[HIP-HOP] It's no secret Portland is a haven for independent music, but one genre that has yet to fully flourish here is hip-hop. While the scene is growing, it still lacks a truly distinctive presence. Critical Mass, a collaboration between rapper Luck-One and singer-producer Dizz, is laudable in and of itself, but in the grand scheme of West Coast hip-hop, presents few new ideas. As an MC, Luck-One offers hope for the future: The dude has an effortless flow, deftly weaving the insightful with the playful and personal narratives with cultural critiques. "Served a different cause/ Came from a different breed/ My ancestors in the fields never learned to read," he swiftly rhymes on standout track "Dem Say Yeah." "I gave my soul a gaze to make it either burn or bleed/ Further the controversial language/ And make it in this heartless deed." A bigger issue with the album is the production. While his efforts are certainly respectable, every beat Dizz crafts seemingly has a "Made in California" sticker stamped across it. In a town desperately trying to find its own identity in the rap world, a talent like Luck-One needs to be able to stand alone if he truly is a "King of the Northwest," as he claims on "PDX." The music here has the potential for mass appeal, but if they're really going to put Portland on the hip-hop map, Luck-One and Dizz need to discover a more distinctive sound.

SEE IT: Luck-One and Dizz play Backspace, 115 NW 5th Ave., with Big Mo and J Burns on Friday, Dec. 14. 8 pm. $10. All ages.