Local history of hip hop coming to Mariner Library

Hip hop has history that’s straight outta Seattle and it’s coming to the Mariner Library in July.

“I said a hip hop …”

What: Emerald Street: Race, Class, Culture and the History of Hip Hop in the Northwest
Who: Prof. Daudi Abe
Where: Mariner Library, 520 128th St. SW, Everett 98204.
When: 6 p.m., Tuesday, July 17
Cost: Free

From Sir Mix-A-Lot’s start in the late ’70s to Macklemore’s march on the Grammy Awards in 2014, hip-hop culture and its music have deep roots in the Pacific Northwest. Digging into that history at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 17 will be Daudi Abe, a Seattle-based historian, writer and educator.

The free event will be in the library meeting room at 520 128th St. SW, Everett 98204.

Abe says he agrees to a certain extent with the characterization that hip hop is something you live, while rap is something you do.
“Hip-hop culture isn’t just about rap music,” Abe said. “It includes dance, graphics, DJ and writing; I present information on it all.”

Abe chronicles hip-hop culture in his book, “6 ‘N the Morning: West Coast Hip-Hop Music 1987-1992 & the Transformation of Mainstream Culture.” His next book, “Emerald Street: A History of Hip-Hop in Seattle,” is due out later this year.

“I was somebody who was raised and weaned on hip hop,” said Abe, who grew up in Seattle. “’Rappers Delight’ (by The Sugarhill Gang) was the first record I bought. It changed my life and I fell in love with it.”

Abe sees a range of nuances as hip-culture moves toward wider popularity and acceptance.

“Like a rapper vs. an MC,” Abe said. “An MC may be more grounded in the hip-hop style and the rapper might have more interest in making inroads into the mainstream.”

Abe cited MC Hammer as an example of a musician aiming at a more commercially viable style. “Sir Mix-A-Lot and Macklemore are traveling the same route,” Abe said. “I’m not one to condemn different artists’ styles and where they are coming from. For me, it is the variety and style and content.”

Seattle-native Sir Mix-A-Lot is known his Billboard No. 1 hit “Baby Got Back” which just marked its 25th anniversary. “Some see him as a one-hit wonder,” Abe said of the rapper who is now hosting a morning radio show on Seattle’s 103.7 FM. “Maybe, but only if they’re not paying attention.”

Although Abe acknowledges that the grunge-music phenomenon led by Seattle-born bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden began to overshadow the local hip-hop scene, the culture is an important part of the region’s past and present.

“One of my points is that this not so much hip-hop history as it is local history, period,” Abe said. “There’s no separation.”

Abe said those attending his presentation at Mariner Library can expect a combination of imagery and music. “It’s a nice well-rounded multi-media experience,” he said.

Abe holds a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Washington and has taught about hip-hop culture at Seattle Central College, to high-school students at the Bush School in Seattle as well as inmates at the state prison in Monroe.

The Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau is funding the event. Abe has done a number of similar Humanities Washington events and said they attract diverse audiences. “There are people who follow Humanities Washington events and then there are some who come because of the subject matter,” Abe said. “It’s always an interesting mixture.”