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Hip hop spotlight shines on Federal Way
By ERICA JAHN
Federal Ways hip hop scene is rising, and its stars are hoping to take the music outside Puget Sound with the release of a three-part mix-tape series and street-level promotion.
Quincy Henry, 19, Ken Pryor, 19, and Rion (pronounced Ree-own) Pryor, 18, members of the local rap group Black Diamonds, are the engine behind the new hip hop label Tredmarx Records, a collective of three other production companies from the Federal Way area.
The first of the three tapes in the mix tape series, called Federal Offense, was released Nov. 26. Artists on the tape include Black Diamonds; Eclipse, a St. Louis rapper; Stretch, also a St. Louis rapper; Black Style Family, California and Houston rappers; Kuddie Mack, a Seattle producer and rapper; and Rocka, a Philadelphia rapper.
Tredmarx is working on parts two and three of the series, but hasnt set release dates yet.
Tredmarx comprises three producers the people who mix the music and beats part of a track and about nine artists the people who rhyme over the music.
All together, they are known as Feds Finest. We all one way or the other found each other, Ken Pryor said.
Henry and Pryor are students at Highline Community College. Henry said hes studying everything the college has to offer, but mainly business. Pryor, a business major, said hes focusing almost exclusively on business.
The trio had to hit the ground running when they decided to start Tredmarx Records. Its been tough learning the business while theyre running it, and the fact that their business associates also are their friends has served both to sweeten and complicate operations.
Its kind of hard when you have to call and get on your friend because you grew up with him. But its business, Henry said.
For example, some people dont take the business as seriously or treat it as professionally because the studios are based out of their houses.
Sometimes people want studio space for free because of their friendships, and others show up at the door hoping to get access to the equipment without asking first.
Saying no and denying friends is never easy, but Pryor said they keep their friendships separate from business.
It can get personal, he said.
Besides, the mess-ups go both ways. Sometimes, the guys from Tredmarx fall behind on their responsibilities, too.
Some days you wake up and say, Today Im a rapper. Today Im a producer. And you get it all done and youre not late, Pryor said. But some days you want a social life and then youre late.
Starting a label requires dedication and a true belief that it will work, but they know they cant sit around and see if someone else makes it happen for them. The Tredmarx trio will promote the first of the three tapes themselves at parties, at clubs, on the streets and among their friends and associates.
Unless youre the filthiest artist alive, unless youre Prince, you cant just say Im a rap artist and stop there. It starts with being a rapper, but you have to be more than a rapper, Henry said.
Were out promoting in the cold, in a t-shirt, Pryor said. Were getting confronted by people who disagree with us. Were standing there like, Yep, were rappers.
Were doing it from the ground up. In this business, you cant go too far because theres no one to fall back on. The streets is where it started.
A lot of people in Federal Way make music, Pryor said, but someone needed to start breaking ground for the Northwest to get some recognition.
Someone had to get a name for Federal Way. It needs a name, he said.
Securing a spot for Northwest hip hop is proving challenging because grunge, the music that emerged from Seattle in the early 1990s, established the regions musical reputation.
Youre clouded by it, thats what the industry thinks, Henry said. Theyre kind of shocked by it. They say they didnt know there was hip hop out here.
Henry and Ken and Rion Pryor want to set up Tredmarx so its at the forefront when eyes fall on the West Coast. Their six-month plan is to saturate the local market, reach across the state and eventually make inroads into cities across the country.
Eventually, they want to distribute for other labels.
While the label is a new endeavor for the Tredmarx trio, the three arent new to music. Rap, hip hop and blues have called to them since they were little boys.
BustaRhymes is the artist who changed everything for Henry when he was in the third grade.
That was me. I saw me, he said. I saw the video, heard the beat and I knew I had to do it. Ill never forget that.
He also has four older brothers, the oldest and middle of whom rap. The first keyboard I ever touched was the one I own now. I got it from the studio, he said.
Ken and Rion Pryor were exposed to music at home. Their father is an accomplished musician.
My dads a blues player, so Ive had tapes since I was 3 years old, Rion said. I was little 3 years old, 5 years old making raps. Talking about candy. And girls.
Nobody can touch my dad on bass, Ken said. Hes so passionate about it.
As the three have grown up, their musical tastes have changed. As theyve gained life experience, the content and sound of their music have changed, too.
It evolves. You grow with the culture. You grow with the music, Henry said. As you grow, its reflected in your music.
Sitting around a table at Starbucks, they discussed what age group different artists appeal to, whether JaRule has lost it and the crossover from hip hop to pop.
Nelly appeals to the 13- to 17-year-old crowd because he talks about shoes. JayZee, he talks about hustling. The older guys sit back and say, Hes my man, Pryor said.
Busta Rhymes talks about Pass the Cavasier, Henry said.
You can grow up with an artist, Pryor said.
The commercialization of rap and hip hop bothers the guys, especially when people misconstrue its meaning or think it represents everyone but they concede that music is a business and its producers want to make money.
At the end of the day, its music and its business, Henry said. Theyve got families and kids.
Pryor agreed. Music is entertainment. You should take it with a grain of salt, he said.
As for their own undertaking, the three are shooting for everything, but theyll take what comes their way.
I used to tell myself Ill be done. Im business-minded. I didnt want to waste my energy its so hard to break into the music industry, Pryor said. Its hard to say how long we have. Were going to give the whole industry a run.
Regardless of whether they make it, they said theyll continue rhyming and producing for the love of the music.
Music. Thats it. Thats my life, Henry said. I used to play basketball. I used to play sports in high school. But now theres no time between work and school and music.
Its not about the fame. Its about the music, Pryor said. Ill continue to make raps at home.
Ill be old bustin rhymes, Henry said.
Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and firstname.lastname@example.org