Scotty Sensei: New dimensions
by KEENAN KETZNER
A meditative figure has been tending to the Zen gardens of hip-hop, and can be heard loud and clear through the melisma of sub-average flora that clouds the Pacific Northwest scene, grabbing attention with sharp wordplay and brute confidence. That man is Scotty Sensei.
Scotty is derived from his real name Scotty Howell, with “Sensei” added in reference to the aspect of verbal schooling he conducts on a daily basis, as well as his open-minded and thoughtful lyrics.
What sets Scotty apart from other Northwest rappers is his proclivity to challenge himself in order to take hip-hop to different dimensions. It’s not easy talking about feelings of existentialism, or bringing up difficult topics like family drug problems.
“Being an artist… I just need to be able to get that out there. Like it’s me, and it’s what has happened. I have every right to express myself on this topic. For me personally as an artist, it’s all about showing diversity. I’m talking more about philosophical and metaphysical things.”
Sensei makes up one-third of the collective known as The Cinematiks, who all started back in high school. The others involved, Luke Kryt and Collin Ness, bring the visual and production elements to the group, where they freely share their talents among themselves when needed.
The surprising thing about The Cinematiks is just how young they are. Scotty just turned 20 and said he’s been rapping for about four years, although coming across like a seasoned veteran.
“Back when I was in high school, I didn’t really play sports and like I was just trying to figure out what I wanted to do… Me and my friends started freestyling basically every day, but then I took it more seriously when I was 16 and I knew that what I was doing was more exquisite and unique, that I could maybe take this somewhere. Like I started it, and I can’t stop.”
When asked about musical inspirations Scotty, cites his backpack, Blu and Mos Def as being essential in the development of his delivery and flow skills. As for his lyrical prowess, “my senior English teacher was a huge inspiration to me, and taught me so many literary elements that I still use today,” Scotty said.
Earlier this year Scotty dropped his first album, The Sensation LP, which features cohort Luke’s production on every track. It boasts quite a range of sonic flavors from jazz-hop to chillwave and even soul that perfectly reflect Scotty’s own laid-back nature. Luke supports the inevitable questions: “Wait, these kids have been doing this for how long?”
It’s obvious that Scotty and Luke work well with each other, and just generally know what the other is going to like. “Sometimes he and I are in the studio, and he’ll make a different beat then he will when I’m not there. But being alone and recording is also the shit, because it’s the only time I can truly tap into my art, and it’s just all me.”
The record boasts great tracks from start to finish, with Scotty Sensei front and center on every track, delivering lines like “everybody want success ‘cause stress sucks, so I’m stacking my bucks, yes, and giving less f#!$s.” We’re also treated to several soulful hooks delivered by his sister Danielle Howell, who happens to have the perfect voice for Scotty’s music.
Scotty is working with Danielle on their own new material and on his personal music. He is compiling another 7-track project with Luke called “Kanji,” which will be coming out in a timely manner, featuring more of his bars-on-bars approach to rapping, along with a more conventional “turnt up” sound.
“It’s more kamikaze style,” in the words of Scotty himself.
Published in the October 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine