SEATTLE RAPPER RAZ SIMONE is “That N*gga” (oh my!). On the self-actualizing track from his most recent mixtape Trap Spirituals, Simone raps about barbershop pettiness—others spreading rumors and gossiping about him all day out of jealousy. He bluntly explains that, unlike these ain’t-shit niggas, he’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to. Halfway through the track, an uplifting riff brings Simone back to his grounding: “I have the best son on this earth/I’m just thankful that he understands when I work/That God put me on to this earth as a king, and I had to put the people first.”
Regardless of whether he’s singing, rapping, or just talking, Solomon Samuel “Raz” Simone has a seasoned, raspy voice that’s easy to get on board with—if you were to slap his casual speaking voice over an emotive instrumental, the result would probably sound like an effortlessly cool interlude. In reality, Simone makes really soulful rap—A LOT of it. Has anyone else been bumping “Missin Joogs” all summer? The feel-good single reeks of sunshine and chill waterside vibes, and has a different (even romantic) feel from his previous releases, which are typically a bit rougher around the edges. That said, Simone’s anything but typical.
“I dropped Cognitive Dissonance, Part 2, Macklemore Privilege & Chief on Keef Violence, and Baby Jesus all in the same year, and then I dropped Trap Spirituals a month after,” he says. “I’m a human being. I’m not a character, so I try to make sure all my music has me in it.”
Simone also recently traveled to South Korea to collaborate with singer and fellow Seattleite Jay Park. Together they’re writing a joint album, Southside. A couple of months ago the duo debuted their project with the Jake Crocker- and Simone-produced track “Afraid of Me,” featuring vocals from Park, Brian “Warmgun” Chin on guitar, and John Sinclair on violin. What remains true throughout Simone’s extensive catalog is a heightened sense of musicality that many other rappers lack. On songs like “Massa Sir” and “The Lights,” his lyrics are overlaid with symphonic elements like horns, strings, and saxophone, making his eclectic sound all the more enjoyable.
Wherever he goes, Simone always reps the Pacific Northwest, and has no interest in leaving his home base.
“I travel all around and really realized that, like, in my opinion Seattle is the dopest,” he says. “And you know, is close enough to cool things like Pine State Biscuits over in Portland [laughs].”
Last year Simone made a meaningful connection with Portland-to-Cali rapper Glenn Waco when he came down from Seattle to film and recruit extras for his music video “Plottin.” Adding Simone to the We Take Holocene IV roster was a great move by Waco, giving the show a great chance of selling out (get your tickets in advance, y’all!), and providing maximum exposure to the other Pacific Northwest artists on the bill: Waco, ROBy, and Donte Thomas.
“We’re in a time where Northwest artists are about to break into the industry in waves, so a call for unity between Seattle and Portland is mandatory, especially given the current climate of the country and everything the hip-hop scenes have endured,” says Waco. “I believe if we pull our resources together and move as a unit with the common purpose of putting on for our region, our families, and our people and spread that love, then we’re capable of much more outside of just making dope music. That’s what I think Raz represents, and that’s been my message since I decided to do music.”
After coming off Macklemore’s This Unruly Mess I’ve Made tour and his trip to South Korea with Park, Simone says he’s already applying the experiences to his own life—no doubt coinciding with his leadership in uniting PNW hip-hop.
“Both experiences were things where you’re able to witness people—leaders—who care about the people that are around them and wanting to elevate the people that are around them, and have elevated the people that are around them,” he says. “Now I can kind of break down how I prioritize helping people that are around me and further out.”