by M. Anthony Davis
Michael Hall, better known in Seattle as Specs Wizard, has been involved in hip hop culture since the 80’s. Specs grew up in a family that was into music and that early exposure set him on course to becoming an artist himself.
“I grew up on vinyl,” Specs explains as he reflects on his early exposure to hip hop. “My family has always done music, so there was always records around. In 1979, I started hearing more rap on records stuff, and I instantly felt that that was what I was supposed to do.”
Specs started writing rhymes and soon realized that he would need beats to rap over — so he started experimenting with drum machines in the early 80’s, and his life as an artist took off from there. By the mid ‘80s he had entered the graffiti scene and found himself in a graffiti crew.
“I was dedicated from the beginning and never planned on stopping,” Specs says. “And I was into the music and into the art at the same time. And I never chose one or the other. I just kept trying to be dope.”
Today, Specs is one of the dopest artists in Seattle. He still makes beats that contain the remnants of the early days of hip hop. His latest releases on bandcamp include tracks like “Why Me” where he smoothly slices through a boom-bap track laced with clever samples with a measured even-tone flow cut straight from the cloth of hip-hop’s golden age.
In addition to rap and instrumentals, Specs also creates visual art. His comic book series, Achiever Takes Down the Man, which he created back in 2000, is Specs’ spin on the classic super-hero mythology. Specs’ love for and interest in comics goes back even farther than his love for music.
“Comics is a love that started a lot earlier with me — like around seven years old. My mom took me, like, to a comic book store and I was just stuck from then on.” Specs remembers a store that had a Spider-Man promo. A person dressed in a Spider-Man costume handed out free comic books. Those first comics sparked a life-long passion that led to the creation of “Achiever.”
“Achiever is basically my own version of Captain America,” he explains. “I first created Achiever when I was working in a comic book store. I would just be messing around when I had downtime. I sketched all that stuff up sitting right at the counter, while I’m selling comics. They used to get pissed at me for drawing at work.”
Specs took inspiration from all the comics around him at the store. He created the character of Achiever with the idea of the character being humorous and leaning into the irony of Achiever Man being Black and not feeling like a part of the American hero myth.
Describing the comic, Specs says, “I made him kind of funny, and he says stuff that’s just kind of off the wall sometimes. So I’m putting humor in it, but it also represents me and achieving my goals because it’s always been hard in Seattle for Black artists to rise up and get noticed. So Achiever kind of embodies that.”
On July 24, Specs is combining his passion for music and comics. Along with a few friends — Rialto Estolas of Throwbacks Northwest and artist Lisa Cooper — Specs is hosting an event that will celebrate Achiever, provide live local music, and have plenty of merch for fans. Specs has a collaboration with Cooper, the creator of the Hello FreqShow clothing brand, with Cooper creating custom limited edition Achiever-themed apparel.
The event will be held at Throwbacks Northwest and will feature live performances by Specs Wizard, Kamilita, and Silas Blak, with Wizdumb as DJ and an ice cream truck onsite with goodies for all.
“It’s getting real community based on the block,” Estolas says. “There’s been other stuff going on around 11th and Pike, and I’m sure you’re gonna feel a good amount of love in the air and just big community vibes. And some dope gear. Rarity. Like, exclusive pieces that you can only find, like, at the shop on this night. And some unique, dope artists and musicians.”
Achiever and Friends
Saturday, July 24, 2021 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Throwbacks Northwest — 1507 11th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
M. Anthony Davis (Mike Davis) is a local journalist covering arts, culture, and sports.
📸 Featured Image: Michael Hall, better known in Seattle as Specs Wizard. (Photo courtesy of Michael Hall)
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