Before I had fully processed February, an insanely cold and musically busy month for Portland, it became apparent from my overflowing inbox that the city’s hip-hop scene has no plans of hibernating during the rainy season. Here are three fresh projects to check out and look forward to.
Bocha and Sxlxmxn, M.A.A.N.
After giving audiences a sneak preview of their upcoming project during their co-headlining set at this month’s Thesis, Bocha says he and DJ/producer Sxlxmxn (FKA Stewart Villain) have been building a sound and writing music together since last summer. “2017 was a pretty eventful year for me,” says Bocha. “Most of those songs were written/recorded in 2017, and I feel like that whole year just really helped me develop and learn as a man.” Now having settled on the concept and track list for M.A.A.N., which stands for “maturing as a nigga,” the EP is now in the mastering stage, with the release date still TBD. During their recent Thesis performance, the duo acknowledged that the six-track EP is “not a lot of trap shit,” which is fine by me. Album opener “So Far” features Scooty and Blossom, and the title track (which they also performed live) is another highlight. Unsurprisingly, I’ve added “Relax” to my smoke sesh playlist (natch), and the last track, “Blang”—a give-no-fucks, glow-up anthem of sorts—has also caught my attention.
Cheatcode, Lil’ Big Bro
Sumalienz members ALFA and Bryson the Alien have joined forces to become Cheatcode. Both members make the beats, Bryson writes the rhymes, and ALFA does the mixing. In late February, they released Lil’ Big Bro, the first installment in a series of three “tiny albums” they’ll drop this year. As expected with anything Bryson the Alien touches, the spacey, old-school soundscapes presented throughout these tracks are rather interesting; you’ll hear broken smoke-circle conversations, short segments of jazz instrumentals, soulful voices distorted beyond comprehension. I’m partial to the high-energy lead single “Our Turn Now,” which sees Bryson’s mellow delivery bordering on spoken word—a stark contrast to the song’s intensifying beat. In addition to his current endeavors with Cheatcode, Bryson says he’ll also be releasing an album with Mai Mae (Fringe Class, Sumalienz) this fall.
Andre Waymond, Express Yourself EP
Last week, Andre Waymond (previously known as Dre C) premiered a visual for “Young Bosses,” a single from his new album Express Yourself. Local producer Trox is behind the song’s beat, and there are two chilly featured verses from Detroit’s Ty Farris and Portland’s own Karma Rivera. The song alone knocks, but the Riley Brown-directed music video is a cool concept that’s executed beautifully: Someone pops in a VHS tape containing an “old” interview with Andre Waymond (here referred to by his former moniker), Ty Ferris, and Trox. After a handful of questions, Waymond and the others rise from their chairs and break into song, with shots interspersed of the dudes driving around. Later, Karma Rivera cockily plays a game of NBA 2K on the couch while busting open her verse: “Middle finger to the opposition/I’m not your teammate, homie, I’m your competition.” “Young Bosses” is just one of several slaps on Waymond’s new Express Yourself project, along with album opener “At the Top,” “Big Facts” (featuring Mat Randol), and “Feelings at the Door.”