[Editor’s Note: We Out Here Magazine is proud to premiere this new project from young Portland MC, Karess. Big ups to Keegan Baurer for penning this impressive and in-depth album review. Oh yeah, don’t play this album for your kids. #OutHere #THG]

All too often in hip-hop is lyricism sacrificed for the sake of a song’s catchiness, and vice versa; repetitive radio singles with little substance are equally as common (and obnoxious) as the unnecessarily dense syllables of those “rappin’ ass rappers.” However, Portland emcee Karess’ latest project, titled Smoov Ass Gorilla, showcases the rapper’s penchant for penning potent lyricism while still creating decidedly “smoov” records.

Karess kicks off the project with SHR, an ode to the wordsmith’s favorite hobbies of smoking, hooping, and rapping. This opening track reinforces the old adage that it isn’t what you say but how you say it, as he waxes, “Listen pimpin’, I be getting lifted/ And how I do these n*ggas on the court be a sick description.” The project boasts several other thematically-similar tracks (such as G-Code, Classic, and Knott Street), but Karess’ unique word choice and smooth delivery ensure that each record sounds fresh and avoids redundancy.

However, the content of Smoov Ass Gorilla extends far beyond quintessential brag-raps. In tracks such as 24-7 and GameTime, Karess delves into the struggles of the grind, rapping “Homie think that I’m a square but a least/ One thing you can share about me/ is I take care of my seed.” The second half of the project includes Real Life Shit and Cry Baby Ass Song, both of which discuss heartbreak, baby-mamas, and child-support; these records provide the listener with a more well-rounded and vulnerable understanding of the Rose City spitter.

Smoov Ass Gorilla is balanced out with a handful of feature verses from fellow Portland emcees. For instance, the record Swear features a scorching sixteen from Keegan Baurer, while  Anael Jeannis contributes an impressive verse for the project’s closing track, 2 Kings. The ringleader of Karess’ crew Tree House Gang, Mike Bars, delivers stellar appearances on both 24-7 and GameTime. The latter tracks also feature scratches from DJ Hoppa (of Hopsin, Funk Volume, and Broken Complex fame). Overall, the guest appearances on Smoov Ass Gorilla augment the project’s value rather than distracting the listener from Karess’ presence.

Upon first hearing Smoov Ass Gorilla, the casual listener might assume they had stumbled upon an unreleased East Coast project from the nineties. But while it’s become hip to be a “retro rapper,” Karess comes across as the real deal rather than merely capitalizing on a trend. Without a doubt, Karess’ effective blend of dope raps, effective feature placements and polished delivery illustrate the emcee’s status as a force to be reckoned with in the Northwest and beyond.

Download “Smoov Ass Gorilla” on Datpiff: http://www.datpiff.com/Karess-Smoov-Ass-Gorilla-SAG-mixtape.615967.html