Lakeeyscia Griffin, the 30-year-old Portland rapper who performs and records as Candid Ramblings, chooses her words very carefully. Both onstage and on her sparkling new LP Sublime Timing, phrases and metaphors burst forth from her 5’1” body like tiny torrents. But speaking over Zoom as she sought to recharge her creative batteries with a trip to the Oregon coast, Griffin walked an inquisitive reporter through her personal history slowly and slightly cautiously.
“When I make music, I want to feel confident,” she said. “I don’t want to have any regrets towards the things that I say. That’s made me more confident—being intentional with my words knowing that it’s going to leave a mark. Essentially it’s there forever, if I allow it.”
The way Griffin’s career has been going, leaving a stamp within Portland’s hip-hop community seems inevitable. She arrived here in 2017, seeking a change of scenery after spending much of her life in El Paso, Texas and some time studying communications at Eastern New Mexico University.
Encouraged by friends to try out her poetry at open mics, Griffin eventually posted a video of some verses on Instagram. “I added some Portland hashtags to see if it would catch some wind,” she explained. Immediately, Griffin started getting DMs, asking her to perform at local showcases. Even then, it took some convincing to get her to lean into her skills as a rhymer.
“I didn’t really believe in myself as much as other folks believed in me at first,” Griffin said. “People like Rainezra brought me along, and there’s some folks doing some great organizing here with youth and music who have brought me along. I’m super grateful for them.”
As her confidence grew, Griffin’s profile ballooned with it via her appearances on tracks by fellow local 4-Tress and releasing her own singles like the tart EP Per Aspera Ad Astra and the sinuous “Twilight Zone.” She also found a vital creative partner with producer and Beyoncé collaborator GoodbyeCalev who designed all the beats on her 2020 EP Urban Decay and contributed to Sublime Timing.
“I met him a couple of years ago at a show,” Griffin said, “and I noticed how many folks were working with him. He’s been super great about helping me with affordable pricing for beats. It’s always been through shows. Folks will see my set and show love and show appreciation and send over some beats.”
Being on the come up within her adopted hometown’s vibrant hip-hop scene feels both magnificent and strange to Griffin. She never had any designs on moving into a music career even though her mom frequently performed as a slam poet and her father was a celebrated rapper in the Jacksonville, Florida scene.
Griffin started writing poetry in her pre-teen years, dabbled in music production, and even won a talent show in her senior year of high school with her remix of Drake’s “Over.” However, her artistic ambitions took a back seat to her dreams of playing in the WNBA. Her skills on the court landed her a college scholarship, but the closest she got to the pros were some tryouts for European basketball teams. “A couple of times, I got pretty close,” Griffin said. “But I’m also 5’1”. I definitely had to work harder than other players, but it just didn’t work out.”
She didn’t mourn the death of her basketball dream too long, opting to lean into education and honing her skills as a storyteller. It’s what helped land her a job on the communications team at Oregon Metro and what has continued to distinguish her work as Candid Ramblings.
Her lyrics are refreshingly direct, tackling subjects not usually broached in the local hip-hop scene like anticapitalism, the addictive qualities of smartphones, and—on the sweetly intimate “Cuddle Puddles and Portals” from Sublime Timing—her relationship with her partner.
“I’ve always been kind of nervous to open up about my love life,” Griffin admits, “especially since moving away from Florida and Texas. I wanted to give people a peek into that because I usually don’t open up to folks unless they ask directly. We hear a lot of breakup songs or the really sexual songs that I vibe with, but I’m definitely a romantic. It felt very nice to go full poetry on this.”
Being in Portland helped Griffin find the confidence to make a song like “Cuddle Puddles,” but she also credits the support of her family who live in far less tolerant parts of the US to lift her up as she explores her queerness in her art.
“Sometimes I get in my own head because of the distance and worry about judgements from my family that I don’t talk to as much,” she said. “But no one is explicitly leaving me out or making me feel bad for who I am or how I present or who I love.”
Candid Rambling performs as part of the Klassic Culture Showcase Volume 3 at Hawthorne Hideaway, 2221 SE Hawthorne, Thurs July 27, 9 pm, 21+