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WHAT'S THE WORD?: Remembering Hilltop's Peter James

Peter James put Hilltop Tacoma on the map

CHRIS CRAYZIE: Peter James documented the rapper's work. Courtesy photo

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It is tough times out there. Just when there are some rays of hope like marijuana legalization and marriage equality; there are also ugly reminders about the unhealthiness of our planet and human culture. After the tragedy at Sandy Hook, our country argues over gun safety and the root causes of violence in general. How does this affect us locally? Here in Tacoma, we are not unaccustomed to gun violence. We are not a sleepy, privileged suburb like Newtown, Conn., where gun violence is uncommon. In that town, where the streets are normally quiet and peaceful; that horrible incident was an anomaly. In Tacoma, people get shot and killed every month. The threat of violence is ever present.

Just a few short weeks ago, Tacoma hip-hop lost one of its most impactful and important members of our community - Peter James. The long time Hilltop historian, social documentarian and video director was gunned down by a family member in his own neighborhood of Hilltop. Few people have so artfully and passionately dedicated their lives to filming and chronicling the exploits, ups and downs, peaks and valleys, highs and lows, and excitement that is Hilltop and its hip-hop music.

P.J. was mostly known for filming the very popular Tacoma rapper Chris Crayzie - and for filming and releasing his own series on Tacoma called Hoodwatch 253. Peter was often treated just like his neighborhood of Hilltop - meaning some thought James' videos sensationalized some of Hilltop's more notorious and infamous aspects. However, those people were outsiders to Hilltop and to our culture. For those of us who have pride in Hilltop and all that our neighborhood comes with, Peter was a truth shower, a real writer of history. Thanks to him, people like Chris Crayzie, Pepe Loco and other members of the Hilltop community could not be ignored. He put his neighborhood on the map. He shined light on places that the politicians tried to erase. Tacoma is special because of Hilltop, and that was forever immortalized in the work of Peter James. I send him and his family a big R.I.P. (Rise in Power!) To respect Peter and his work, take some time out to enjoy and appreciate him and his neighborhood at

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