It’s unusual for me to discover an artist via a press release whose work I genuinely enjoy. So when Mercury Music Editor Ciara Dolan forwarded me “Days”—a dope music video from a local rapper named A Mitch—I was immediately very into it, then confused about why I hadn’t even heard this guy’s name before.
A Mitch (AKA Adrian Mitchell) moved to Portland about two years ago from his hometown of Iowa City. Earlier this year he released an EP called Pro Bono, which features “Days” and equally solid tracks “Look at Me,” “Help Him,” “Basic,” and “Playground.” The EP features a slew of talented producers like LowKey, Raymxn Icy, and Phone Fantasy, and Mitchell’s raps are loaded with catchy hooks and clever phrases. His vocals are easy on the ears as he delivers lyrics that never strike me as cheesy (except for maybe that drool-worthy grilled cheese line in “Take Back”).
“I just wanted to get out of Iowa,” Mitchell says about his move to Portland. “I had a chance to move to New York—I have two brothers in Brooklyn, and my dad—but I just kind of wanted to get away from everybody and do my own thing.”
He’s been rapping for the past six years, and used to perform with friends back home. Since one of them is a promoter, he got the opportunity to open when artists like Kid Ink, Kendrick Lamar, and Big Sean came through town. In the last couple of years, Mitchell’s gotten more serious about his craft, and it shows on Pro Bono.
I was interested to hear what inspired the Cast Away spoof in the “Days” music video, which was filmed on the Oregon Coast by local director Erik Eagon. “I just was like, ‘I don’t really wanna just rap in front of the camera and you know, do the typical rapping thing,’” Mitchell says. “And I wanted to do like, a survivalist theme, so I talked to Erik, and he was like, ‘Yeah, dude, we should totally do like a Cast Away thing.’ Came up with locations and everything. And that’s, like, the great part about Erik: I’ll have a simple idea or something that I’m really passionate about and he’ll just go a thousand yards with it, and then I’m able to, you know, critique little things, you know, to make sure that it pops the way I want it to.”
Mitchell says he listens to everything from Smino to Brockhampton to Wiz Khalifa to Migos, but what really influences him is “real hip-hop, like Outkast.” As far as Portland goes, he hasn’t performed at too many gigs or been immersed in the local scene, though he says he’s aware of MCs like Mic Capes, Vinnie Dewayne, and Fountaine.
When asked how he’s liking Portland so far, Mitchell says, “It’s awesome! It’s a lot different than I expected as far as diversity, but it’s okay, I’m getting used to it. And there’s spots where there’s more openings for African Americans to do things in the city.”
Right now he’s got more cinematic music videos and a short film in the works, as well as a new EP. “I’m working on a project called Long Day, and it’s gonna be a five-track project,” he says. “It’s gonna really feature uplifting-type hip-hop music. I wanna make music that my mom can listen to and share with her friends as well. You know, and I’ve grown a lot since I started writing Pro Bono.
“When I wrote Pro Bono I was kind of frustrated,” Mitchell continues. “I was going through being homesick out here and meeting people and not really feeling at home or at peace with myself at all. And over time from being here, and just being comfortable with making my own out here, it’s a lot of different type of music that I’m writing. Hopefully from the Long Day EP, people can get the vibe of what I’ve been going through the last couple years and get an uplifting feeling, like something good is gonna happen.”