Portland and its hip-hop scene have not always gotten along. Over the years, local rappers have faced scrutiny from a number of sources, who aren't always eager to support music that paints their hometown in a different light. Of course, that's one of the reasons the scene is important—to give voice to people living in neighborhoods beyond the brewpubs and bike lanes. But its merit also lies in the fact that it has produced some damn good records. 2014 should continue that trend.
That includes familiar names like Vinnie Dewayne, whose poignant lyricism paints a gritty picture of the St. Johns area, and trio TxE, which cleverly brought together the city's indie-rock and hip-hop worlds with its latest album, TxE vs. PRTLND. But there are also a number of young, bright MCs still flying below the radar, despite dropping stellar projects recently.
One is producer-rapper Stewart Villain, whose latest project, No Manners, captivated with trap-influenced beats and hard-hitting rhymes. The 24-year-old Gresham native has already produced records for big artists like Danny Brown and Smoke DZA, and he should soon add more names to that list. Villain's versatility behind the boards allows him to craft all kinds of instrumentals, from Detroit neo-soul to electro-pop.
Elsewhere, Mic Capes, Glenn Waco and Rasheed Jamal, who perform both solo and together under the moniker the Resistance, are building a buzz through their ferocious brand of lyricism. Mic Capes is especially good at dropping one-liners that cause faces to scrunch up in pleasurable disgust. If you like that feeling, also check out Northeast duo Load B, which more than likely blew out quite a few trunk speakers last summer with its aptly named, 40-ounce-fueled album Debauchery.
Sadly, whenever Portland MCs starts making some serious noise, there's a risk they'll move to a bigger market. Villain is contemplating it, and Luck-One, arguably the city's most consistent rapper of the past five years, has already moved to New York. You can't blame them: Most other major cities have a better relationship with their hip-hop scenes. But with more talent than ever flowing through Portland's, things will hopefully soon start to change.
This is the second in a series of features on local artists to watch in 2014.