Seattle may be best known for skyrocketing other genres to fame, but hip-hop has been a powerful force in the local music scene dating back more than 40 years to the popularity of Emerald Street Boys, who were Pacific Northwest pioneers of rap and hip-hop. This is also the city where Flavor Magazine, the first internationally distributed hip-hop publication, thrived from 1980 to 1994. Since then, groundbreaking Seattle acts like Sir Mix-a-Lot, Macklemore, and Shabazz Palaces have catapulted to fame.
These days you can see electrifying performances by both established and up-and-coming hip-hop talents at numerous bars and clubs, including Eastlake’s LO-FI Performance Gallery (429 Eastlake Ave E), Capitol Hill’s Chop Suey (1325 E Madison St), both the downtown (1426 First Ave) and SoDo (1700 First Ave S) outposts of The Showbox, and Fremont’s Nectar Lounge (412 N 36th St), which has hosted top acts like Wiz Khalifa, Nipsey Hussle, and Talib Kweli.
Several local record shops are acclaimed for their hip-hop sections. Selector Records & Apparel (2310 E Madison St) is a leading source of underground dance music. Also check out Jive Time Records (3506 Fremont Ave N) in Fremont and Easy Street Records (4559 California Ave SW) in West Seattle. You’ll also find landmarks that relate to Seattle’s hip-hop heritage all around town, from beloved Dick’s Drive-In (115 Broadway E) burger restaurant in Capitol Hill, which Sir Mix-a-Lot references in the lyrics of “Posse on Broadway,” to several venues that appear famously in Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” video, among them Red Light Vintage (4560 University Way NE) in the U District and the Goodwill Outlet (1765 6th Ave S) in SoDo.
Through January 7, 2024, you can also check out Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop, a dynamic exhibit at MoPOP (325 5th Ave N). It presents more than 170 photos along with a trove of cool artifacts, like a suit owned by The Notorious B.I.G. and Grandmaster Flash’s turntables.
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