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Criminal Nation

Release The Pressure

Released December 1990

Release The Pressure is a 1990 hip-hop record from Tacoma gangster rap group Criminal Nation. It’s primarily the work of two musicians: DJ E, “the table-wrecker,” and MC Deff, “the renegade,” with the occasional assist from their extended crew, the D.C. Posse, pictured on the front cover. This album, jointly released by NastyMix and Cold Rock, was one of the first to put “life in Hilltop”—the gangs, the guns, the drugs, the girls and the cops—on the map. Release The Pressure spent 13 weeks on the Billboard charts and netted four singles: “Insane,” “Black Power Nation,” “The Right Crowd,” and the title track, “Release The Pressure.” This latter one is my highly-recommended eardrum-busting relentless atomic bomb. “I’m a human explosive, I got a temper…” says Deff as the track begins, before rhyming about the need for unity between blacks and whites, a clearing of the air. Despite their successes, Criminal Nation was committed to their ideals, not giving a damn to the government’s rules, and to the power of profanity, of which there is a lot. “I didn’t make no record to play radio,” said Deff in an interview with The Rocket. DJs at KEXP agreed. Their copy of this album contains the note: “So many red dots… The best tracks, unfortunately. They combine NWA with Public Enemy’s black nationalism. Also, it’s very funky.” This record mixes militant politics with dance floor appeal. DJ E’s production is filled groovy bass lines, electro synths, scratching and guitar samples, while MC Deff is on the mic murdering emcees with superior rhyme skills. You can connect the DNA and themes laid here through to later Tacoma rap groups like Black Anger and ILLFIGHTYOU. For a long time, this record has been, uh, criminally hard to find, but was recently added to Spotify. You can finally go hear Tacoma’s first great rap record today, and I encourage you to do so.