If you were to only listen to the chatter online and in the newspapers and magazines of the world, you’d likely think that the only music being made in Portland, Oregon was lovelorn folk and literate indie rock. But scratch below that surface, and you’ll find a strong, vibrant underground hip-hop scene that dominates the stages and eardrums of the city for decades.
The Portland rap game couldn’t stay below street level forever. Word is starting to spread about the talent the Rose City boasts, and the one name that keeps popping up on people’s lips is a rapper known simply as Tope.
A good deal of that attention is due to the respect that Tope has earned for the years he’s committed to the scene. Starting in his teens, he’s been a fixture at local hip-hop showcases and freestyle jams. He eventually started a pair of groups, Living Proof (with Seattle-based rapper Prem) and the well-respected crew TxE with Epp and Calvin Valentine (aka G_Force). Tope has also been providing production help and dropping by for guest appearances on tracks by artists including Abstract Rude, Myka 9, TiRon, Planet Asia, Kev Brown, Scarub, LMNO, Waajeed, and many more.
As any restless and talented artist would, Tope has been stepping out on his own, releasing solo albums that have only burnished his talent even brighter. His latest effort Until The Next Time We Meet (released in March on Amigo/Amiga Records) is the culmination of all the hours he’s put into honing his lyrical and production abilities, all the connections he’s made, and his pure love of hip-hop.
This soulful collection features some crackling production work by Tope himself as well as Trox, Stewart Villain, Devonwho, Tony Ozier, LAWZ SPOKEN, and his TxE cohort Calvin Valentine. He connects all sides of musical personality together by inviting his bandmates Prem and Epp to drop verses on “Life Of The Party.” A little R&B flavor is sprinkled in thanks to local singers Michele Wylen, Caitlin Cardier, and Reva Devito. And the whole thing is tied up tight by Tope’s storming lyrical flow and witty wordplay.
Until The Next Time We Meet – and all of Tope’s work to date – have helped bust open plenty of doors for the young talent. He was placed at #6 on Willamette Week’s Best New Bands of 2012 list, joining the likes of Radiation City, Onuinu, and his collaborator Reva Devito, as well as #2 on The Deli Magazine’s Emerging Artist List of 2011. He’s also been asked to share the stage with a bevy of hip-hop greats including Talib Kweli, Dom Kennedy, Blu, Macklemore, Mac Miller, Shabazz Palaces, Dead Prez, Nappy Roots, Digable Planets, The Coup, Spaceghostpurrp and more.
Portland and the Northwest community have already shown lots of love and respect for what Tope brings to the table. Now it’s time for the rest of the world to take notice.
-Robert Ham (Alternative Press, The Oregonian, Spinner, Willamette Week)