Sitting across from local rapper and producer Sam Brakebill-Hacke at Emerald City Espresso is a bit of an emotional experience. After casually joking and sipping coffee on a nice fall day, the light conversation about his new record Hiding Places soon turns serious.
“A lot of it is channeling my dad through myself,” he says. “My dad is a heroin addict. I grew up my whole life with him doing sketchy shit. I’ve caught him doing drugs in the bathroom and shit like that. A lot of it is me asking if I’m just the same, and a lot of it is ‘What have I become?’ from his perspective. Knowing that he wants to be this person, but he’s lost in his own coping mechanisms.”
Stylistically, Hiding Places lurks in the murky depths between mid-2000’s T Pain and the New Age R&B of Dave B (minus the strippers and party girls). While he doesn’t full-on AutoTune his vocals, he does employ it subtly—layering his singing voice with his altered one, allowing him to wield it something like its own instrument. The record, all self-produced, features complex productions that lean heavy on ambient soundscapes, sparse melodies, and hard-hitting 808s. The tracks feel gloomy and overcast, giving it a distinctly Northwest mood.
On “Tied Up,” Hacke explores a troubled relationship between two individuals both struggling with deep-seated personal issues. Hacke sings, “You don’t have a dad/If you did he wouldn’t leave/But you’re a child, and he’s a man.” After the vocals cut, reverberating guitar chords conjure up the sadness of the relationship, as faint repetitions of “You’re a child, and he’s a man” illuminate the background. Moments in the record where the instrumentals step to the forefront are especially effective at communicating the blue emotions Hacke is trying to portray—putting his anguish into the beat and allowing the rhythm to engulf the listener.
The concluding track, which Hacke lists as his favorite, is “Daddy’s in Heaven,” where he mourns his dad—even though he is still alive. The gut-wrenching ballad speaks to Hacke’s father and his own friends from Minnesota who are on a similar path. He sings, “My good friend’s in a cell/They be acting like him/I don’t want to lose faith/They be acting like him/And I be doing it too.” He speaks to his friends with kids as the son of an addict, warning them through the music of the pain they can potentially inflict. “That’s what that song’s about,” he explains. “Trying to mentor my friends out of the same decisions that my dad had made. And saying I feel guilty because I can see that in myself as well.”
The heaviness of Hacke’s back story clashes with his demeanor in person—it’s strange to find such a warm, welcoming figure at the cafe when on record he journeys to such dark places. I ask him how he’s able to strike that balance.
“I’m such a super-extroverted person. I’m a very happy person,” he says. “I love to be the person who helps someone get out of their bad day as fast as possible. I feel like this is the way to channel all that.”
Hiding Places Release Show. ClockWork Counter, 4200 Rainier Ave. S. $5. All ages. 9–11:30 p.m. Sat., Oct. 15.