Whew! Now that I’ve gotten some feminist concerns off my chest [Sneaker Wave, “We’ve Got to Talk Misogyny in Hip-Hop,” March 8], received overwhelmingly positive feedback, and endured just one instance of mansplaining (why do I even read Facebook comments?), I’m excited to return to the central point of this column: highlighting my favorite new developments in the local hip-hop scene.
As I pointed out in my last column, there are so few quality femcees in Portland’s scene that I can basically name them all. So imagine my surprise when I heard through the grapevine about the slayage that ensued at Mic Check this month courtesy of Wynne, a young blonde-haired rapper from Lake Oswego and Eugene.
She was the sole feminine presence on the bill, and took on better-known local artists Hanif, Vursatyl, Theory Hazit, OnlyOne, and Donte Thomas. To quote Mic Check photographer (and friend) Renée Lopez, Wynne had “bars on top of bars” and “murdered everyone in the cypher,” even though it was her first live performance in Portland. It’s fitting, then, that her name is pronounced like “win.”
“I went to Lake Oswego High School, was kind of witnessing the Portland scene, and had heard about Mic Capes and everything,” she tells me. “Nobody made music in Lake Oswego, so I was just sitting in my room making hip-hop, observing it. And StarChile and DJ Klyph of [XRAY.FM show] Welcome to the Neighborhood found me. They just dropped me in and introduced me to the scene.”
Though just 19, Wynne is remarkably mature and doesn’t seem to be trying too hard, with a style that comes off as down-to-earth and authentic. Just a chill, homegrown emcee who’s focused, hardworking, woke, and serious about music.
“I started rapping when I was nine,” she says. “And then it wasn’t until I was 12 where I was like, ‘This is what I’m gonna do with my life: I’m gonna write two songs every day and make it happen.’”
Wynne currently attends the University of Oregon, where she gets frequent opportunities to perform at WOW Hall and works music into the curriculum. “Instead of just doing violin and opera, they’re starting a Popular Music Studies program, which is my major,” she says. “So they started the hip-hop ensemble, and it’s actually a requirement for my major. They just started it last year, and I do a ton of shows with them.”
At first I couldn’t find much of her music online, but did listen to a very solid track called “An Open Letter to Donald Trump.” It was nice to see a young queen who’s unafraid to speak her mind, especially about politics. But what really sold me was the official music video for “CVTVLYST,” which can only be described as icy.
Switching up her flow countless times, Wynne goes off for six smooth minutes with natural style and clever wordplay over a beat produced by OwenOB—no hook, no breaks. There’s so much here (several Disney references, Marcus Mariota shout-outs, mini political rants, feminist jabs), it’s difficult to choose my favorite line. I definitely couldn’t resist when she says, “2016, you pissed me off,” and uses one section to address Trump supporters: “You want me to stop grouping these orange supporters together/Does that make you less uncomfortable, is that better?/They aren’t all racists and sexist, that’s fair/But at the very least they decided they didn’t care.”
Another highlight is toward the end: “You tellin’ me sex sells, well homie just stop it I got it/I’m already a hot topic/I’m thicker than the oatmeal for your nonprofit/If I wanna strip down that’s my decision/2017 women doing more than food in the kitchen.” At the end of the video, Wynne dubs herself “Queen Honey Pot,” confirming my suspicion that her name references the character Winnie the Pooh (her Twitter profile tags her location as the “100 Aker Woods,” and she can be seen with various Pooh bears on the interwebs).
With some more digging I found her first and only mixtape, 2015’s 10-track Snowball Effect, which Wynne now says she hates. “I can whip that out, having punchlines,” she says. “Which, at the core, that’s what I love doing. But now I’m really doing more artistic music that’s very different from my first mixtape.”
A self-proclaimed perfectionist who idolizes rappers like Kendrick Lamar and Eminem, Wynne says she’s not planning to crank out any more projects that aren’t just right. “Right now I’m really working on perfecting my sound and taking trips to LA to work with different producers, and really figure out what that is.”
With the help of her partner, producer/music engineer Itay Lerner, Wynne says she plans to develop her new sound and create a solid, confident set before committing to another mixtape or album. Then she wants to start booking more opening slots at Portland shows.
Wynne tells me she’ll probably be back for another Mic Check this summer. In the meantime, I guess we’ll just have to sit tight and hope she comes back up sooner rather than later. I know I’ll have my eyes peeled and my ears to the ground for what’s next from the young “Nala in the city.”