It may even be overly optimistic to say that out of 1,000 rappers only one will have what it takes to make a living off their music. If Portland has 10,000 rappers—and it just might—then a good percentage of those lucky few are probably in the Sandpeople. Were you to place bets on those with the brightest outlook of all, I would advise you to let it all ride on Sapient, AKA Marcus Williams.
Williams, a Eugene transplant, has been making music for the better part of the last decade. His first solo album, the raw and rugged Dry Puddles, is a masterpiece of sample-based underground hiphop. Charging from the gate with exuberant wordplay and banging beats, Sapient's debut album has the rare ability to stand up to even his most recent work, and came some time before Williams' signature singing began to appear on tracks, something that emerged later during his work with Sandpeople and Debaser.
Truly Williams' best asset is his versatility: As a producer his beats sell for hundreds of dollars a pop, and bang in club sound systems like no other. As a sound engineer he crafts radio-ready tracks in short order. As an emcee he delivers clever material in a unique and confident tone. And as a singer he is, well, shockingly good. His singing became so much a part of his style that, with the help of Grayskul's Onry Ozzborn, he completed a full-length rock album, Slump.
On his newest solo full-length, Make More, Williams continues to build his reputation as one of the Northwest's best and most prolific hiphoppers. As his production style shifted away from orthodox sampling to a fusion of analog and synthetic instruments, Williams now tends to assemble towering pieces of epic and grandiose orchestration. Lyrically, Make More features one of the best story-songs in recent memory ("I Did It"), and the album is compiled of beats that can fill rooms, knock down doors, and kick a few faces along the way.
There is no Vegas wager for who is most likely to succeed in up-and-comer hiphop, but if there were, smart money would be on Sapient to climb to the top on the back of Make More and his great body of work with Sandpeople. And as a proud, card-carrying member of the hiphop self-promotion club, his own money would probably be on himself as well: "I've always been as real as it gets," says Williams. "I'm willing to bet everything on myself 'cause I kill it to death."