Gregory Poe, aka Illmaculate, won the Scribble Jam battle rap competition in 2004, and has consistently been a heavy-hitter in the Pacific Northwest hip-hop scene ever since. He’s described his March 2014 album Clay Pigeons, which pairs soul-bearing lyrics with blunted party beats, as a “momentum builder.”
Essential track: “Woodstock”
Vinnie Dewayne moved from Portland Chicago for college but never stopped repping his home neighborhood, St. Johns. His 2012 mixtape Castaway got people talking about his expertise, and he’s got a new mixtape, St. Johns Scholar, in the works.
Essential track: “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”
3. Mic Capes
Heady and passionate emcee Mic Capes, whose real name Michael Caples, is also from Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood. His 2012 debut Rise & Grind was strong and soulful — do yourself a favor and listen to “Wake Up” immediately — and he’s been teasing his sophomore project Concrete Dreams with some loose bangers.
Essential track: “Stokely Barmichael”
4. Mikey Vegaz
Mikey Vegaz, born Eddie Bynum, Jr., has gotten attention from places like XXL and The Source since his freshman album Fli Rock was released in 2007. Since, the self-proclaimed “Prince of the City” has just gotten better — check out his 2013 tape, Gold Kilos N Tha Trap.
Essential track: “Gods Be Gods”
5. Glenn Waco
Born Loren Ware, Glenn Waco flow that’s laid-back but full of intention. His November 2013 mixtape NorthBound mixes stories about growing up amidst violence in Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood with smooth, lighter fare. Try lusty “Crush” or the nostalgic “Gutterball.”
Essential track: “Gutterball”
7hirdwav3, the rap/R&B duo comprised of Neka Perini and Jordan “Kahlo” Kokich, released their debut self-titled EP in May 2014. With Neka’s powerhouse pipes and Kahlo’s gritty rhymes, the couple are more than keeping up in what tends to be a boys club.
Essential track: “Alchemistress”
Rasheed Jamal moved to Portland from Arkansas back in 2008 to pursue bigger opportunities, and his work in the local scene is paying off. When he’s not performing with Glenn Waco and Mic Capes as The Resistance, he’s flexing his lyrical chops and slight southern twang in solo work like 2012’s My Beautiful Ugly. He describes his upcoming project, 22 Grams, as “an album for people to get lost in.”
Essential track: “So Lovely”
The trio — made up of emcees Anthony “Tope” Anderson and Jamiah “Epp” Sneeds, and producer Gabe “G Force” Edelmann — have been around since 2009 but made a splash in January 2014 with the release of TxE vs. PRTLND. The album is built on samples from some of Portland’s best indie rock acts, and cemented the group as a local scene-crossover favorite. It also landed them a spot on Willamette Week’s 2014 list of Best New Artists.
Essential track: “This Town”
The young Cassow (think “Picasso”) has gotten some national attention since he put out his first mixtape, Off to Mars, back in 2010. His 2013 release, Cold Winter, features verses from both Danny Brown and Smoke DZA, and he performed at SXSW this year. Look out for the upcoming Bayous by US.
Essential track: “Never Know”
10. Cool Nutz
You can’t talk about Portland hip-hop without talking about Cool Nutz, whose real name is Terrance Scott. He’s been around since the early ’90s, when he co-founded the Portland Oregon Hip-Hop (POH-Hop) Festival. Today, he divides his time between managing other local acts on his label Jus Family Records and releasing his own tracks.