With their new album Lift Off! the four recent Grant High graduates (and by recent I mean, like, last week) who constitute local crew State of Mind have crafted an unexpectedly fully formed long-player of conscious, rhythmically playful hiphop. Lift Off! convincingly captures the best of one's adolescent relationship to music—the inimitable and irretrievable excitement of first discovery—while deftly dodging the naiveté and grandiosity that it can sometimes entail. Almost palpable in each crackle-laden sample culled from some keyboard-heavy, deep-catalogue, '70s soul gem is the fresh-faced foursome's zealous reverence for the long American musical tradition to which they are contributing.
You can chalk the crew's endearing vigor and conviction up to their youth, but their surprisingly deep knowledge of LP history is the hard-won product of their studies. You see, if there were a Portland School of Hiphop, then State of Mind would be its first graduates, having progressed from a turntablism class at Ethos in sixth grade, to Vursatyl of Lifesavas' after-school Hiphop 101 course at Jefferson High in 2007. Following the success of what might be considered their valedictory address—opening for Blue Scholars at a sold-out Crystal Ballroom last month—State of Mind spoke with me via collective email about their experiences as a young hiphop crew in Portland.MERCURY: Were you always into hiphop, or did you come to that focus from different initial musical points of entry?
STATE OF MIND: Hiphop was always around, and it was always fun for us. Harry [McKenzie, AKA Harry Mack] used to write hilarious rhymes in fifth and sixth grade. Brady [Burton, AKA Brady B] was entertained by these humorous verses, and began fake-scratching by scraping the tip of his pencil against his school binder. Ethos gave us an opportunity to use real hiphop equipment and to develop our craft.Being under 21, have you had trouble finding places to perform, or even see, live hiphop?
It's cool that Berbati's Pan is starting to become an all-ages venue; that was always really frustrating for us when great acts would come to Berbati's and we couldn't get in. As far as performing goes, it's been a slow process; we're just starting to get added to the bill. A great experience for us has been renting venues like the Hawthorne Theatre. We discovered that we can bring enough people out to our self-financed shows to more than make back the money we put down. It's great because we get to headline the shows and we're in charge for the night. That's given us quite a bit of experience and has taught us a lot about promotion and how to rock a show. We have realized that it's definitely possible to set up your own event and make something happen; you don't have to rely on anybody else.Will State of Mind survive after your graduation from high school?
State of Mind will keep making music for as long as we can. Us being in different cities will only change the process; we'll have to adapt, but we're not going to stop working together.
State of Mind celebrate the release of Lift Off! at Satyricon on Saturday, June 21.