If a band spends a solid 12 months working hard, playing buzz worthy shows, and leaving audience members mystified at why said group doesn't get more attention, my theory is good things start happening the second the new year rolls around.
Witness: Rather than having any sophomore slump, Helladope have already played some key shows in 2010 including opening up for Goodie Mob and Snoop Dogg, and they seem comfortable on a big stage. More importantly, tonight Helladope is releasing their eponymous debut record.
"This is more of an introduction to get [people] to take us into their home and get comfortable with us," 22-year-old Tay Sean told me during a recent chat. "I feel a lot of our music, it’s very basic and anybody can relate to it. It's that, 'I woke up on a sunny day, grabbed my 40 ounce and my blunt' type raps. That's definitely on purpose. It’s more commercially viable, possibly easier to swallow for the masses."
Despite the smoked out raps that the group is known for off of their Return to Planet Rock EP, you sense that Helladope is finding a way to become hella strategic. They've borrowed tidbits from Capitol Hill shenanigan rap, Central District grittiness, and South End slanguistics and transformed it all into an original Beacon Hill-based concoction.
"I think the hood can slap it and the white folks on [Capitol] Hill can slap it," Jerm, 29. "The crossover potential is high. We can open up for the rock acts, we can open for the dudes in tight pants, and we can go to the hood and they love us."
One of the things that immediately stands out about Helladope's LP is that they're keen on exposing listeners to other (young) up and coming talent around the city.
"Even the big shows that we've been doing lately like Goodie Mob or whatever, to me it was important to showcase other people that we’ve collaborated with," Tay Sean says. "THEESatisfaction came on stage with us, Mikey and Jarv, the Cloud Nice family got to rap, the SOTA boys came on stage, and that’s all a part of what we're trying to do."
Young singers Isabella DuGraf (who studies at the Berklee School of Music in Boston) and 16-year-old Beacon Hill resident Moni Tep make appearances on the album as do Rajnii Eddins and GMK.
But despite the somewhat high number of guests, Helladope's crisp yet lackadaisical production and West Coast raps aren't muddled. And they remain front and center. Jerm is the veteran MC who knows how to ride a beat in succinct or elongated fashion depending on what's required. His singing on "Rainwater," actually comes from his days growing up in the church. Whenever they perform "Rainwater" at clubs or concerts, women tend to rush the dance floor while two-stepping along with the beat.
If "Rainwater" is the song for the ladies, "Just So You Know" is the jam that tends to get guys excited and singing along. I selected "Just So You Know" as one of my favorite singles last year.
No matter what song stands out to listeners most, it's clear Helladope have crafted an LP that's a grand hello to music lovers in Seattle who might be unfamiliar with their music. Although Tay Sean, certainly one of the best young hip-hop producers in Seattle, knows he's got a long ways to go.
"There’s no outside production on this album at all," Tay Sean says proudly. "Our whole philosophy is that we’re going to do it on our own. We’d been asking people favors and trying to get outside help, but it really slows down the creative process when you do that. So we got the equipment and... just went ahead and did it. This is the first full blown project I’ve ever done, so I said to myself, 'let’s keep it simple, stupid,' just so I can figure this out and then try to make bigger moves later."
For now, Helladope has a debut album to tend to.
Helladope, Mash Hall, State of the Artists, and Candidt perform at Nectar tonight. Admission is $8 and includes a copy of the album. Performances start at 9 p.m. and it's 21+.