Syndel (of Oldominion)
w/ Hungry Mob, Boom Bap Project, Children of the Thorn, more
Sat Feb 2
Tonic Lounge
Oldominion Nightcrawlers
Every Thursday
Tonic Lounge

As hiphop evolves in more interesting directions, production gets more experimental, and rhymes get tighter and more abstract. Right now, Portland is home to some of the most interesting underground hiphop in America, thanks to the huge Portland/Seattle crew Oldominion, with their enormous cache of talented emcees and amazing, innovative producers (most notably the mysterious, layered beats of Pale Soul). Their sharp skills and unique production are on par with anyone, anywhere in the underground, although a good comparison would be to Oakland's Anticon, with their dark beats and abstract samples.

Syndel is one of Oldominion's tightest emcees. Part of why she's so distinct is that no one's voice sounds like hers--her pitch can be high or guttural, but her flow comes so easily and her enunciation is so perfect, that she just ends up sounding incredibly tough. INSANELY tough. Like she can slice everybody to pieces with her style. Her lyrics, however, deal with spiritual matters.

"I'm always trying to look for the better," Syndel explains. "I'm a very spiritual person, and I feel like I'm supposed to express that. And maybe subliminally let people know that. I do rap a lot about spiritual things and God. I think we all do. But I'm pretty mixed--one minute, I'll just be a battle emcee, and the next, I'll be telling some serious story that you can feel."

Syndel's rhythms aren't where you'd expect, either--her rhymes have a weird syncopation to them, like she's sparring with the beats to see who has the better tempo. "My cadences are just kind of sporadic," she says. "I'm not really trying to formulate it that way--like me and JFK [from Oldominion], our lyrics don't really flow like other people's in the crew--but they flow. It's like we have our own little niches, where we place the words. You have to have a delivery; that's important to me. Before I even think of the word to say, I'll think of how I'm going to say it."

Syndel has a commanding stage presence, if only because of the sharpness of her lyrics. Lately, she's been appearing with Hungry Mob's Toni Hill, and they make a great pair, with Hill's beautiful singing voice complimenting Syndel's rugged rhymes.

"When me and Toni first sat down to write, it was strange, 'cause I already had the ideas of the song in my head, and the beats were familiar to me. It's easier to write with another person; you get to feed different ideas off each other. You kind of have to get in that late-night zone. I just keep it all in my head and then it just comes out," she says. Within the next month, the two of them will self-release a CD of songs they've been working on with Pale Soul and Mako. "Whenever we get together, it's like three songs in one night or one sitting--we'll write them and record them right there. I think we're just going to put a little quick EP together, press it ourselves, and come out the trunk for awhile until we can save up our money to make a real album."

Syndel's first solo album will be out later this year, as well; because she's such a distinct emcee, it seems like she is poised to attain a decent level of fame. But she's not interested in that, right now. She says, "I just want people to hear my music. I think once they hear it, they're gonna like it. But I don't wanna be all 'overnight star.' I don't want to be on that level yet. I think I wanna stay underground for at least a couple of years. That's where I'm comfortable, that's where the love is. The mainstream life is too fast-paced for me. You can't even feel any of the music, you know. It's the love--you can feel the love in the underground."