Mountlake Terrace served as the creative headquarters for an upcoming rap album. Andrew Morrison, 40, and Ryan Wood, 39, were both raised here and decided this spring to collaborate on an album and shoot videos for their songs, some of which even feature MLT locations.
The two childhood friends have known each other since elementary school and were involved in the hip hop scene through rapping and/or graffiti crews while growing up. They first started formally rapping together approximately 15 years ago and had previously released material as a duo, so their latest effort marked a reunion of sorts.
In addition to performing solo, Wood has also been a member of the Ace Dynasty rap group in Seattle. Morrison, who lives in San Diego, said their collaboration on a side project “just naturally happened” as a result of the two friends and their families having been really close for decades. Their latest effort was put together as a way “to just get some fresh music out to the public,” he added.
Convening at the home of Morrison’s parents in Mountlake Terrace, while he was in town visiting, the two wrote and began recording their five songs for the project in a basement studio they set up.
“That’s where a lot of the nucleus of the whole project came from,” Wood said of the location.
“It’s a true collaboration between him and I,” Morrison said of the lifelong friends’ creative process. “There’s just a lot of chemistry between the two of us,” and that helped drive the music, he added.
Morrison, who raps as Ziplok, and Wood, who goes by Illy Wonka, both said that each song has a specific concept and the album as a whole serves as a positive statement.
Since the two rappers were already collaborating in Mountlake Terrace, Morrison said it also felt right to use parts of the city in footage for music videos. “I’m really about using what I have, what’s in front of me, and utilizing what’s close to me,” he said. Many artists in both the rap and art communities will try to present a superficial image to gain a favorable reception, he said, but that’s contrary to his approach: “If I can make it happen right here in Mountlake Terrace, I’m going to do that.”
Multiple locations in the city were used to shoot video sequences, including Morrison’s childhood home on the corner of 236th Street Southwest and 52nd Avenue West – where he painted a mural honoring indigenous people. Video was also shot at Veterans Memorial Park and outside of the now-closed Funtasia Family Fun Center.
“A lot of what I do, whether it’s through the hip hop or rap, or graffiti or painting, for anybody and especially kids is to show people that you know you can really make something out of nothing,” Morrison said. “You can just take what’s in front of you and just create.” He added, “I’m really happy to be from the neighborhood here and I try to embody those values.”
The two rappers have yet to formally decide on the EP album’s title and while the final mastering process is being finished, they have been releasing the completed songs individually as music videos. When the album is ready to launch it will be available to stream and purchase online.
Wood said he approached writing his verses by “trying to talk about something different every single time.” He added, “We wanted to create something that people can kind of gravitate to or chew on by giving a lot of information in the dialogue and that was really the main thing about the project. When you get a lot of thought behind it (music) and big concepts and stuff that you find important it actually has a special quality about it where people have to listen to it a few times just to get the groove of it and then when they do that they listen to it much longer than something you just slap together.”
The first song finished and released as a video is “M.A.S.H.” As the duo was sitting down to write, they were inspired by watching reruns of the old television show bearing the same name. “Something about that TV show and the introduction of it, the era and when it was produced kind of spoke to us and somehow that came out in the rap music and then more so it came out in the music video where we were all wearing camouflage,” Morrison said. He likened the song’s delivery and video to an “old school, just rowdy kind of street anthem” of sorts, saying “it just has a little bounce to it.”
“I feel like that song was more loose, we were more relaxed,” Wood said. Because it was the first song they worked on together this spring, “the beat was just real natural…we felt like that (song) carried a lot of like party vibes, chill vibes and even enlightening vibes. That’s more like the song to just say, ‘Hey anyone can listen to this one.’”
Their second track released is, “Bout My Biz,” which talks about taking a do-it-yourself mentality to creating a brand, with the music video presenting the participants looking dapper. “The concept of the lyrics and the raps are more of entrepreneurship and self-entitled businessmen and women and kind of like making something out of nothing as far as like basically self-employment, or sole-proprietorship, or starting your own business,” Morrison said. He characterized the video and outfits worn in it as having a “clean-cut and smooth” appearance in stark contrast to the those worn in “M.A.S.H.”
Both rappers approached the subject from their experiences of owning and operating their own businesses. Wood has an auto detailing company with several employees and Morrison is a working artist.
The two shot a forthcoming third video for their song “Hate to Love” in Hydaburg, Alaska while Morrison was there to paint a mural. The song, which was dedicated to the Haida people and honor’s Morrison’s Haida tribal roots, is meant to address the heavier subjects of race relations, hate, bigotry and division. “All the hate that’s out in the public, all this pointing fingers and all this violence that’s happening across the country when it’s the total opposite of the United States and united (which) is what we should be doing as far as like helping each other and giving, especially during this pandemic,” Morrison said of its concept. “Either addressing some of it, or combating it or just talking about it.”
Wood said the title is meant as sort of a play on words. “It could mean growing from hate to love or people (that) hate to love others. So the song’s title is almost a challenge at cultural, racial, all kind of financial structures of injustice or unfairness.” He added that it serves as a way to talk about such struggles and “it wasn’t a song to make people comfortable, it was to kind of just speak on those topics without really like antagonizing it or really without coming on an attack.”
“We’re both of ethnicities, and different ethnicities, and we have diversity in our families so this is something that we have had to talk or speak on to a degree,” Wood said. “It means from hate to love and we want people to grow if they’re in hate to love. And then at the same time letting people know, hey some people hate to love, and some people are blinded and some people are just extreme and we just wanted to kind of create a dialogue” and understanding of that. “We just kind of pointed at some of the flaws on all sides so no ethnicity was called out from the receiving side or the delivery side.”
Morrison said the album’s intent “is just to really build community. During this time there’s a lot of confusion and a lot of people are worried.” The vision of the new music and videos is “to show people that you know life goes on and you can still create and not get dragged down by like the current situation – try to do something positive, that’s really the underlying message,” he added.
Whether painting or writing raps, Morrison said he always tries to make sure he is approaching his creative process “from a good place in my heart and doing it for the right reasons, for good values and virtues.” He added, “A lot of rap music is just toxic and the culture is just very toxic and its violent, it’s really sad — so that’s why we do try to put a little positive spin on it to just show people that there’s another way you can use it or there’s another element to it than just really what is kind of popular now.”
Both Wood and Morrison are hoping to line up venues for some live performances of their new material this summer after the finished EP album is officially released.
Morrison said Wood “is truly a talented wordsmith, artist and musician,” who has been influential in helping him to grow his own rapping skills throughout the many years they have been friends.
Wood said that working on this album has helped him to grow personally and pulled him up “out of a little slump” musically while also inspiring him to restart his creative process again for crafting “original music as a solo-artist.”
“What we’re doing is different,” than a lot of modern rap, Wood said. “I’m just excited to let people see the balance that we’ve shown in music and the videos – even down to stuff like the females that are represented in our videos aren’t like half-naked or showing their booties or doing crazy sexual type of stuff. We wanted to show a median, a balance or just like a relaxation, a confidence that wasn’t like all up in your face. I’m proud that we’re exerting maturity, but still have the edge and still coming with real hip hop-type stuff.”
— By Nathan Blackwell