April is low-key one of my favorite months, and it’s actually because of all the raindrops (and those blossoming trees). Winter is melting, and the Portland hip-hop waves are getting warmer by the week. It’s probably about time to poke our heads out and dip our toes back in the water. This month there are at least two worthwhile hip-hop events to support, and if you’re still holed up and staying dry, listen to some of these new drops from local artists.
The Thesis: Mickey Taelor, Mal London, It’s Future Time, Blon, DJ Verbz
When asked about the showcase’s April lineup, Mac Smiff said it’s about to be a “very sultry Thesis,” with three soul-oriented artists on the bill, including Long Beach, California, singer Mickey Taelor, whose neo-soul/reggae/experimental style is inspired by luminaries like Lauryn Hill, Billie Holiday, and Erykah Badu. Also in attendance: rapper/singer/producer Mal London, a Seattle-to-Portland transplant I’ve been wanting to see for a while now due to his excellent recorded material, like the songs “New Leaf” and “Wayvmode.” Label and artist collective It’s Future Time will put together a set, in addition to Portland-based R&B/pop songstress Blon, who will likely perform tracks from her debut EP, The Water Tape. A sultry night indeed. (Thurs April 4, 9 pm, Kelly’s Olympian, 426 SW Washington, $10)
XRAY.fm constantly uplifts voices from Portland’s hip-hop community on its airwaves, so it only makes sense that the scene should return the favor. Put together by the folks from A Beat Happening and Mic Check and hosted by DJ Klyph, this fundraiser’s lineup features a slew of experienced local producers and beatmakers: Trox, Luvjonez, Theory Hazit, Free Tillman, and Lisa Vazquez, along with DJs Trox and O.G. One. I’m not too familiar with the mostly Portland-based MCs, but in my opinion, that’s even more reason to go check ’em out. (Sat April 6, 6 pm, Mission Theater 1624 NW Glisan, $10, all ages
“Man Now,” Covi. featuring Bocha
Portland rapper Covi.’s debut project Escalate with Me caught my attention last year, along with his western-themed visual for “Better Days,” directed by the locally famous Riley Brown. And here he is again with another Brown-directed music video that’s equally as stunning: “Man Now,” featuring Bocha, is set in a snowy forest, presumably somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Dressed in all white (including a hoodie depicting his Escalate artwork), Covi. is out here in the wilderness just to secure the bag. Bocha, dressed in all black, appears to be a villain of sorts as he sneakily digs up an important-looking briefcase from the snow. At the video’s conclusion, the two MCs meet in what looks like a stand-off in the middle of a bridge, but squash that narrative as Bocha hands Covi. the briefcase of cash. They shake hands, and part ways. It’s another quality visual for another standout track from Covi.’s album.
“Check X3,” KayelaJ
Surprising no one, “Check X3” is one of my favorite KayelaJ songs—it’s just so catchy! And it makes perfect sense she chose it as her next single and music video. The visual is a performance compilation of sorts, showing various footage from the rapper’s very active past year making waves in the Portland hip-hop scene. Lots of twerking, dread-whipping, and cameos from local artists ensue. Although it can be argued that the music video takes the easy route, the visual succeeds in being an accurate depiction of what it’s like to be in the presence of KayelaJ, the performer: a bouncy, loose, and overall fun time.
“Suga,” Stevo the Weirdo featuring Bocha and Donte Thomas
Stevo the Weirdo keeps putting out vibey tunes made for sparking a joint to. And the rapper says as much right in the opening hook for “Suga”: “This the shit that we can vibe to/We get high to/Rolling, smoking, take a ride to/Then hit the drive-thru/Hit some chicks and tell ’em slide through.” Over an ethereal beat produced by D’Artizt (it just sounds like a late-night drive), the five-minute song includes a second verse from Donte Thomas and a third from Bocha. All three rappers expertly deliver their respective verses, which tell about a day in the life of being a working hip-hop artist in Portland (and the women they’re regularly getting high with).