The here and there on the state's hip-hop scenes

By Josh Rizeberg on January 3, 2013

Is Shao Sosa the friendliest, nicest dude in our local hip-hop scene? It could very well be. He was not always such a stand-up guy though. Like many grown hip-hoppers, Shao spent his youth creating trouble and rebelling against the system. He didn't spend his youth in Tacoma where he lives now, but rather on the eastside of our state.  Some "don't knows" may think it is all farming and NASCAR across the mountains. For some families, it might be, but there are far more serious matters on the other side of the Cascades. Eastern Washington has fewer resources, fewer opportunities, poverty, a huge gang problem and immigration issues up the wazoo (pun intended).

I caught up with Sosa to ask him about the similarities and differences between the state's two scenes.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: What's the street scene in Eastern Washington?

SHAO SOSA: The street and gang scene is a lot smaller there. The Latino presence is way bigger there though. It overshadows the African American and Disciple-type gangs. Other than that, there are the same gangs there as there are here - even some of the same dudes. Lots of cats left Cali or this side of the state to go there and start their own sets. Both areas have gang task forces. The police there get way less funding. I'd say more of the police here are educated on gangs, but over there the scene is smaller, so if an officer does know the community they can be more affective there. A lot of people are surprised to know the small cities over there have gangs. Even though their population is around 2 or 3,000, they still have dudes banging hard. They're just as hard as the toughest dude from over here.

VOLCANO: Tell us how the hip-hop scene in Eastern Washington is different than Tacoma's scene.          

SOSA: Over there the scene is more supportive in general. There is not much to do there. So, that makes it more interesting ‘cause there are not a ton of rappers. There are also a lot less venues. If a venue closes over there, it is a big deal and it is hard to overcome. Sometimes there is only one place doing hip-hop there, so if they close, it takes some time to get stuff cracking again. There are also acts getting signed over there. The group The Firing Squad, who is super dope live, just got signed with Twisted Insane. Also an artist named Charlie Ray just got signed by Curtis Young, Dr. Dre's son. He makes beats and raps.

Shao Sosa and B-Dub run Razor Tongue Radio. I highly recommend listening as it is truly the only radio show that will give ya the full spectrum of Washington rap. Eastside rap is virtually ignored by all the other local hip-hop radio. So, if ya really want to know what is going on musically in our state, Razor Tongue is your best bet. Currently, Shao and Awall A.K.A. 2-Piece are working on a project together. They will not let me leak the title -  all I can say is it will unify both sides of our state. Sosa is also working on an album with On One from Spokane and Arjay from Portland. On One and Shao will take care of the rapping, and Arjay will sing.

It looks like Sosa is on a mission to unite the entire Northwest hip-hop scene. That is something I can get behind. To see Shao Sosa's latest video, go to YouTube and put in his name with "Kiss of the Dragon."