Man, times are tough these days. Oregon is back at number 2 in terms of national unemployment rate rankings, which is where the state was when the recession supposedly "ended," and Portlanders are feeling it. NPR reported earlier this year that wages in the city are sometimes 20 percent lower than in Seattle or San Francisco. Yikes. Intel and Nike, where you at??

So, although it's July and summertime anthems of barbecues and booze are still necessary, music that speaks on "the struggle" is as pertinent as ever.

Luck-One, who in a few days will finally be let off parole for the first time in his adult life after spending over half a decade in a Pendleton prison, is an expert in crafting this kind of music. Although the MC is now based in Seattle, he is still a looming force in the Portland hip-hop scene and spends most of his time speaking on problems going on in Northeast neighborhoods (check out his "Sounds of my City" video, where he raps out of the trunk of his station wagon in a Lloyd Center parking lot).

"Breakthrough," the first single off his immodestly titled mixtape King of the Northwest has Luck going in a semi-different direction though as he chooses to highlight the positives of life at hand rather than the unfair realities he often spats at in anger. Over twinkling keys and a drum break — Luck has never been afraid to use young producers who work with new sounds — he spits about the difficulties he and his crew have gone through, including the incarcerations and deaths of former crewmembers, in an optimistic manner, emphasizing the fact that their dreams are still within reach.

It's a gentler, more hopeful Luck then we're use to, but this type of jam really hits the spot right now. Next Monday, as what seems like half of Portland (including me) begins the job search again, they should play "Breakthrough" on all the bus lines to give people some inspiration.