Hip hop’s next big star? Going against the grain is how Seattle rapper Insidious Flow prefers to create his music

Insidious Flow
Insidious Flow

By MICHAEL-SHAWN DUGAR Mdugar@dnews.com

Growing up in Seattle, a city ripe with music fans and artists of all genres, it’s no surprise Jacob Hiatt found his calling in music, which he began at the age of 12. “I’m 25 now so the time is adding up but it’s been good so far,” says Hiatt, who performs under the stage name Insidious Flow, which he will do tonight at John’s Alley Tavern in Moscow. He attended World of Music, Arts and Dance festivals when he was young and absorbed the many genres it had to offer. Hiatt recalls enjoying everything from rock, to country, Brazilian and even African Celtic music that resulted in his eclectic taste in music. Ultimately he chose hip hop as his means of self-expression. Though Hiatt began his career as a hip-hop artist in 2003, it’s only recently he decided to turn his talents into a career. In high school, he knew he wanted to be a rapper; he just needed to figure out his sound and perfect the craft. Once he honed in on a grunge-rap style and strung together impressive, energetic stage performances, his career began to flourish. Oh yeah, doing shows with world-famous rapper and Strange Music co-founder Tech N9ne helped as well. “In 2009, I opened a show for him in Boise and I got put on,” Hiatt says. “I literally contacted Tech N9ne’s record label ... and at the time I didn’t understand the business as well as I do now so I didn’t know how to get on a show like that. But I just got at them and said, ‘Hey, if you need anybody, I’m available.’ They just happened to have a show for me, they put me on, liked what I had and put me on a couple more.” Back then, the fast-rapping Tech N9ne and the Strange Music record label were still an up-and-coming organization, far from the juggernaut the brand is today. Hiatt doesn’t have much contact with Tech N9ne these days though he has collaborated with Strange Music members such as Krizz Kaliko for Hiatt’s 2012 record “Sleeping with the Enemy.” “I did 11 shows with them over the course of about two to three years and I did some songs with some of his guys and it’s kind of stuck,” Hiatt says. “His fans noticed it and I’m basically acquainted with them in the fans’ eyes and that’s helped out a lot.”

Insidious Flow
Insidious Flow

Watching Tech N9ne, Hiatt was inspired to step up his game, both on and off the stage. He admits there is a strong Strange Music influence in his records, most notably by his heavy reliance on lyrical content and knack for approaching a beat in ways other rappers wouldn’t. As a rapper, people often place him in a box. Instead, he describes his rap-rock style as rebellious since he has a tendency to go against the grain with his records. If he sits down and has a pop-sounding beat in front of him, well, that’s exactly the type of song he won’t make. Instead, he’ll apply his flavor to it in an attempt to evoke the vibe the pop song would but with his own sound. “I’m against everything,” Hiatt says. “If it sounds like it should be a song about being laid back and relaxed, I’m gonna change the subject up. It usually makes for some new and unique things.” Hiatt says his “eureka” moment came with the song “Nimbus Clouds,” in which he pushed himself out of his comfort zone. “At the end of it, I felt way more relieved and I put in all that effort and I was a little unsure but it was worth (it),” he says. “A lot people put out music and they get on a nice beat and they’re comfortable writing, comfortable rapping and everything is normal but that means they didn’t put that much into it.” Seattle has produced many stars in the music industry — Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, Nirvana, Kenny G, Pearl Jam and, most recently, Macklemore. But rappers seldom ascend to stardom in the current state of hip hop. Even Macklemore and Ryan Lewis didn’t reach their level of fame until they were well into their 30s. Hiatt cites several reasons for the lack of breakthrough rappers from Seattle, but none of them include a lack of talent. It’s a combination of oversaturation, a lack of hometown support and the decreased need for quality lyrical content, he says. However, he says he believes there is room for more rappers to achieve a level of stardom similar to that of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, without the use of a catchy, “Thrift Shop”-style hook. Three guesses who Hiatt would like that rapper to be. “I would love to be able to get out and hold it down for Seattle,” he says. “Because of the fact Macklemore and myself are so different, I’m going to be able to go to one place and bring out a different crowd than he might be able to. It’s a great opportunity for the city, especially if he has different fans than me. If I got in a position to be that successful it would shine a bigger light on the whole city of Seattle.”

if you go

WHAT: Insidious Flow performing live WHERE: John’s Alley Tavern, 114 E 6th St, Moscow WHEN: 9:30 tonight

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