Stasia Irons on Taking Over KEXP’s ‘Street Sounds’ and the State of Seattle Hip-Hop

The former THEESatisfaction frontwoman plans on keeping the show chill and focusing on the jams.

The Seattle hip-hop community will certainly miss the presence of Larry Mizell Jr. His 12-year “My Philosophy” column in The Stranger and seven-year stretch hosting and curating Street Sounds for KEXP has provided a constant voice for local hip-hop culture. Now that Mizell is moving to L.A., the torch at KEXP is passing to Stasia Irons, aka Stas Thee Boss, of the recently defunct cosmic R&B/hip-hop duo THEESatisfaction. I had a chance to chat with Irons about her plans for the future of Seattle’s longest-tenured hip-hop radio show.

Why do you think Larry chose you to take over Street Sounds? I have a very longstanding friendship and musical partnership with Larry. When I started THEESatisfaction in 2008, he was the first person to write about us. We did shows together when he was in his band [Don’t Talk to the Cops]. We really stayed with each other, and we are both a part of this collective called Black Constellation. So we’re close. When I found out he was moving, I was thinking, “What is he going to do with his radio show? I don’t want that to go to shit.” I was a huge fan of Street Sounds for the seven years he was on it. I kind of joked with him one night while we were DJing at Havana—I was like “If you’re leaving, let me get the radio show.” He laughed, but then he was like “That would be tight.”

Why did you accept? I grew up listening to KUBE 93 with Tiffany Warner and the T-man and all that. I thought it would be tight to have a radio show in Seattle, a hip-hop show led by a black woman. That would be really lit. So me wanting it, and the offer being there, yes. But also Larry told me there wasn’t anyone he could think of that he wanted more. I was really honored.

As the first female host of Street Sounds, can we expect to see more coverage of local female artists? Hell, yeah! Absolutely. But I wouldn’t put an artist on the radio just because she’s a woman. It’s going to be jams. At the end of the day—jams. Regardless who’s doing them. But I know I always want to champion female artists.

Larry mentioned that when B-Mello hosted the show, he had a bunch of artist interviews and show promotions. When Larry took over, he wanted to focus more on the music. When you take over, what kind of changes can we expect? I’m going to vibe off of how Larry has been doing it, but I would definitely love to have people come in there and chill. Maybe not like an interview, but just like a Seahawk or a local artist or visiting artist come in with a playlist of songs they like to listen to before they play a game or perform. Something like that. I want it to be interactive, but I have so many jams that I have been wanting to hear on the radio, so first and foremost that’s going to go down.

In your opinion, what is the current state of Seattle hip-hop? I think people are really starting to be themselves instead of following a trend or a sound. I don’t even think we have a “sound,” necessarily. It’s like a bunch of people who grew up in an area, but are focused on their own creativity and their individualism. For example, Gifted Gab doesn’t sound like DoNormaal, and DoNormaal doesn’t sound like Taylor Elizza Beth. These are three different black women who all rap, but even the genres of their rap are different. I appreciate the diversity of Seattle hip-hop right now.

What local artists impress you the most? Tay Sean. He just put out a project called Leavings that’s out of this world. He’s a really good friend of mine, but his music just blows my mind. I love Nacho Picasso. He’s one of the best lyricists. His wordplay is ridiculous. DoNormaal—she is something I’ve never even seen before. Making up her own words and going places where people wouldn’t necessarily go with selection of productions and things like that.

Larry referenced DoNormaal’s Jump or Die in his last installment of “My Philosophy” and in his exit interview with City Arts. What’s your take on that record? She’s incredible. She needs to be a face that everyone knows. We all need to be listening to her shit. She’s something that people wouldn’t expect from this region. You think of Seattle, and the first thing that comes to your mind is what? Macklemore and Sir Mix-a-Lot. And they did do their thing, and they got it poppin’ or whatever, but that is kind of like joke hip-hop. I want people to take us seriously. I think with her, it’s serious. It’s hard. It’s deep. And it’s so Northwest.

Catch Street Sounds every Sunday from 6–9 p.m. on 90.3 KEXP.