The first time I had ever heard of local hip-hop legend Cool Nutz was a tattered hand-drawn flyer on a Killingsworth streetlight post that read, "I Hate Cool Nutz." I assumed that these signs, which were plastered all over Northeast Portland close to a decade ago, were meant to degrade the now 20-year hip-hop veteran, publicly showing someone's distaste with his music. That same week, as I entered my freshmen year at a Southwest Portland high school, I saw a classmate wearing a T-shirt with the same slogan across its front. When I asked the classmate where the shirt came from, he explained that Cool Nutz was handing shirts out in promotion of his new album, which he, in defiance, was naming "I Hate Cool Nutz."
Regardless of what you think of his music, as long as Cool Nutz stays on his grind, he will continue to be a looming force in Portland's music scene. His new track "Portland Yelled Out," a track off of his soon-to-be-released free project The Cook Up, is a perfect example of how the MC continues to stay relevant despite doing little to change his songwriting formula.
The track's beat, provided by longtime Jus Family Records associate Bosko (who probably is still collecting royalty checks for laying his signature talkbox vocals on Big Boi's smash hit "Shutterbug") is a G-funk twist on hip-hop's original anthem, "The Message." The recognizable synth line moves along with more bounce than Grand Master Flash's version, with heavy-hitting snares crunching along on top of a sub-rattiling bass line. This method of mixing smooth funk chords over slapping drums was heard often in West Coast mid-1990s gangster rap, an era that Cool Nutz was very much a part of. Although Nutz doesn't usually go over these types of beats nowadays, one gets the sense that he's most comfortable on soundscapes that add some silkiness to his otherwise rugged lyrics.
In this instance, Cool Nutz and other longtime associate Maniac Lok spit the type of crack game smack talk that fans of the two have become accustomed with; loudmouths of the neighborhood are warned that too much talking could lead to the "splitting of a melon." Even though the subject matter has been done excessively in hip-hop, especially in recent years, it still works for the two veteran MCs as they've spent decades perfecting the art of telling cautionary tales.
"Portland Yelled Out" is nothing new from Cool Nutz. If you hated his music before, you'll probably hate this too. But with his ownership of the Northwest Breakout radio show, Portland Hip-hop Festival and his numerous appearances a year opening for national acts, Nutz and his grind don't care if you hate the veteran; chances are, you'll be hearing him anyway.