Rap and Tap: Jarv Dee Lives With a Tribe and Danced with Gregory Hines

Ron Meriales
The situation I'm at Moe Bar on a recent Monday night, sitting across from local hip-hop artist Jarv Dee, 27, and his glass of Hennessy. He wears a flat-bill cap and, on his left hand, an enormous ring of two gold Egyptian pyramids that encases his pinky and ring fingers. They look like artistic and sharp brass knuckles. "I was kind of ducking away when I walked across from the police a couple days ago, because they do look kind of scary," Jarv says, laughing. "I don't know if I can get in trouble for these!"

How He Got Here Jarv, who was born in Seattle and lives in Renton, says he started writing raps and recording them on a tape player in third grade; he strayed from rapping for a few years for a different art form: tap dancing. "If you're a fan of music, you gotta try everything, test the waters," he says. The pinnacle of his dance career came in 2002, when he was 17 and danced onstage with Gregory Hines at the Paramount, a year before Hines died. Jarv says he'd like to do a reunion with his old tapping group. I ask if he has tap shoes. He rolls his eyes at me. "Of course. Of course I have tap shoes."

Shop Talk Last year, Jarv dedicated much of his time to making music with his trio BadAssYellowBoyz (BAYB), comprising himself, P Steez, and his god-brother Nacho Picasso, as well as collaborating with fellow Cloud Nice crewmates Helladope, but right now he's focused on his solo material. Jarv just finished his second solo record, Dopamine, and he'll be celebrating its physical release Friday night at Chop Suey. He describes the new songs as "feel-good": "There was dark times but I'm feeling great right now." I ask him about a song called "Klingon." He clarifies that it's just a song title, and he's not a Trekkie--"I'm more Star Wars," he says. I ask if he's going to do a Star Wars song. He pauses. "Nah, that'd be hella corny. I can't do it."

BTW: Jarv is a man of many affiliations. He's all about his friends, his cousins, his fellow rappers--besides the Cloud Nice collective, there's also Moor Gang, a group of friends and musical collaborators that he likes to tweet about, enthusiastically (""If you know about 'Moor Gang' retweet this!!!", "Moor gang = Love!!! Hating on a Moor = Moors at your door!!!!!") and that just started designing their own T-shirts. One has a Public Enemy-style target logo on it; another shows a man in a robe and keffiyeh with "Moor Gang" written below in Arabic-style letters. There's a picture on Twitter of Jarv's mom smiling and holding one of the latter.

Jarv describes Moor Gang to me as "just a tribe, man. We're a tribe of cats that are just ready to take shit over. Bling bling. That's what we're trying to do in Seattle."

Jarv Dee's record release show is this Friday, May 18, at Chop Suey. He'll be joined on stage by Kris Kasanova, Kung Foo Grip, Steezie Nasa, Nacho Picasso, and Parker Joe. The show starts at 8 p.m. and there's a $10 cover.

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