Arkansas native Rasheed Jamal (a Portlander since 2008) might be my favorite rapper in town—his “country rap” pairs extremely personal lyrics with expert-level rhythmic delivery. I’ve watched Jamal continue to challenge himself with the complexity of his bars and intricate flow. That’s why he stuns the crowds at his shows, even when he’s not 100 percent perfect. It doesn’t hurt that his even-tempered voice and slight rasp are easy to listen to, and I’ve never heard him yell-rap into a mic.
This week Jamal’s dropping Indigo Child, his follow-up to 2015’s SANKOFA. Its 13 tracks sound both gritty and inspired. “Never Die Alone” samples Nina Simone’s “Be My Husband,” and depicts an intense modern-day romance characterized by “you still up?” texts and eggplant emojis at 2 am.