In the past six months Luck-One has made more of an imprint on Portland hiphop than some emcees accomplish in a decade. Exploding as he has—by winning multiple rap competitions on Cool Nutz's 107.5 Northwest Breakout Show and cutting a brand-new album—one has to wonder, where has this guy been hiding? The simple, and sad, answer: in prison. Released this past July from jail after a six-year bid for second-degree robbery, Luck-One (Hanif Collins) has set out to make up for lost time.
"Growing up I always listened to rap. Eventually I started writing just because I had some feelings to get out," says Collins. "People started telling me that I was good at it and I didn't really believe them." Despite his initial lack of belief in the viability of a hiphop career, Collins kept the pen to the page and entered numerous battles in Portland before his prison stint. "I didn't really lose that many times," he says. "I started to feel like rhyming was the only thing that I was really great at doing."
After his release—Collins describes incarceration as having sapped him of his creativity—he reentered the world of hiphop he had missed so badly. He met local beat producer and musician Dekk through a mutual friend, and the two started work on an EP, Beautiful Music. The album is an attempt at bridging the gaping divide in Portland hiphop between "backpackers" and "gangsters," two labels that are as carelessly applied as they are under-analyzed. Beautiful Music is a solid effort musically, containing beats from a variety of sonic styles that should appeal to a wide swath of hiphop fans, but the real standout on the album is Collins' lyricism. No other emcee in Portland is coming as hard on tracks as Luck-One right now; his polysyllabic flow can best be compared to Nas—in his Illmatic heyday—and Collins' voice and delivery are further assets to his unique style.
Speaking to Collins, one gets a picture of a complex and interesting person, which also comes through in his music. The dichotomy of the Portland hiphop scene is something he seeks to help smooth over, and perhaps he is the most capable emcee to do so, given that such polarization is present in his own character. Stand up and take notice, Portland hiphop fans: Luck-One is here to make some noise.