Photography by Andrew Roles
In case you don’t know, Tope is one of my favorite up-and-coming rappers; in fact, he’s my favorite white rapper altogether. The list goes: Tope, Eminem, Yelawolf. That’s it.
The young, soulful artist has spent all eight years of his adult life aggressively pursuing his dream of rap, managing to create 7 albums between his solo career and the two groups he records and performs with. He also coined several catchy phrases – including “We Out Here” – a few years back. Known for his consistent, nonchalant flows and his endless grind, Tope recently achieved a new milestone in his career: He signed to a label.
Amigo Amiga Records is the grassroots label that just found its third artist. Impressed by Tope’s homegrown following and humbling live performances, the label – largely known for success in the indie rock scene – jumped out of the box and signed their first hip-hop artist.
Shortly thereafter, I was pleased to meet up with Tope and Jeremiah Hayden, owner of Amigo Amiga Records, at Grendels on East Burnside on a sunny-but-freezing afternoon to grab a bite and talk shop. #raplife
There’s a lot of local buzz around this signing. How are you guys feeling about that?
J: It’s great, I mean, that’s what I would hope for. I mean we haven’t really even said much yet except for, you know, that it happened… we’re gonna put out the record. But we haven’t said anything about release dates, or what the record’s called, there’s no artwork, you know? Nobody’s heard a track yet or anything like that. It’s encouraging to have like people talking about it at all, with no real information yet.
T: I think it’s real exciting, the whole movement… it’s the first time my Facebook (status) had over a hundred likes. I’m really just surprised and, yeah, excited. I feel like it’s a good thing, it’s a good move… There’s been the little back-handed compliments, but I think that’s something natural. They’re like, “Oh congrats! Don’t get fucked!” I’m like thank you… for your support fam.
Hip hop is a consumer-driven market. What does this partnership mean for Tope’s fans?
T: Hopefully I think it puts me (out) to a new fan base. As far as plugging into the Amigo Amiga family, I think it puts me in front of a new audience. It makes it easier for my music to be out there for my fans. Like, I think teaming with them it’s gonna make it easier to get that record out and into people’s hands.
J: It’s kind of hard without a label… There’s so many great new online stores and tools and stuff like that for people to find music. You know, it’s BandCamp , and you know there’s like Google Music now everybody’s getting into, but it’s hard to get everywhere without a label and distribution and stuff. So pretty much the plan is this will be literally anywhere that people can buy music.
T: For my current fans, it doesn’t mean a whole lot… I don’t think it’s gonna change a lot for my core fan base, hopefully, it’ll just open me up to people that haven’t heard of me.
How did you discover each other?
T: It was kind of like through a friendship at first… We worked on Hawthorne together and I’d always come over to Jeremiah’s work and just kind of bullsh*t and eventually… I don’t even know how it came up. Somehow we found out one of us did music or was playing Music Fest or something like that. Then it just kind of became this mutual respect for each other’s music. I came out to their shows, they came out like when I did PDX Pop… then the Kelli (Schaefer) remix. I think it totally started from a friendship though.
J: I think I asked you to do Kelli’s remix.
T: Yeah Jeremiah definitely approached me about it and I was stoked. So I guess the Kelly remix really…
J: That was the main time we started working together. But I think it was a full like year before we even talked about that we both play music.
T: Yeah… Jeremiah was like, “That’s how you know someone like might actually be good, when the first thing is not ‘Hey man, I rap! Can you check me out?’
J: You know those people who walk up and they go, “You know I’m always doing shows and stuff…” And you’re like, no you don’t.
When did it click for you that this would be a good fit?
J: I guess I was really impressed with the fact that initially when I asked him to remix the Kelli song. I brought it up, and then he like turns it around and like finished it. I was like, holy sh*t this guy did what he said he was going to do. I liked that. And then… Anthony’s super well-listened to all sorts of different genres of music. Something we’ve tried to do with this label… We’re trying to push ourselves as artists first, and then as a label sort of model to not be about a genre at all, but be interested in pulling from all different genres. You know, make the best thing uniquely us… That really fit in with what we want to do.
T: It kind of clicked from playing shows with them. The response of their fans is like so tight. I’d open for Drew or Kelly and their whole fanbase is so receptive; like, they get it. I think there’s kind of an element to my music that sometimes hip-hop audiences overlook or whatever, but whenever I play with rock bands they kind of get the musicianship to it.
J: People gravitate toward certain genres more than others, but what I hope that people will understand is that (if) Amigo Amiga is putting this record out, it’s gonna be good. Like a stamp of approval.
T: Why aren’t more hip-hop artists signing to indie rock labels?
The fans are used to having a lot of music – both records and live performances – from Tope. Does that change? Can we expect more, less or the same?
J: Exactly the same. I think the framework has been happening and working. I want to be another tool to support what’s already going on. I don’t really care about record cycles. Our label’s been really prolific over the two years that we’ve been around… And that’s not necessarily smart, you know, because you’ll put something out and it gets forgotten about. But your best work is always in front of you.
Tope likes to party… All night from what I hear. Can Amigo Amiga keep up?
J: No. <laughter>