[HIP-HOP HERESY] Early on Soopah Eype’s most recent mixtape, El Planeta de los Simios (that’s “Planet of the Apes” for those without access to Google Translate), the Portland rapper drops the line, “I blaspheme every single hip-hop belief.”
Not the most unusual expression, especially for an up-and-coming rhymer wanting to stand out from the rest of his peers. Yet there’s something about the unusual combination of conviction and humility this 23-year-old Los Angeles transplant feeds into his delivery that, even after multiple spins, I just couldn’t shake.
Speaking to him by telephone recently only cemented the notion that, in a hip-hop universe overrun with puffed-up egos and shiny façades, Soopah Eype (Judah Mobley when he’s not onstage) actually walks it like he talks it.
“I’m embarrassed to tell people I’m a rapper sometimes,” Mobley says, taking a break from preparations to film a new video. “There’s this belief that you’re supposed to rap about certain things, and if you don’t, you’re underground. But I don’t say the things that are expected, and I’m not bowing down to this hierarchy that people expect.”
El Planeta also bucks trends in its production choices, cooked up by producers Steve French and Doogies the Lion. The tracks feel soft and broken in, with samples of folk guitar lines and minor R&B classics from the late ’60s maintaining a low boil behind the soft sway of the beats.
Mobley unfurls over it all, unleashing generous wordplay boasting of his lyrical dexterity while dropping in references to his love of reggae—his chosen handle, pronounced “Super Ape,” is a nod to dub legend Lee “Scratch” Perry’s album of the same name—and a bumpy upbringing that has fueled his creative fire.
The rapper was brought to Oregon as a young teen, his mom hoping to keep him away from negative influences in South Central L.A. The two originally moved to Seaside, where trouble ended up finding Mobley, thanks to his own doing and, he says, the uneven racial demographics of the area.
“In L.A., I had many doppelgängers, so I could have gotten away with more,” he says. “In Seaside, I was naive to the fact that I was being watched. I did some bad stuff—fighting and tagging—but it was also easy for me to be the scapegoat.”
Mobley doesn’t carry any bitterness about the experience, nor that his mom made him a ward of the state while he was doing time with the Oregon Youth Authority.
“I learned a lot of things,” he says. “I had to educate myself and learn to get what I want through my work and learn how to express myself in a way that people would take me seriously.”
The hip-hop heads of Portland have been relatively slow to pick up on what Soopah Eype has to say, but as young as he is, the hype will probably get even louder as he gains strength as a lyricist and performer. While he waits for the rest of the scene and the world to come around, Mobley will keep moving forward, no matter where that might be.
“I just make hip-hop,” he says. “If I lived in Kentucky or wherever, I would still be rapping.”
SEE IT: Soopah Eype plays East End, 203 SE Grand Ave., with Dre C, C Villain, Dr. Goon, and Slick Devious, on Friday, May 3. 9:30 pm. $5.