If Seattle’s HipHop scene is known for its honest, reflective lyricism and boom-bap production, and the city’s Jazz scene is lauded for its technical prowess and its evolution of style, form and structure, then Spekulation is the perfect example of what is possible when these two worlds collide. Spekulation is a Seattle-based emcee and producer who blends both live instrumentation and sampling to create musical performances that are both exciting and spontaneous. Along with his frequent collaborators, bassist and composer Nate Omdal, DJ Absolute Madman, Michele Khazak, and six-piece jazz ensemble, Spekulation crafts a sound that truly represents Seattle’s diverse music culture.
Spekulation’s career began in 2009 with the release of The Bite, a mixtape he produced using sampled audio of local acts from the city’s Jazz and Indie-rock scenes. Nate Omdal, a bassist, composer and graduate of the Cornish School of Music, was impressed by what he heard and saw a great opportunity to collaborate. “In the Jazz world,” he says, “we’re always looking for that ‘next big thing’ to move the art form forward, and to me, this sort of music is absolutely what we’ve been looking for.” The two soon linked up with DJ Absolute Madman, and began working on Spekulation’s debut album, The Depression Era EP (2010).
In December of 2011, Spekulation released the single, Something is Happening Here. The record, which samples Bob Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin Man, is a commentary on our mass-media culture and the effects it has on youth growing up in today’s world. The single is also the first release from Spekulation’s upcoming, self-titled EP, which is now available. The EP is an evolutionary step forward for the artists, as they perfect their signature sound, showcasing original production and compositions played by some of Seattle’s most talented Jazz performers. As Spek explains, “The goal was to make a head-nodding HipHop record first and foremost, and then to bring in all these incredibly skilled musicians to interpret the material in a way that only Jazz musicians can… And that allowed us to put out a final product that was decidedly different than most other HipHop records, which often use Jazz as a starting point, whether through sampling or interpolation. We kind of turned that process on its head, and I think that’s where the record’s strength comes from.”
For the live show, Spekulation takes a similar approach, as DJ Absolute Madman and Spek, the traditional emcee-and-DJ duo, are joined onstage by acoustic-bassist Nate Omdal, vocalist Michele Khazak, Jose Gonzales on keys, Jason Parker on trumpet, Mike Dodge and Brian Bermudez on saxophones and Steve Nielsen on guitar. From Spek’s perspective, this is the only way to perform: “I think there’s a certain spontaneity and energy that comes from live music, and by using instrumentalists within the context of a more traditional HipHop performance, I think that energy is heightened and makes for a very moving show, and I don’t think the material would be as powerful without the elements they bring to the table.”
Spekulation has played at the following venues:
- Egan’s Ballard Jam House
- Faire Cafe
- Hale’s Palladium
- High Dive
- LoFi Performance Gallery
- Nectar Lounge
- Neptune Theatre
- Seattle University
- Tractor Tavern
- White Rabbit