An animated—and anonymous—force on the local hip-pop scene, this chromatic emcee has been performing at local venues since 2007. You can't miss him—he's the one with a spinner, or "spinna," on his face.
Big in the hip-hop scene for years, spinner rims are huge hubcaps that continue spinning even after the car stops; you've heard Three 6 Mafia, Nelly and Redman wax poetic about them.
Spinna's elusiveness runs deep. Like Batman or Portland's own Famous Mysterious Actor, Spinnaface refuses to divulge the man behind the mask. In fact, almost as amazing as Spinna's metal grill is the fact he's maintained an ironclad code of silence with help from friends and fans, none of whom would reveal his real name. After a series of phone calls and text messages with Spinna's manager, Jonas Tannenbaum, I was able to arrange a face-to-Spinnaface meeting during a sunny lunch hour at Pioneer Square. I asked how I'd recognize the rimmed wonder. "He's Spinnaface," deadpanned Tannenbaum. "He has a spinna for a face." Good. Great. Got it. "I'm wearing green jeans," I said.
Arriving on time dressed in a black hoodie and shell-toe Adidas Originals—and without an inch of skin exposed—Spinna ambled around the Square posing for photo ops and handing out high-fives. As I pressed him about the man behind the mask, it became clear Spinnaface is all hubcap, all the time.
WW: Tell us about the man behind the spinna.
Spinnaface [Spins face before speaking]: I'm a pretty sweet man, not quite a "super man." I'm just Spinnaface, I got in touch with my inna spinna and realized I get to decide who I am and what I am. Spinnaface likes to make people smile. [A gaggle of tween girls walks by, staring hard.] I've always been attracted to different styles of music. I sometimes jam with people on the street and sometimes I get down in the studio. It was not until last year that my face really began to spin.
An anonymous source told WW that Spinna went to Grant High School, although we can't confirm when. Album lyrics like, "He's got a spinna for a face…his face is all chrome!" don't help illuminate much more.
How old are you?
Stops spinning face. Silence.
It's hard to say, exactly, because I've been alive for many years and through galaxies of time...if you have to put something down, just say I am 100 years old.
Real age aside, he's well-traveled. Video footage on spinnaface.com shows him performing on the streets in Japan, Korea and Amsterdam. At this point I stop the interview and tell him this isn't going to work. He seems upset, but I can't tell for sure through the chrome. He walks away. I wait. Several minutes later he comes back.
I'm ready to continue. Please ask me some more questions.
An older couple stops and points. He waves amicably with both hands.
What does the world look like from behind the spinna?
It's like being dipped in awesome all the time.
[And, dressed head-to-toe in all black, probably hot as hell. The thumb of his gloved right hand is wrapped in silver duct tape.]
Why a spinna? Why not a Frisbee or a garbage-pail lid?
My spinna reflects all my friends like a mirror. What could be more super-cool then a spinna for a face? It's all chrome, it spins and it's 100 percent!
[His constant spinning, combined with a glaring reflection bouncing off the chrome plate, is distracting. A park maintenance man walks up to us excitedly. He spins Spinna's rim.]
Where do you buy your spinnas?
Hubcap World is super-awesome.
[Kim Gallagher, owner of Hubcap World, says she's never seen Spinnaface, but she does sell used Spinner wheel covers for $45-$75 apiece.]
How do you keep your spinna so shiny?
I buy a variety of cleaning products, all at New Seasons. I really like Tom's toothpaste. Also all of the Burt's Bees products.
[Encouraged by a real answer, I help him hand out his club fliers to passersby.]
What's the most dangerous part about having a spinna for a face?
At Spinnaface shows there's high-energy dancing, accompanied by hands waving in the air. That's a perfect recipe for hands to get caught in my spinna. But to see people, at any show, entertained, having fun, releasing stress—that is what makes it all worthwhile.
[Spinna's live shows are electronic overloads of bounce, rapid BPM (beats per minute) and voice-box modulation. He often pulls up to performance locales like the Goodfoot and Pala in stretch limos.]
What does Spinna do offstage?
I ride my bike, old-school Schwinn. I exercise every day: yoga, pilates, running.
[There is no way he does downward dog with a hubcap attached to his face. This is certain. A father and son walk by. Photo op occurs.]
How do you eat with a Spinna on your face? What did you have for breakfast?
I ate pho. I also like Escape From New York pizza.
Does being Spinnaface pay the bills?
Spinnaface doesn't make a lot, but I don't need much. I've got merchandise for sale and my album will be out soon. The more money we make, the bigger a party we're gonna throw!
[His new 29-track "All Chrome Mixtape" can be heard at listening stations at Anthem Records (828 SE 34th Ave., 963-9000). His pre-chrome work may be available online: Another anonymous fan led us to a YouTube clip from what he says are Spinna's unmasked days. The clip, which shows a bunch of guys lip-syncing and bouncing around New York and Portland, was recorded under the alias "E.E." and produced by Bling Bling Productions and "HyperSpacedOut Ent." If you go by the video, Spinnaface is white. And maybe Jewish.]
What would be your ultimate collaboration?
A person from every country…each playing a different instrument at the same time through the Internet...with Spinnaface on the hook. I am interested in things like linguistics and what words will be formed throughout our music now.
[Spinna currently collaborates with the Time and Space Orchestra and DJs DR N1N0, Pipedream and Magneto. Magneto, who is based in L.A., refused to provide any details on Spinna's identity, but he did mention that Spinna "loves the ladies. Especially the Asian ones" (confirmed upon viewing Spinna's YouTube videos).]
If you weren't Spinnaface, what else would you want to do?
[He gives two teenage boys huge high-fives and down-lows. A Vietnam vet stops and shows us his shotgun wounds.]
I think there are many variations of film that are interesting. One might be music videos. Also, comedy. I understand my face and me, we're funny. [But] it's really important for us to embrace all cultures and accept everybody. If we can party together, maybe we can live together.
[Spins his face one last time.]
Spinnaface is scheduled to DJ at Northeast Alberta Street's Last Thursday, 3-10 pm Thursday, July 31 but chances are you'll see him around town before then. Check out live footage of Spinnaface performing at spinnaface.com.