Little-known fact: The City of Roses is also blossoming with hip-hop all year round. Portland is a cornerstone of the Pacific Northwest’s vibrant pop culture, and we’re going to show you exactly why. This week, we’ve curated a list aimed at bringing attention to this slept-on hotbed for rap, such that you’ll involuntarily associate the city’s name with the craft moving forward.
Who comes to mind when you think hip-hop and Portland? Aminé? Valid. Yeat? Certainly. Damian Lillard? Up for debate, but that one goes to Oakland anyway. Either way, these names are just the tip of the iceberg.
The following MCs and vocalists will surely make you rethink why you haven’t looked this way so far.
We Have Our Money on These Portland Rappers in 2023
Neo soul, lo-fi poet Veana Baby has a connection with her listeners that’s tough to put into words. Still, it is apparent that this comes from a deep understanding of the human condition because her tracks sound almost scientifically designed to help ease the mind and body. She tip-toes over beats (she’s a producer too, by the way!) with a touch so gentle that you might very well consider listening to her instead of meditating. Hit play, but we can’t promise you’ll stop listening any time soon.
The next time you hear someone criticize pop rap, refer them to Karma Rivera. With her level of charisma, any song with her voice is destined to reach bop status. Call it hip-hop, call it pop, call it melodic trap, maybe even Latin-infused dance music — what’s important is she does it tastefully, and that’s really what we want from music, isn’t it? We want it done right, and Rivera does exactly that but with an attitude you don’t want to go up against.
Originally from Houston, the Pacific Northwest now claims Julian Outlaw. This young prospect has moved down the I-5 corridor starting in Tacoma, WA to Corvallis and Eugene, OR. He now resides and operates out of Portland, where he hit the ground running and has devoted himself to making an impact. In addition to working with several nonprofits, he assisted the City of Gresham put together its first Juneteenth celebration. Additionally, he founded a writing workshop for children in the foster care system trying to pursue hip-hop. Not much else needs to be said to establish that Outlaw is for the culture of hip-hop as much as he is for that of Portland and the PNW.
A Bay Area native, Chain Taylor has brought a West-Coast allure to the Pacific Northwest. There’s a reason why so many artists want to move there to kickstart their careers — external brands amalgamate smoothly with Portland’s hip-hop culture, which is accommodating of different styles and approaches. It’s essentially an incubator, and Taylor is a prime example of how the city not only breeds its own unique sound but also enhances those from different regions.
With his suave and star power, Prince Hyph seems to effortlessly mass-produce street bangers, one after the other. This is just no-nonsense, high energy, raw power — Portland in the flesh! With vibrant beats and hard-hitting bars, this local heavyweight is someone you want at the forefront of a movement that demands respect for its region. Prince Hyph knows he’s really king; he’s just playing it cool and letting us notice that all on our own.
One of Portland’s fastest-growing spitters, Lambo Lawson has been honing his craft non-stop since the age of 15. About five years ago, he began gaining serious momentum and he hasn’t stopped speeding since. He has released a full-length album every year since 2018, so we can expect a record in the coming months. In the meantime, listen to his most recent album, Phoenix, to hype yourself up — Lawson makes every bar count and doesn’t let a second go to waste, and this goes a long way with fans 10/10 times. He’s been consistent in his output and its quality has been top-notch, so whatever’s next is definitely worth our time!
Bryson the Alien & SumAlienz
Sumalienz is a two-piece collective founded by and comprising rapper & producer Bryson the Alien and beat master Just Alfa. With a diverse range of sounds to their credit, from boom-bap to R&B to trap, the pair has been working together since 2015 and continues to go hard, but since we’re focusing on rappers, it is necessary that you give Bryson a second of your time. Okay, maybe a minute, but that’s seriously all you need to be convinced that the guy could do this in his sleep.
Here’s one we’ve been rooting for from the beginning. Let’s just say the white boy’s nice with it, and he most likely knows that because how else do you spit with such relaxed confidence? This Portland MC has masterfully found a way to negotiate the raw with the refined, blending these contrasting themes into a brand of his own that sets him apart from his peers. Having him on the team certainly gives Portland a shot at the championship.
Check out our review of his latest album, Neutral Milc Motel.
Bocha got that flavor that’ll make everything else taste bland. But he’s part of the movement and not trying to dilute it, so it’s best to switch gears while listening to him. He’s different, and your best bet is to let him do his thing instead of trying to find others like him. He’s flourishing in a lane of his own and we commend that. Here’s yet another name giving Portland a unique identity.
A first-round pick from New England, DDwili has made Portland his home base as an artist and creator. He’s come a long way since freestyling over video-game sampled beats as a kid in New Hampshire, and he now hosts monthly hip-hop and R&B shows in Portland. He’s been in the game for a decade plus and is showing no signs of slowing down. Aside from mastering laid-back rap, he founded and continues to host Bars Over Bars PDX, a show devoted to elevating other local artists. A crucial part of Portland’s hip-hop culture, DDwili is so much more than just a barman.