BEFORE HE WAS the most exciting voice in Portland hiphop, Genkai Yokomura was just a kid from Florida who wanted to live someplace where he didn't need a car. One trip west and a handful of years spent hunkered down in a studio apartment later, Yokomura stepped aside and Cloudy October emerged.
"[I said], 'If this mystery about not having a car is true, I'm going to get rid of my car'—and I did. I left it in a parking lot in Florida. I came out here and was like, 'I'm going to focus on the music.'" In the handful of months since his first live performance last December in an empty Someday Lounge, Yokomura has released a debut EP that beams with raw potential—the six-song The Aviator Is Dead—in addition to quickly climbing the ranks as a limber-lunged emcee whose fractured flow can appease both backpackers and indie-rock fans looking to expand their horizons. While fellow emcees are stuck clutching their dog-eared rhyming dictionaries desperately looking for inspiration, with Aviator Yokomura flexes his untailored delivery and penchant for knotting words together like a young Aesop Rock, exhibiting a level of confidence far beyond his years.
While his live shows have been sparse—this will change once the word of Aviator spreads—Cloudy October is making headway, even if those close to Yokomura might not know about his alter ego. "I stopped telling people I rapped because I took so long to make the record," he says. "I studied for six months, then I took six months to write and record. I just got tired of telling people that I rhymed when everyone else says they rhyme."
Well aware that the emcee gridlock is tough to escape, Yokomura is offering up Aviator to anyone willing to listen, giving away the songs as downloads on his site (although the pressed CD version comes in a lovely hand-assembled cardboard package).
"Money can come later, but if I can get people to connect with the music—I mean, who wouldn't want that as an artist?"