Hip-hop breaks barriers. There’s no better proof in this day and age than the fact that some of the fullest and most interesting movements in hip-hop are coming from Seattle- the home of rain and coffee and cliches about both. Hip-hop isn’t about fitting into a form or a function or an idea- it’s as pure an expression as the person expressing it, and more importantly, it’s all-inclusive.
Porter Ray is one of the most welcoming of the voices on the scene. With his self-described “’88 Flow” and a co-sign from the best group you’re not listening to (Shabazz Palaces), Ray has been simultaneously using the influence of that era and shaping it into something original and personal- imagine if the Cool Kids worshiped P.M. Dawn and Prince Paul over Eric B. Not one of the spacy, laid-back tracks on Fundamentals sounds like a pastiche or a shout-out- more informed compositions that don’t hide or mask their roots. The slinky piano leitmotif of “Fatal Attractions” would do Pete Nice and MC Serch proud but it’s less of a lift and more of a through-line.
Ray’s chameleon-esque abilties extend to his flow- he can get his KRS-ONE on over the Scott LaRock drum hits of “166” and the sped-up flute sample that powers through “Aquamarine” is the best Pete Rock song Pete Rock didn’t drop. Despite his ability to adjust , the strength of Fundamentals is in its cohesiveness. The album creates and captures a mood- one of release and even celebration of life. He’s not stuck in a rut though- although the late 80s and early 90s laid the groundwork, Ray’s production work betrays a keen mind for composition and a knowledge of texture application that keeps the syrupy bass-buzz and synth plinks of “Jewelry” from being noise and turn them into the proper reflective metaphorical box to hold the titular lyrical jewels.
Rafael Gaitan was born in 1985, but he belongs to the ’70s. He is a big fan of onomatopoeia, being profane and spelling words right on the first try. Rafael has a burgeoning stand-up career and writes love letters to inanimate objects as well as tweets of whiskey and the mysteries of the heart at @bearsurprise. He ain’t got time to bleed.