[SUBTLY ODD HIP-HOP] Collaborations with the bat-shit Awol One and Oldominion's Sleep set transplanted Portlander Josh Martinez on firm experimental footing. But in his case, it's more a mindset and perspective on hip-hop than a genuine break from the form.
On Martinez's work with Sleep as the Chicharones, oddball production seemed to push his performance, in speed, cadence and delivery. For new disc Blotto, Martinez takes advantage of a comfortable field of only subtly bizarre beats to ply his craft—there's nothing a J. Cole fan wouldn't nod their head to. The quick-step percussion programmed for "Life Without" clashes with sedate keys, as Martinez references Mark Morrison's "Return of the Mack" and Kriss Kross, cracking self-deprecating jokes the entire time. It's a breakup song, a concept that overwhelms pretty much every genre out there, but the MC's comedic take on the situation—"I got some dreams that you can shit on/ Maybe some best friends you would like to hit on"—is what makes this unsuitable for the masses. It's an off-putting present wrapped in a pretty package.
Sandpeople's Sapient, who contributed a bit of production to Blotto, shows up on "Numb," another broadly palatable batch of production. Again, the track contains a series of wry observations about life, centering on the idea that it's best to wear a mask to face people each day, just to keep them from knowing what's really there. Or maybe that's reading too much into it. Maybe it's just an extended Pink Floyd joke. Cocaine does get mentioned in there a lot, after all.
SEE IT: Josh Martinez and the Chicharones play Star Theater, 13 NW 6th Ave., with Pigeon John, Grayskul, Bad Tenants and the Rundown, on Wednesday, May 28. 9 pm. $15. 21+.