[HIP-HOP] Live hip-hop, at its worst, can feel like awful karaoke. But Rose Bent—the Portland hip-hop trio composed of MCs J-Kronic, Rose City MissChief and Lady Trinity—shatters that stereotype, along with a few others, when it hits the stage. The all-female group’s live shows involve near-constant bouncing, dancing and the occasional synchronized karate kick. When the MCs aren’t rapping or singing, they’re glowing with excitement.
“I honestly feel like we haven’t even gotten started yet,” Lady Trinity says of Rose Bent’s live show. “I don’t even want to tell you some of the things that we’re gonna be doing.” It’s a perplexing thought, considering what the group has already done: added a DJ—Zita, whom they found via the Internet and through her residency at local electronic-music hub Groove Suite—and a live band, and recorded a vibrant debut album that defies stylistic pigeonholing.
As the trio’s name would suggest, there’s a strong dose of femininity in the music on Rose Bent’s self-titled debut full-length (“Let Me Entertain” is an Auto-Tuned sex jam; “Hey Daddy” is a bit more romantic); but there are thorns here as well (“Check”—the song that warrants kung-fu moves in a live show—is a lyrically twisting and funny rap-rock battle track), and even something for the kids (closer “A New Tomorrow” ends things on a positive note).
Rose Bent’s sound is still developing, and some songs work better than others—as you’d expect from a group that’s less than a year old—but as a self-run business, the band is already quite mature, especially considering that its members, between them, juggle two kids, two college degrees and two full-time careers (in teaching and youth mentoring) while trying to navigate a male-dominated music industry. “Half the time, ‘Hey baby, I’m a producer, let’s work together’ doesn’t mean ‘I’m a producer, let’s work together,’” Jacque “J-Kronic” Dixon says of the business. “It means ‘I want to get in your pants.’”
Despite those business frustrations, Rose Bent is surfacing as one of Portland’s most promising hip-hop outfits. It’s a group versatile, talented and exciting enough to share bills with just about any group in the city and unique enough to be plucked and groomed by a national label or hot-shit producer. Only, Rose Bent is from Portland—and hip-hop outfits from this city have historically struggled. Because of this, the group half-jokes about “pulling a Bosko” (the in-demand session musician and hip-hop producer who began in the Rose City but flourished in L.A.) and skipping town. “I love my city,” Kheoshi “Lady Trinity” Taylor-Mayes says, eliciting knowing smiles from the other MCs. “But it’s tough. If you can get a head nod in Portland, you’re great. You can go anywhere and blow people away.”
But in a town with so few female voices populating the hip-hop scene, Rose Bent is a welcome presence. “That’s part of why we do what we do,” ShaRhonda “Rose City MissChief” McCauley says. “We’d like to see a lot more females out of Portland, really doing it.” And, between the group’s bombastic live shows and distinct sound, Rose Bent is bound to inspire not just other female artists, but entire audiences.
SEE IT: Rose Bent plays Backspace on Friday, Dec. 3, with King Wolverine, Rich James, Portland George, Yung Mil and Karma. 9 pm. $5. All ages.