More than any other local hip-hop act, TxE has bridged the gap between Portland's rap and indie rock scenes. Between its appearances at PDX Pop Now, past associations with the Amigo/Amiga label and participation (and victory) in And And And's annual Rigsketball tournament, the group—rappers Tope and Epp and producer G_Force—have traveled between musical worlds that remain largely stratified.
And so, it makes sense that the trio would eventually confirm its Portland rock connections on wax. The upcoming TxE vs. PRTLND finds the emcees spitting over samples of Portland rock and pop acts, from STRFKR to Sallie Ford to Brainstorm, and as this first single shows, it ain't going to be another disastrous rap-rock hybrid. On "Climb," G_Force reworks Typhoon's "Belly of the Cavern," from 2010's Hunger and Thirst, into a sultry, quiet-storm head-nodder, while maintaining the dynamic peaks and valleys the chamber-pop orchestra is known for. It sets an emotionally poignant foundation for Tope and Epp's verses about loved ones lost. Lil Wayne, take notes: This is how you do it.
While an exact release date has yet to be set, TxE will celebrate TxE vs. PRTLND with a show at Mississippi Studios on Dec. 29. We asked the group a few quick questions about the project, and about "Climb" in particular.
Willamette Week: How did this project come about?
Tope: Originally the idea forTxE vs PRTLND was a concept I had for my beat tape series that I shared with a few people. At the time our manager really liked the idea and pushed us to expand on it, so we decided to make into a project with songs as opposed to just instrumentals. Overall, I think the project is a result of Epp, G, and myself playing a bunch of rock shows from 2010-2012 and realizing how many band's music I really like in Portland and also how appreciative the rock scene is to actual musicianship as opposed to appearance in the PDX hip-hop scene.
Tell me about approaching this album from a production standpoint.
G_Force: I approached this album as I do all albums, perched high on top of mountain in deep mediation. After my spiritual journey was completed I went through the folder of indie rock songs that our manager had sent us. The first few songs were made out of that batch. The rest was just us all brainstorming on bands we listen to or would want to sample/work with. It was a fun challenge and process to take these amazing rock songs and turn them into some grimy rap beats.
How much collaboration was there with the bands?
G_Force: There was no collaboration with the bands. We did a show with the Monarques and have performed with And And And but the music was just Tope, Epp and myself in the basement with our frequent collaborator, Bongzi Wells.
Tell me about "Climb." How did you decide on that Typhoon song to sample?
G_Force: I met Paul, the engineer/arranger in Typhoon, at a show we did at Mississippi Studios and he expressed interest in having someone rework a song. So he sent me the track outs to "Mouth of the Cave." So with that song I was able to take Kyle's vocals and rework them how I wanted, as well as the other instruments. I ended reworking the drums adding my own piano, bass and synths to make it slap.
Epp: I think Tope and I did a good job of playing off Kyle's words because of the landscape G set up with his production The song has a very personal feel that everyone can relate to. We've all lost someone that we're close to, so it was easy to write on a subject such as "Climb." It's puts you in a vulnerable state, but I think it's good to give yourself a challenge when writing. Personally, "Climb" is one of my favorite songs.
It's often said that Portland's indie rock and hip-hop scenes remain fairly separate from one another. Is part of the reason for doing this project to try and bring those two sides closer together?
Tope: Basically, with this album we just wanted to steal all the indie-rocker's girlfriends because they seem cooler than the girls that come out to hip-hop shows, and they dress better. And I was hoping Rontoms would un-ban us because I like their chicken.
Epp: We're all into rock, so it came natural to want to do a project like this. We wanted to do a not-so-corny fusion of the two genres, while still delivering the TxE sound we're known for. As far as the scenes go, I don't see it as the scenes being divided, I think it's more along the lines of people not thinking to reach out to each other. One of the bands that showed us love for what we were doing was Radiation City. We played them in Rigsketball, chilled together. Fast forward a handful of months and G is remixing their album, later to be titled A Different Animal. Good music transcends, so we intend on making music that people will appreciate and gravitate towards.