Welcome to Black Portland

Written by Maxwell Cavaseno

In the 21st century, to call Atlanta the focal point of the rap game wouldn’t be unrealistic or unfair. From Crunk, Snap, Trap and dozens of other trends that are less easy to pin-down, the Peach State has held reigned over the general rap populace. However, if you wanted to indicate where rap’s going in 2014 based on Atlanta’s energy, the best the city could probably offer is a dazed expression and a non-committal shrug. Right now, the scene seems to be spiraling in a pitch-corrected, hyper-rapping, molly-whopped-out-of-it’s-brain, bellowing, screaming, mess with Black Portland just about the perfect snapshot available.

Look, it’s 2014, you read blogs (including this one!), and I’m not going to pretend you don’t know who Young Thug is. Bloody Jay, on the other hand, has a tape or two under his belt, some tension with Gucci Mane’s camp and appears to be on his way to building national profile. The duo, who have collaborated together in the past, have formed an Atlanta Post-Futuristic supergroup that honestly sounds more like the name of a Neo-Soul collective. Unlike most Rap supergroups however, these two actually managed to bang out enough tracks to serve a tape for the public’s enjoyment.

It’s probably no coincidence that the tape comes out the same year as Snap star Fabo’s comeback; both of these rappers have a deliriously groggy sort of glee in their performances, provided by a combination of neon-bright beats, illicit substances, and perversely brain-dead humor. Thugger has been notoriously out there, so nobody’s shocked at his antics. Bloody Jay, on the other hand, is not interested in being outshone. Between his deranged old man’s croon on “Suck Me Up,” and his bellowing Casino’s Inner Child hook on “Let’s Go Play,” you will probably lose count of the times you burst out laughing both with and at this bespectacled gangbanger. After all, how can you ignore a man who invokes R.L. Stine while repping his set?

What you get is one of the most surprisingly joyful mixtapes, since the Futuristic movement went from cotton-candy sweet melodies and earnestly optimistic teens to a bunch of jaded post-adolescent perpetually rising stars, trapped beneath the shadow of portentously unnecessary grim-faced “Trap-Star O.G.s”. “4 Eva Bloody” sounds like one of the suped-up Saturday morning cartoon “I JUST GOT A BIG WHEEL GUISE, LOOKIT MEEEEE!!!!” jams of Thug’s under heralded true classic I Came From Nothing 2, strapped up to a firework. Meanwhile on “Florida Water,” Bloody Jay serenades lean like Barry White stuck in a trance club with blue haired girls in parachute pants flailing, drenched in sweat or rather, it sounds like he’s there, even if he was just in a studio. His comrade cheekily makes a dipping sauce pun, while Bloody Jay declares himself “Zack Morris Cool!” and we all collectively rub at our temples, stressed out at how far we’ve let Atlanta get ahead of themselves.

It isn’t all Speak & Spell beats and kooky cartoons. “Signs” sounds like a missing Dungeon Family and Hypnotize Minds collaboration, with Bloody Jay screeching and bellowing like an unstable Rick Ross, Thugger Thugger strutting and skipping over flows like he isn’t describing AK-47s blowing apart rivals in drive-bys. Tragically, when it comes to solo cuts, Thug kind of cheats us by giving us “Danny Glover.” And not that they were really competing, but when Bloody Jay breaks out his street sermon flow on solo cut “Nothing But Some Pain,” you get the feeling that Jay got the chance to lyrically outshine his blood brother without a fair fight.

Black Portland not only has one of the hottest young rising stars of the Atlanta continuing his ascent, but he brings up yet rap maniac who seems determined to outrap every one of his competitors, and even temporarily his co-pilot. It’s aggressive, but jubilant and downright silly, and defies the logic of what could’ve been just a quick cash-in on the duo’s chemistry. Perhaps one day we may even see the duo reunite in the future, though who knows what’ll result from such volatile experiments.

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