Throwaway Style: AJ Suede Bridges Seattle and East Coast Energies on Gotham Fortress

AJ Suede

Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, every Thursday on the KEXP Blog.

We have now entered the grey time here in Seattle. Summer was great and all, allowing us a brief respite from the cloud cover (you know, when the sun wasn’t being covered by smoke). Now it’s time to put those summer jams tucked away in the closest with our fidget spinners and Vitamin D sourced optimism. Fall officially starts tomorrow and fighting the bleakness is futile. It’s time to embrace it. Thankfully the perfect soundtrack for the season has emerged.

AJ Suede wasn’t intending on becoming a Northwest artist. The Harlem rapper originally flew out to Seattle thinking he’d be here for a few weeks to link up with local producer Wolftone. A few weeks quickly became five months on Wolftone’s couch. When inspiration strikes, Suede follows it. He’s no novice, either. Though he’s only 24 years old, he already has 20 releases to his name between albums, EPs, and mixtapes. On Sunday he dropped his 21st, Gotham Fortress, via Blackhouse Records.

To be honest, when I first heard this record I knew nothing about Suede and just assumed he’d already been living here. He shouts out Leary Ave and the Aurora Bridge nonchalantly like a true local. But knowing he’s from the East Coast sheds light on some of the album’s finest assets. Suede spits with the force of New York greats. He has the grit, tenacity, and power associated with the rap capital, contorted into his own image. Infusing that with the surrealism and unpredictability of Northwest hip-hop is something I didn’t know I wanted. He’s a presence that demands your attention.

“Writing verses for many different multiverses,” he boasts on “Don’t Look for Me.” The east coast and west coast might not be their own universes like they felt in the ’90s, but the line is telling of Suede’s genre and lyrical fluidity. In the same verse, he drops references to Rick and Morty‘s Bird Person while throwing shade at opportunists. On “Negative Energy,” he laments people dragging him down with their pessimism while rapping over a beat that sounds like swirling dark matter. He can live and write in this darkness while talking shit about darkness. He exists above it all on this record.

Wolftone demonstrates himself as one of Seattle’s top-tier producers on Gotham Fortress as well. He’s had a busy year collaborating on tracks with DoNormaal, Taylar Elizza Beth, and RVN — he and Suede also collaborated on the SUPASUEDE EP back in March. While he’s always been reliable for inventive and dynamic beats, his work on Gothan Fortress is some of his most self-assured production yet. Never has he sounded murkier and more adventurous, balancing dark, jazz-infused beats like opener “Gas Light” and the violent noise of “Iconoclast.” It’s a testament to his growth as an artist as well as the musical chemistry between himself and Suede. It’s a compatibility that goes beyond being the boards. Whenever Wolftone jumps on the mic to go back and forth with Suede, they are complementing parts.

The album was conceived with all the collaborators in the same room. Even for features, the artists would venture out to Wolftone’s Fortress studio so they could all share the space and create. In the Internet era, collaborations can easily and effectively happen over any distance. Lots of great records are made that way nowadays. But for this project, proximity was an asset. As he raps alongside DoNormaal and RVN on tracks like the suspenseful bleakness of “Don’t Look For Me,” it’s easy to imagine the trio sharing verses in a basement cipher.

Who would’ve thought one of the best local hip-hop records of the year would come from someone who just moved here? Suede has embraced the Northwest ethos but hasn’t sacrificed the east coast presence that’s helped form him as an artist. It’s a blending of both coasts into a nightmarish, paranoid, and totally thrilling LP.


New and News

Shelf Nunny Releases New Song “Washed Out” featuring AudioOpera

Seattle producer Shelf Nunny has a knack for composing airy, sweeping instrumentals. His apt sense of mood and space was one of the cornerstones of his shimmer debut, Wishful Thinking. He explored a lot of sonic territory on that record, but the only thing missing was the human voice. On Sept. 29, he’ll release his sophomore EP, Little Time We Have, on Hush Hush Records. This is his first time working with vocalists, but you wouldn’t know it listening to his latest song “Washed Out.” Collaborating with Toronto’s AudioOpera, he retains the same whimsical flutters that made his debut a stand out while also adding a dose of humanity to ground it down. The two sound like they were meant to work together, with AudioOpera’s soft vocals meandering through Shelf Nunny’s lush rhythms. Listen to the track below as well as the previously released single, “Good 2CU” featuring Noosa.


Vancouver’s Peach Pit Drop New Album, Being So Normal

Vancouver B.C. outfit Peach Pit likes to refer to themselves as “chewed up bubblegum pop” and, I gotta say, it’s a pretty great descriptor. The Canadian trio demonstrate exactly what that genre tag sounds like on their latest release, Being So Normal. It’s a record that keeps the rough edges of indie rock with the grooves and hooks of the catchiest pop music. It’s a hypnotic blend, latching into the listener’s ears with swirling bass lines and cool, steamy vocals. Even when they’re singing about (metaphorical) guillotines cutting off (metaphorical) heads, you’ll want to (not metaphorically) dance. Stream the album in full below.

Live and Loud: This Week’s Recommended Local Shows

Sept 21-24: KremFest featuring Black Milk, Tay Sean, Vektroid, Sextile, Succubass, and more




Sept 22: Iska Dhaaf, Kelli Schaefer, Gunpowder Stitches at Tony V’s



Sept 23: Stas THEE Boss and Kelli Frances Corrado at The Vera Project



Sept 26: Stop Biting featuring Akira Gautama, Grimeshine, and Thirdeyebling at Lo-Fi




Sept 26: Biddadat. Richie Dagger’s Crime, The Brodcast, and DJ King Dee at The Nectar



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