An Incomplete History of Seattle's New Hip-Hop Cinematography

From "My Volvo" to "Joe Metro."

2007–2008 Zia Mohajerjasbi, brother of Blue Scholars and Common Market producer Sabzi, directs and produces a handful of stellar videos for the former ("Back Home," "Joe Metro," "Loyalty"), the latter ("Trouble Is"), and fellow Massline artist Gabriel Teodros ("No Label"). In doing so, he effectively invents a culture of local hip-hop cinematography that has rapidly expanded since—though he would be loath to take the credit. December 24, 2009 Mohajerjasbi follows his notable visuals for Jake One's "Home" with a vibrant, breathtaking Seattle skyline (captured from the roof of the Central District's Kawabe Memorial House retirement community) in his video for Macklemore's "The Town"—and in doing so creates some of the most heart-wrenching and defining visuals of Seattle's hip-hop renaissance. At nearly 400,000 YouTube views less than a year after its release, it fittingly reigns as Seattle hip-hop's most-viewed music video since "Baby Got Back." "The idea is that your art and perspective aren't necessarily cultivated by the particular scene you're running in—it's a bigger experience than that," Mohajerjasbi said. "So we wanted to somehow plug in people who represented a larger community than just a scene. It was just, like, 'Behold: our city.'" April 22, 2010 After creating the video for Fresh Espresso's "Big or Small" (which got play on MTV), Stephen Gray films the first, and biggest, viral video in Seattle hip-hop in 2010: Grynch's "My Volvo." Summer 2010 Jon Augustavo commands the game in quality and sheer numbers. Beginning with his breakout video for Eighty4 Fly's "So Cool," which remains his most-viewed, he went on to release pieces for the likes of J.Pinder, Sol, the Physics, Lace Cadence, Scribes, and Avatar Young Blaze—both before and after he moved to Los Angeles to develop his skills as a writer/director at the Art Center College of Design. "After what Jon Jon did with 'So Cool,' I trusted his vision, and I wouldn't be in the same position if it weren't for him," says Deavon Taylor, aka Eighty4 Fly, who's shot three further videos with Augustavo. "It just brings more out of your song when you can express it visually. I'd shoot a video for every song I make, if I could." Next Week Gray is ready to drop the video for Macklemore's "Irish Celebration." "That one's kind of a monster, if I don't say so myself," Gray says. "It's a natural flow—creativity is just sparked by good music. And when it's a good song, you're more willing to do the extra work to make something happen. There's just an amazing amount of music in the city right now, and high-quality music videos are a result."

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