In 2009, you couldn’t go weeks without seeing a show that included either TheeSatisfaction, Mad Rad, Helladope or a combination, and you could sense the want to lump together the city’s current hiphop groups – even though the links felt forced in many instances. But 2009 was also the year Shabazz Palaces anonymously dropped two EPs, changing everything, and the Black Constellation formed shortly after.
With TheeSatisfaction’s “EarthEE” release this month, it feels fitting to briefly reflect on that year’s hiphop scene and how the duo moved vastly beyond the limits of being labeled a member of local hiphop’s “Third Wave.”
Catherine Harris-White and Stasia Irons’ voices, lyrics and production have matured in their second Sub Pop release, and they’ve brought along Helladope’s Tay Sean, fellow Black Constellation partners Shabazz Palaces (Ishmael Butler, Tendai Maraire), and Erik Blood throughout. The guests’ work on this album only seals the idea that the women are bringing along only those who evolved with them. Everyone is grown now and the city’s hiphop offerings should be, too: More art, less party mountain; less delusions of a post-race era and more uncomfortable truth.
TheeSatisfaction and Black Constellation’s commitment to that truth is best heard in “Blandland,” where Stas raps “They take jazz, take soul, take hip hop … researching rhymes, dictionary, a thesaurus / if it was in your heart, you wouldn’t have to work hard.” Butler digs in deeper on his verse, which references Macklemore and scolds, “to do it how we do it, but without no us.”
Other highlights on “EarthEE” are the back-to-back “Fetch/Catch” and “Nature’s Candy,” which has the potential to be this album’s dance-break. With its fantastic hook, I dare you to try and not do bodyrolls on first listen.
The majority of the album can feel like a meditative melt, and it’s something they’ve been criticized for, but it’s worth the extra effort to focus your ears on Stas’ strong lyrics throughout and note Cat’s soulful voice sounding better than ever.
Stas and Cat’s vinyasa flow of song and lyrics is also a large factor of what makes them so appealing on stage – a show I haven’t grown tired of in these last six years. You can zone out while watching their choreography and seamless song transitions, but often a song will break your effortless sway and force you to move. “QueenS” off their Sub Pop debut “awE naturalE” has been the biggest dance-starter for the duo since 2012 and now has more company with this album.
Seattle concert-goers should thank Gaia that the “EarthEE” release is accompanied by a Feb. 26 show at Neumos as well as an all-ages show on Feb. 24 at Everyday Music. Hear, and more importantly see, this album in its best context and be prepared for a grown evening.