An Incomplete History of Rhymesayers' Courtship of Seattle Hip-Hop

The Midwest indie-rap label continues its pattern of poaching our talent with Grieves' new album, Together/Apart.

Since its inception in the mid-'90s, Minneapolis indie-rap label Rhymesayers has branched out to include artists from both coasts, including a fair number of Seattle acts. Label co-founder Brent "Siddiq" Sayers explains that his interest is rooted in the similarities between the two cities' hip-hop scenes: "I definitely feel that there's a connection to us and a scene like Seattle . . . that's why there continues to be this synergy."

FEBRUARY 15, 2005 The first exposure Rhymesayers audiences have to a Seattle signee comes from Grayskul, who revel in the city's gray-sky demeanor on Deadlivers. The group's gloomy aesthetic and mystical personae prove intriguing enough to earn them a fan base from here to Europe. Sayers says of the album: "It's just a cool, edgy, underground sound."

JUNE 21, 2005 Boom Bap Project's Reprogram is released on the Rhymesayers imprint. The album features the finest beatmakers in Seattle—from Jake One and Vitamin D to Bean One and Mr. Hill—and represents a true-school beats-and-rhymes formula. Sayers says the partnership came about when Seattle promoter/manager Jonathan Moore introduced the label to demo tapes featuring Jake One and Vitamin D. "For the most part," says Sayers, "a lot of our [professional partnerships are] built out of natural relationships, more so than we go out scouting for talent."

OCTOBER 7, 2008 Jake One's exquisite solo debut White Van Music appears in stores. According to Sayers, the album, for which Jake pulled MCs from all over the country to rap over his neck-snapping beats, was another natural alliance. "It was cool for us to have had a relationship for years now," he says. "And so when it came time for him to find a place to [release the album], it was kind of a natural fit."

JUNE 21, 2011 Grieves' Together/Apart will be released by Rhymesayers following an album-release show at Neumos the night before. The album is laced with breathy vocals and emotional verses that might be more in line with the label's founding group, Atmosphere, than with any other Seattle offering to date. The album is also completely sample-free, and relies entirely on the musicianship of Grieves and his producer, Budo. "Musically, our approach was very melody-based, very hook-centric," says Budo. "I think that the hooks, in many ways, dictated the direction of the song, which I think led to a much more focused approach."

"He's an extreme talent, and I think over the next few years, people will really start to see that," says Sayers of Grieves. "I believe that he took what he's been working on and really developed over that last couple of years, and really put that into this record. This year will definitely be a really strong breakout year for him."

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