SOUNDS LIKE: A parallel-thought version of Chance the Rapper's "acid rap," with lyrics inspired by Sufjan Stevens.
FOR FANS OF: Chance the Rapper, Prince, Shabazz Palaces, Dizzee Rascal, Missy Elliott.
When Alana Chenevert says she's "dodged every bullet that's been shot at me," she's not speaking metaphorically.
Growing up in midcity Los Angeles, evading violence was an everyday reality. One day, when she was about 3 years old, she was playing in front of her house when her mom called her inside. Seconds later, gunshots rang out. She ran downstairs to find her brother bleeding on the porch.
"That could've been me," she says.
Her brother survived, and Chenevert eventually got out of L.A. But she hasn't forgotten where she came from, nor her experiences. Like her kaleidoscopic brand of hip-hop, Chenevert's nom de rap, the Last Artful Dodgr, is a woven basket of meaning. In four words, there's a reference to the city that raised her, her childhood nickname (Lala), Charles Dickens and her penchant for narrowly avoiding perilous situations—not to mention the obvious baseball pun.
Clearly, Chenevert has a hyperactive mind. As as kid, she sang, danced, rapped and dreamed of being a choreographer. It wasn't until after college, when she moved into a shared artist house in Arcata, Calif., that her drive to perform overcame her anxiety about actually doing it. "I was able to tap into that side of me that I'd been holding back all those years," she says.
In 2013, Chenevert came to Portland with 199NVRLND, an album she recorded in her bedroom back in California. Lacing soulfully psychedelic beats with her otherworldly sing-song flow, it's unlike anything that's come out of the local hip-hop scene, yet it ended up flying under most everyone's radar. But those who did catch wind of it—namely Kenny Fresh, who signed her to his Fresh Selects label—are making sure she gets heard now. She recently released a three-song EP, Fractures, with producer Neill Von Tally, and says she's got several new ideas just waiting to be born.
"I'm always in my head, regardless of the situation," she says. "I can seem like I'm super-present, but there's something in the back, always working."
SEE IT: The Last Artful Dodgr plays Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., with SiR, Andre Power and Neijah Lanae, on Thursday, Dec. 3. 9 pm. $7 advance, $10 day of show. 21+.