Who: RobbieROBy Wants to Be a Breakout Portland Rap Star, but He's Not Being Selfish About It Bereket.
Sounds like: J. Cole, Elzhi, Logic.
For fans of: A blue-collar rapper with a dexterous pen and a precocious worldview.
Robbie Bereket understood early on the pressures one faces trying to make it as a rapper in Portland.
"And they say us making it past Portland is mission impossible," he raps on "Move On," a track from his 2015 mixtape, The Red Carpet. "I tell 'em all my life that I've been overcoming these obstacles."
"It runs in my family—the crazy stories of what they had to overcome to give our family even a shot," says the 23-year-old rapper, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Eritrea. "Everything that I overcame personally, musically, just everything added up to where you're telling me if I can't make it out of Portland, I'ma laugh at you. You just motivated me to do that."
Bereket's underdog story is still being written. When he was 6 years old, his parents moved the family from Culver City, Calif., to Portland, finding refuge in the Northwest after the 1992 L.A. riots. Bereket began writing raps as early as 13 years old. He bought his first microphone at 15, and linked up with some friends at Madison High School to record songs in a backyard storage room at 16.
"We just spent the whole summer literally doing nothing but making music," he says.
Once he felt confident in the recording process, Bereket connected with producer Cameron Powell to release his first mixtape, Center Stage, under the name Yung Rob, in 2011, followed by The Red Carpet. For his next project, Bereket took a looser approach, going back to those days spent recording songs in a storage room for fun. The result was Cartoon Summers, his official debut as ROBy. It's a scattershot collection of spirited anthems made for warm days and underscored by subtle political messages, addressing the current political climate and police prejudice.
And while Bereket is focused on becoming a breakout star from Portland, he's not selfish in his pursuit of carrying the torch for the city. He wants to unify movements by supporting his fellow local artists and sharing their music.
"I feel like all the years that we've been grinding it out in Portland, it's finally coming to the light," he says. "This new wave of young artists are bringing the excitement back to the city. That's the whole plan. We want it to be fun and friendly." ERIC DIEP.
SEE IT: ROBy plays Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., with Dead Phone Dummiez, US[+], RC Spitta, Leafs, Swiggle, Mandela and Timmy Hendrixxx and Woody Beast, on Thursday, Dec. 22. 7 pm. $10. 21+.