On "Heart of Gold," the airy opener to Epp's proper solo debut, Chrome Plated Chronicles, the Portland MC matter-of-factly proclaims, "You can't tell us that we ain't working hard." He's referring to TxE, his trio with rapper Tope and producer Calvin Valentine, whose breezy, carefree lyricism and catchy songs are gradually making the group the face of Stumptown's hip-hop scene. Chrome is in the same mold, but with a darker tint, thanks to Epp's decision to dive a little deeper as a songwriter. Tracks like "Aye Okeigh," on which he raps candidly about what it means to be a young rapper on the rise, and "Gun Break," where he dissects the violent tendencies of modern society, show a more meditative side of Epp, full of angst and disbelief. The production, by Valentine and fellow local beatmaker Lawz Spoken, uses '80s samples and downtempo melodies to create a sound shrouded in purple smoke and warm static. It's a stiff drink compared to TxE's cool glass of lemonade, but Chrome is often just as refreshing.
HEAR IT: Chrome Plated Chronicles is available for streaming and download at eppstuff.bandcamp.com.