[HIP-HOP HISTORY] A lot of significant events occurred in the life of LeMont Boyd, aka L Pro, in the decade-plus separating the release of the Portland rapper's debut album and his last full-length record, 2008's Chronicles. He got divorced, lost his grandmother, and saw the breakup of his group, Grassrootz. Let's be honest, though: What you're most interested in hearing about is his story about how he got the scar at the corner of his mouth.
Boyd says that in 2003, during a domestic dispute, he was stabbed in the face with a serrated kitchen knife by his ex-wife. [All we have to go on for this story is Boyd's word—WW has tried unsuccessfully to reach his ex-wife for this story.]
"It sticks into my mouth right here," Boyd says, recalling the details of the incident. (His last words before the stabbing, he claims, were "I dare you.") Thanks to a good stitching job, the scar looks like little more than a nick now. But the effects lingered long after the wound healed.
After the stabbing, Boyd fell into limbo. It'd been eight years since Uncharted Regions, the album he recorded with producer D-Wyze in 1995, received raves from respected hip-hop magazines XXL and The Source, and he hadn't picked up a mic since his partner moved to California in 2000. Having converted to Christianity (he was raised Buddhist), Boyd felt conflicted about rapping, even though he still loved the music of Nas, Rakim and Mos Def. At the mall one afternoon, he ran into fellow Rose City rapper Soul P, who convinced him that religion and hip-hop aren't necessarily at odds with each other. Once he got back in the studio, "the fire sparked again," Boyd says. He channeled 13 years of angst into Chronicles, particularly on the track "Closure," which he began by discussing the heroin overdose of his biological father.
"When I finished writing that song, I had tears in my eyes," he says. Because it was so personal, Boyd suspects fans couldn't connect with the song, but it was something he felt compelled to put on the record for his own catharsis. "I didn't write it for other people, I wrote it for myself."
Freeing himself of his turbulent past, Boyd is now working backward. Vertigo is his upcoming third album, but it plays like an introduction. Over vintage, DJ Premier-inspired production from 5th Sequence, L Pro spits with relaxed confidence about America's socio-economic issues ("The Thin Red Line"), love and romance ("Confessions"), and the inspiration he continues to find in hip-hop, and Portland itself ("Imagine"). "Emcees here come in all shapes and sizes," he raps against a wavy, shimmering beat. "Crews that been together and tight for years/ Freelance emcees with business degrees." He hopes the album will lead people to rediscover the more directly biographical Chronicles, and get the full view of the life he's put on record.
"Lord willing," he says, "people will get to know me and my music, become fans, and that record will become a record where people are like, 'That's a dope record, because now we know who this guy is.'"
SEE IT: L Pro plays Ted's at Berbati's Pan on Friday, Oct. 14, with Manimal House, Destro, Hives Inquiry Squad and Veteran Kings. 9 pm. $7. 21+.