Portland hip-hop has always been heavily influenced by California gangster rap. In the 1990s, Jus Family (Cool Nutz, Bosko, etc.) was Portland’s Death Row Records, cranking out countless g-funk street anthems full of the same type of stuff Cube and Snoop were talking about, but with a more localized flavor (doug-firs over palm trees all day).
On Al-One’s newest cut, “Welcome to my City”—the latest single off his album Work—the Sandpeople MC shows that the influence is still there. The wobbly bass line, slapping drums and heavy piano keys are vintage DJ Battlecat, who was one of the originators of the genre’s funky-yet-menacing sound. Al-One’s lyrics, focused on meth labs in Gresham and cooking crack on stovetops, are so street-laced they could make Suge Knight blush. Al even got Kokane, a regular chorus-singer from Snoop’s earlier albums, to sing a classic gangster rap hook for him, threatening to put the listener six feet deep if they don’t take him seriously.
Whenever I tell people Portland’s hip-hop scene is built on gangster rap, they laugh—or sometimes even get angry. But the Rose City has always had thorns, and these guys are here to tell you about them.