In a literal sense, Portland has been getting its moisture on lately, but figuratively speaking, the streets have been dry as hell. Sometimes it gets like this right before the new year (though I’ve been hearing there’s about to be a massive wave of new music coming from the scene this winter). Here are a handful of recent developments that caught my attention:
Anderson .Paak (ft. the Last Artful, Dodgr and Snoop Dogg), “Anywhere”
“Anywhere”—a song from Anderson .Paak’s new album, Oxnard—features vocals from Portland hip-hop artist the Last Artful, Dodgr (along with an intro from Snoop Dogg). It’s a key slow jam, and one of the best tracks on the record. Dodgr’s cutie-pie vocals—mixed by Dr. Dre, mind you!—sound nothing like we’ve ever heard from her before, but they are heavenly. This is a big look, and I can’t wait to see what’s next from Dodgy.
COVI., Escalate with Me
Last month, local rapper COVI. released his debut LP Escalate with Me, and I gotta say: It’s pretty impressive, especially for it being his first album. The project is something of a coming-of-age story, with COVI. embracing manhood and yearning for more substance in his relationships. In addition to the single “Better Days,” highlights include the melodic “Man Now,” featuring fellow Portland rapper Bocha, the rhythmic and danceable “Sweet Tooth,” with Janaeture and De’Aires, and the romance-focused “4 Me,” which features some gorgeous R&B vocals from Nikki Hayes. Especially after seeing his recent Riley Brown-directed music video for “Better Days,” I look forward to whatever COVI. does next.
Blossom, Maarquii, Amenta Abioto, Karma Rivera
Happening the same night as the Thesis, this bill at Mississippi Studios is a fucking stunner. Along with R&B singer/songwriter Blossom, there’s also high femme rapper Maarquii, who recently dropped their excellent debut album C.A.B.O. (AKA Cut a Bitch Off). Maarquii’s performances are marked by fierce rapping, voguing, and if their single “Roll Up” is on the setlist, likely some twerking as well. There’s also rapper Karma Rivera, who’ll be rocking cuts off her debut EP Don’t Sleep on This, which came out earlier this year. But the most unmissable act on the bill is probably singer/songwriter/storyteller Amenta Abioto, who uses a loop machine to blend soul, gospel, spoken word, jazz, and ancient African sounds. Abioto seems to have perfected her act as of late, exemplified by her recording of “Wade.” And when she’s live, her expertly controlled vocals sound better than ever. Plus, this show is free. Go see her now. (Thurs Dec 6, 8 pm, Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi, FREE)
The Thesis Four-Year Anniversary
For the last four years, Portland’s ever-growing hip-hop scene of artists, producers, photographers, writers, fans, and friends have flocked to Kelly’s Olympian every first Thursday to support and show face at the monthly showcase. Thanks to the event’s main organizers Mac Smiff and resident DJ Verbz, the Thesis lineups have been consistently solid for quite a while now. This one has North Portland rapper Vinnie Dewayne headlining, as he returns from a hiatus after the death of his friend. Dewayne’s exceptional music video for recent single “Losing Direction” is definitely worth a watch, and his live performances don’t disappoint. I’m also particularly excited to catch rising rapper Nina Xo, who I’ve not yet seen live, but is said to have fun, high-energy sets. Regardless of the lineup, the night will be a surreal realization of just how long a lot of us have been out here building and networking together in the scene. Here’s to four more years of meeting up at Kelly’s. (Thurs Dec 6, 9 pm, Kelly’s Olympian, 426 SW Washington, $10; w/Vinnie Dewayne, Load B, Nina Xo, Elton Aura, Verbz)
Bossin’ Up: Fountaine
Comedian Shrista Tyree has been hosting hip-hop shows and open mics in Portland for a minute, and the latest endeavor she’s producing, Bossin’ Up, goes down at Bossanova Ballroom. Tyree, a talented comedian, is a natural host for the music showcase, and she’s even been known to perform comedic raps alongside Bossin’ Up’s resident DJ Chuckie Buckets. Oh, and the Mercury is a proud sponsor! The latest showcase hoists rapper/producer Fountaine as its headliner, which is a super good call. Fountaine’s original sound, versatility and bouncy stage presence make his shows an interactive treat. (Thurs Dec 13, 9 pm, Bossanova Ballroom, $7; w/JxJury, LC Lonely Child, Jay So Smoov, Chuckie Buckets)