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Upendo Moore on Leaving Home

A few months ago, I reviewed producer Upendo Moore's 4/21 Director's Cut for POW –– a sequel to a great beat tape, in the form of a short EP that I called "a showcase for Seattle R&B singers and rappers to watch" like Parisalexa and Dave B.

I also spoke to Moore on the phone around that time. One part of our conversation that stuck with me was when he talked about leaving his hometown of Seattle for California, where he now lives and is creating his best work. So I decided to share that below.

You can read more about his history with Seattle in the POW piece, but Moore's parents were/are big figures in hip-hop (locally his dad Jonathan Moore was known as "The Mayor"). The younger Moore was raised in the Seattle scene, and that came with bonuses and negatives. For example getting to call heavy hitters like Jake One, Vitamin D, Bean One and DV-One his uncles has been a blessing, a circle of elders providing life advice and feedback on his music.

But he was also uncomfortably visible. Always in the mix, as someone everyone knew –– or thought they did. On top of that, Moore's view of Seattle isn't what you read in Alaska Airlines' in-flight magazine, that it's purely this beautiful progressive city between the ocean and mountains. Rather it's that AND a dangerous place that's claimed the lives of many of his friends. Seattle is haunted for him.

Follow him on Instagram if you want to keep up with the music he's making in the Golden State. Here he is talking about why he's glad he moved there:

Since my dad died, whenever I think of someone I call them immediately. Because you don’t know. Time is fleeting. One of my homies, the last time I seen him was next door to my mom’s restaurant in Seattle, and three weeks later he got murdered up the street. You never know when you won’t have the chance to say “I love you.” That’s the main thing death has taught me. Not to take any time on this earth for granted.

It’s fucked up. It’s life. The main thing for me that’s been therapeutic about getting out of Seattle is being able to detach from those blocks and areas where I’ve been my whole life, and I’ve seen the homies die, and homies are still dying, and everything that comes with that. Same situations and same circumstances. That shit will pull you under real quick, if you don’t have a grasp, or what you wanna do different in life.

In California I don’t have to worry as much. I don’t have to look over my shoulder at the gas station. I don’t have to worry about people I used to kick it with, or my family trying to set me up. People can’t easily identify me. Back when I lived at home, I lived in Rainier Beach, and I had a very distinct car, and my area was in the middle of an intersection across from a corner store, so there was always traffic. Always people showing up to my crib unexpectedly. There was fights outside my crib. It’s not the best situation when a lot of people in the town know where you live. People not having access to me, there’s a whole layer of stress that I didn’t realize was there that’s off me.

Even like driving past the same blocks every day, it’s traumatizing because I don’t want to think about “Damn, that’s where my homie lived the last seconds of his life at,” type shit. Or even being able to go to the gas station and not be looking around tripping wondering if anyone’s gonna be on some weird shit. I’m still a Black man in America, so I’m not that free. But I’m able to be more to myself. And have more of a sense of peace.


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