9./10. RASHEED JAMAL
FORMED: Started performing in 2011.
SOUNDS LIKE: A series of Southern-fried subreddits set to stark, minimalist beats.
Rasheed Jamal is a rising figure in Portland hip-hop, but he says he'll never feel fully at home in the Northwest.
"I can't use my regular voice here," he says. "I moved here and realized people weren't paying attention to me because I wasn't talking fast enough. I had to learn how to keep up.â
Jamal is quick to clarify that he doesn't really feel at home in his native Hot Springs, Ark., either. He left there for an open-ended visit to family in Portland at 21, shortly after his father died. Struggles with depression persisted, but Jamal adapted to his new surroundings the same way he adapted his speech. "You could be from fucking Togo, West Africa, or you could be from Scotland—I'll find a way to communicate with you," he says. "That's supposed to be our principal thing as human beings, right?"
One of the first people he communicated with was esoteric local MC Cloudy October—a fellow Southerner with shut-in tendencies of his own—who made Jamal his de facto hype man. Appearing with Cloudy October helped rid Jamal of his considerable anxiety around live performance, and taught him a number of tricks that he'd later share with the members of the FRSH TRB artists collective he founded in 2011.
"I told them, 'We don't have to be holding hands and singing 'Kumbaya' or anything, but you share me with your fans and I share you with my fans, and then we'll all have more fans,'" Jamal says.
Upon releasing his recent full-length, Sankofa—an urgent hybrid of personal and political themes with dark beats that are both club-ready and sharply critical of club-rap mentality—it seemed to appear everywhere, on local Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, due in large part to the collective mentality of FRSH TRB's members.
That collective is just one way Jamal has built a home—for now—in Portland. "I told myself I wasn't going home without something to show for it," he says. "I don't have it yet, but I'm close. My hair is long, I'm 25 pounds heavier, I'm making a different type of music. Portland has been a great chrysalis to develop within."
SEE IT: Willamette Week's Best New Band Showcase, featuring Divers, The Domestics and MÃ¡scaras, is Friday, May 15, at Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave. 9 pm. Free. 21 and up.
Who's Got Next?
2015's Best New Band Finalists, Nos. 11-20
11. Hustle and Drone ...32 pts.
12. New Move ... 30
13. Mimicking Birds ... 26.5
14. Orquestra Pacifico Tropical ... 24.5
15/16. Houndstooth ... 24
15/16. Rio Grands ... 24
17/18. Liz Vice ... 23
17/18. Rap Class ... 23
19/20. The Delines ... 22
19/20. The Shivas ... 22