Cover photo by Ryan DeReamer
4 years ago, Mic Capes burst onto the Portland rap scene with his debut solo album, Rise & Grind, a gloriously introspective – yet noticeably raw – 18-track project that put the young Portlander’s invincible flow and artistic vision on full auditory display. The iconic project served as a catalyst for hip-hop in the North Portland neighborhood of St. Johns, an area that would soon rival (if not surpass) the traditionally urban but rapidly changing Northeast side of town as the epicenter of PDX’s rap scene.
Many rap artists – especially those of the local variety – struggle to follow up noteworthy freshman projects with effective sequels; the pressure to improve one’s sound quality and commercial viability while staying true to who they are as an artist can be overwhelming. In Mic’s case, Rise & Grind – which is close to double the length of many contemporary rap projects – played through like a epic tale, with a beginning and end, that required no sequel.
But the PDX Pop Now headliner refused to let his past work be his best work. The patient emcee worked endlessly on his sound, on his flow, and on his message, and over the course of 4 years he has built yet another epic album capable of standing on its own. But this one is unequivocally better. In addition to the bigger beats, new and improved rhyme schemes, deeper messages, well-thought album structure, and a broader focus, the increasingly popular artist also managed to weave an improved, more complete story that gives us direct access to the evolving psyche of one young Black man navigating life in America.
Where many attempt to mimic or improve upon the popular sounds of the moment, Capes benefits from a sound all his own. New aged flows with a boombap feel, all spat through a perfectly pained voice that somehow exemplifies both struggle and determination, add to his unique vibe and truly captivating message. While probably one of the best rap releases from Portland in the last few years, Concrete Dreams is certainly the most important, capturing the anger, joys and frustrations of urban youth everywhere. With a “can’t miss” album that will certainly garner critical acclaim, Mic Capes has exceeded all expectations in giving his fans – such as myself – exactly what we needed.
I hope the world catches on.