I usually get nervous before heading to listening parties. I worry about not liking some of the tracks, and that it’ll show on my face—right there, in front of the artist, causing me to hate myself for having an opinion.

But when Mikey Fountaine (or simply Fountaine, as he’s now known) asked me to attend a listening party for his new full-length, H.F.I.L. (Hell for Infinite Losers), I was genuinely excited to hear what he’d been up to.

Over the past couple of years, it’s become clear that Fountaine is just as talented a producer as he is a lyricist—just listen to the production of neo-soul singer Blossom’s gorgeous reggae anthem “Black Magic Woman.” Even though I couldn’t quite relate to his “anime rap” on 2015’s Blak Sushi and 2016’s Wisteria, Fountaine’s cool delivery, clever wordplay, and nerdy content made me appreciate him from the get-go. His energy is infectious, he’s a remarkably good dancer, and his voice sounds like a completely different monster on each song (which is probably intentional, given how much he likes to rap about Pokémon).

On the complex soundscapes of H.F.I.L., Fountaine uses iconic samples and a variety of production styles while rapping about his experience being a Black artist and coping with issues like depression and oppression in Portland. And the city’s influence is present throughout the project, with references to Biketown’s “Nike bikes” on “Almurda” and local contributors like Mat Randol, Snugsworth, and the Last Artful, Dodgr.

At the listening party at Kenton-area record shop Speck’s Records & Tapes, Fountaine described creating H.F.I.L. in his hot bedroom, sitting on the floor, smoking weed, and vibing with his confidants. He tried to recreate this experience for first-time listeners by having guests remove their shoes upon entering, sit on the carpet in front of some fans, and enjoy Asian-inspired snacks and beverages.

Opening track “Scorpio” features air bubble effects, mermaid references, and a crisp beat complementing its water-sign theme. The R&B number “All for Me” features vocals from Blossom and includes a sample of Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody,” with Fountaine singing sweetly under Auto-Tune effects.

On “Saved (Suicide Doors)” Fountaine delves into his own darkness, namely his struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts. Later, on “Nurse Joy,” he expresses gratitude for the feminine beams of support who have helped him see his own light. Fountaine also talks about “easing his stress” with weed and “feeling so blessed” on “Double Dragon,” which has a sickening bass component that features the sounds of a Dragon Ball Z cartoon before segueing into a more somber sound.

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On standout track “Saint Michael,” Fountaine’s flow is slow and deliberate—clear enough to easily process the lyrics. “I Do” has infectious rock-infused drums and an up-tempo party vibe (and ends too soon, clocking in at under two minutes). But my favorite track is “Dressed to Kill,” which comes with a healthy dose of danceable vintage soul and talk-boxy vocals.

On H.F.I.L., Fountaine ventures beyond the parameters of rap. In doing so, he’s able to express more sides of his personality and perspective. More of this, please!

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