PORTLAND HAS a reputation of being a nurturing scene for independent musicians. But what's not often reported is that once you look past the well-intentioned "#supportland" memes, you'll find a perceived hierarchy that causes some trouble for artists who happen to succeed on a larger scale.
"I feel like I've grown as an artist and increased my fanbase, but I've lost so much support from my peers in Portland, and I'm not really sure why," explains local emcee Anthony Anderson, better known as Tope. "I guess it's all a part of the game. I've been trying to separate myself from a lot of 'local artists' and as my stock has grown outside of Portland, I've been less concerned with how my hometown perceives me or my music."
Tope's latest, the Trouble Man EP, is his fourth solo release since his debut in 2010. You can also add three solo instrumental beat tapes to the mix, as well as three projects with trio TxE, and two with emcee Prem as the duo Living Proof.
Trouble Man is clearly Tope's most personal release to date, and his musical growth and personal maturity combine with his past experiences to create a very compelling listen. Which is not to suggest that the party-'til-the-late-night, reach-for-the-stars summertime anthems are absent. The collaboration with Seattle's Spaceman and Grynch, and another with Portland's Luck-One are the EP's definite highlights. Still, allusions to the emotional impact of an absentee father and the death of his mother loom large thematically. An Erykah Badu sample is particularly congruent. "I'm gonna test this out," he says. "Now, keep in mind that I'm an artist. And I'm sensitive about my shit."
Tope also finds himself reclaiming independence after his last solo effort was released through local label Amigo/Amiga. "I have officially left Amigo/Amiga," he announces. "Their main focus has ALWAYS been Kelli [Shaefer] and Drew [Grow], and me as the third wheel. [I've] been independently pushing myself since I signed with them, with little to no help from the label. It really is interesting how quickly people change in this music thing. Haven't heard from anyone on the label since I left."