "Like, we need places to go, we ain't never in the same spot. Me and Bill Gates and — who else wants a slice of the pie? — Paul Allen: We're gonna all sit at a table and figure out how to get the party scene here."
M-Eaze says success for Seattle rappers is difficult, compared to those from the East Coast or the South. So why doesn't he just leave? "Because I feel it wouldn't be authentic," he answers. "Authenticity is the biggest thing to me in music. Because it means more to me that I get respect. I want to be able to spread to other states and places without having to sacrifice who I truly am inside, because I don't want to be a traitor. I don't want to have to be a Lebron James to get a championship. I'm 'a stay with my team, and stay loyal to my team, and we're gonna win regardless. You don't ever have to worry about M-Eaze switching up or going nowhere. And if I do, guess what? I'm taking you guys with me, 'cause it's a tour; it ain't like I'm not coming back."
No matter where M-Eaze goes, he's representing Seattle. That is something he wants Seattlites to take pride in — and take part in it — by creating a movement and promoting his beautiful city through local artists.
This spring, KUOW hosted an after-school workshop for high school students in partnership with Rainier Scholars at the 2100 Building in South Seattle. It was part of our youth radio program, RadioActive. Five youth producers spent 10 weeks learning what it means to be a radio journalist. They created powerful stories about subjects close to their hearts. Listen to RadioActive stories here and stay up-to-date with RadioActive on Facebook.