Upbeat, Infectious Hip-hop

“Man, we just want to send good vibes to the blue-collar cats and the people who want to rock with us!”

Chi. Stone, one-third of New Track City, is hyped after a particularly productive recording session. Along with fellow MC Bem and producer Andrew “Dru” Lumasia, he beams with energy, despite the dreary night outside their Federal Way studio.

It’s been 12 years since the trio began making music together, while attending Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way. Their longtime friendship may be why their music radiates a sense of purpose and clarity.

“That’s just being from the Fed,” Bem says. “There’s something so organic, so honest about our city. We like to say that’s the city where whatever you want, you can get.”

A life-is-what-you-make-it ethos infuses their most recent project, The Damn Gina Tape, an online album that celebrates the life of a dear friend who recently succumbed to cancer. Rather than linger in introspective meditation, the songs stir like shot of energy, most of them clocking in under two minutes. The message: Let go of baggage—real or imagined—and embrace the here and now.

On “Clap 4 Her,” rallying cries and handclaps embrace the ecstatic and provide a hopeful soundtrack for a soul exiting a broken shell: “I’m just like you/Could be hurt like you/To be felt like you/And rise like you.” “Ain’t the Same” finds Bem and Chi versing back and forth, stiff-arming doubters: “My heart weighs heavy, my pen game deadly/My soul is tainted, my spirit is pure/The devil must hate it now that a nigga done made it.”

Production often takes center stage, thanks to Lumasia’s focus on digital effects and live instrumentation. On “HustleMan Wit a Kazoo,” saxophone meanders over warm Rhodes keys and guitars, adding looseness and dimension. As heard on their first album, 2015’s Spring Exceeds Winter, this fusion of sounds has always been part of their pedigree.

But The Damn Gina Tape shows exactly where they are now: In a place of power, three men—young, gifted and Black—embracing life after personal tragedy.

Photo by Joe Moore