Who: Danny Diana-Peebles.
Sounds like: If the dude from your high school with the impressive Yu-Gi-Oh! card collection had flow.
Fans of: Juiceboxxx, MC Paul Barman.
Lean, bespectacled and ever-smiling, Danny Diana-Peebles looks like the sweet kid in the neighborhood who taught your grandma how to install Facebook on her Android. Despite his unassuming looks, the rapper known as Neo G Yo is a Portland veteran who helped found Futro Records, the energetic, irreverent hip-hop collective known for wild shows, a diverse roster and a taste for collaboration.
"The focus of Futro has been to be a collaborative platform for people who might not have gotten together otherwise," Diana-Peebles says. "We want [artists] to come together on projects."
On his own, Diana-Peebles makes what he describes as "sci-fi party rap." While his stylistic comfort zone lives in the polysyllabic denseness of Aesop Rock, his beats fit perfectly into what's becoming the signature sound of Portland hip-hop—big, bright, full of synth layers and musical playfulness. Perhaps the most obvious, and refreshing, element of Neo G Yo's aesthetic is his sense of humor. It's on full display in his '80s-inspired video for "Five Flavors," follows the long johns-clad rapper as he dances his way through downtown Portland. In "Minor Problem," Neo's wit shines in the lyrics: "I almost skipped college/But then I said fuck it and I learned what not to do."
While Diana-Peebles' past projects have been unpretentious and fun—especially his part in the rap duo Serious Business—his latest project under the Neo G Yo moniker is a more ambitious and earnest artistic endeavor. Produced by long-time collaborator Winston Lane, Hazama tells the story of Moon Gazer, a person stuck in a futuristic world who sets out to connect with nature in his digitally saturated universe. It's a concept album whose sound remains steeped in synth-drunk beats and Neo's swaggy-nerd persona. But it's also a book illustrated by graphic artist Yu Suda.
"I wanted to do a unique format for the album, more than just a CD or record," Diana-Peebles says. "I thought a book would be a cool option because it provides a visual experience to go along with the music that also acts as a sort of companion for the story of the album."
Thanks to translator Cay Horiuchi, half of the copies of Hazama will be published in English, the other half in Japanese. To support the Japanese distribution of Hazama, Diana-Peebles will be going on tour in Japan—a big step, considering this will be Neo G Yo's first tour ever. But he sounds ready for it.
"I'm very excited," he says, nearly squealing with joy.
SEE IT: Neo G Yo plays Holocene 1001 SE Morrison St., with E*Rock, DNVN and Neill Von Tally, on Wednesday, Oct. 4. 8:30 pm. $8. 21+.