In 1994 a dream was born. Although it would take a few years to become reality, Street Level Records (SLR) is living proof that hard work, dedication and business savvy pays off. Its founder went from living in the backseat of his car, to the driver’s seat of the most prolific independent Hip-Hop label in Seattle and continues to set the benchmark for Northwest Hip-Hop.
Street Level Records, founded in 1996 by owner and in-house producer David Severance III (aka D-Sane), got its start with the formation of the label’s first signature group, “Full Time Soldiers” (F.T.S.). As bootleg copies of their material started to circulate, people became hooked on this new Seattle sound that featured spitfire lyrics and hard-hitting production. After receiving large amounts of positive feedback from fans hungry for more, the label and artists decided it was time to put out a real album. Street Level went to work on their first project in 1998 with F.T.S.’ self-titled debut, “Full Time Soldiers.” With the release of their first project, Street Level gained an incredible buzz in the Seattle area and went on to sell over 1,000 copies. That might not seem like a lot, but for a fledgling indie label it was a major accomplishment. This was confirmed when F.T.S. received their first media mention that year by being named in the nationally distributed Rap Sheet Magazine 1998 Regional Round–Up as one of the few Seattle groups to “shake things up.”
Following the success of their debut album, F.T.S. added to their lyrical arsenal by recruiting some talented new members and quickly went to work on their sophomore album entitled “Money Motivated.” Demand for the new F.T.S. album was so great that Sam Goody stores were taking advance reservations, a first for any Seattle Hip-Hop group. The March 2000 release solidified SLR as a serious record label with top quality production and unadulterated talent. Combined with one of the largest and most successful record release parties that Seattle has ever seen, this album was destined to do great things. The singles “Player’s Policy” and “Lately” received heavy rotation on KUBE 93’s now defunct “Future Flavors” show. Phone lines lit up and requests poured in as F.T.S. started their invasion into the world of mainstream music. The massive amounts of radio feedback garnered F.T.S. a spot at the 2000 KUBE 93 Pre-Summer Jam Party where they literally stole the show and left a club full of people screaming for more.
SLR demonstrated its business savvy when in 1999; it became the first Northwest Hip-Hop label to capitalize on the exploding phenomenon known as the “internet” by starting www.streetlevelrecords.com. SLR’s cyberspace dominance increased even more by utilizing the brand new audio technology known as MP3 and joining the largest website on the planet for this form of audio hosting, www.Mp3.com. This new and over-looked technology landed SLR artists at the top of the Mp3.com charts for three years, resulting in over 500,000 individual downloads and generated thousands of dollars in earnings. The internet helped SLR become more visible to a world-wide audience, which resulted in gaining fans from around the world.
With the success of F.T.S., the doors of opportunity began to open. D-Sane soon shifted into overdrive and went to work on building a new Street Level studio where the artists could begin working full time on various projects. Utilizing D-Sane for all of the music production, recording, mixing and graphic design needs, SLR was able to increase cost effectiveness tremendously by handling many tasks in-house. Shrewd business and strategic planning allowed D-Sane to lead SLR into producing and releasing three projects in one year (2001), yet another first for any NW Hip-Hop record label.
In June of 2003, just when NW Hip-Hop fans thought they had seen it all, SLR achieved yet another first with the simultaneous release of three albums. SLR went on to release the critically acclaimed Seattle super group Lac of Respect in 2004, three more albums in 2005 and went in to an abrupt hiatus later that year. Several more projects were quietly leaked on to the internet in the subsequent years, but there would not be any more formal releases until 2009 when D-Sane flirted with the idea of reactivating SLR and participated in the release of Skuntdunanna aka Mafia’s album “Lead by Example.” D-Sane’s prior business obligations would however halt this endeavor after he found it too difficult to juggle both his full time studio/production company and the daily operations of SLR.
Fast forward to 2011 and after a 6 year hiatus, Street Level Records is officially back with a vengeance, doing what it does best…servin’ soundtracks for the streets!