Originally published for The Skinny March 2017 issue.
Album title: Watercolor
Artist: Porter Ray
Label: Sub Pop
Release date: 10 Mar
It’s easy to dismiss the notion of rapping as a form of poetry when ‘rappers’ like French Montana exist, but Porter Ray is making hip-hop great again with his debut album Watercolor.
Great rapping is quite simply just great storytelling, and what a great storyteller Porter Ray is. Just a quick listen to his tone and it’s clear to see how Ray caught the ear of Shabazz Palaces founder Ishmael Butler. There’s a vulnerability to his voice that’s so alluring, allowing his emotion to filter through every word he says, while at the same time owning every beat he jumps on.
Laying his bars over a mixture of trippy, experimental beats and old school hip-hop beats, Watercolor has as much style as it does substance. Much of the lyrical content surrounds Ray’s experiences growing up in Seattle, dealing with many personal matters such as the death of his father, the birth of his son and the incarceration of his son’s mother. ‘I can’t front, shit fucked me up mentally / Sometimes I wish your bullet had been meant for me,’ he raps on The Mirror Between Us, which details the shooting of his younger brother Aaron in 2009.
There’s a certain depth and outright honesty in Ray’s lyrics that sets him apart from many of his peers and shows that he’s not afraid to bare his soul in his music. That openness makes for incredibly powerful listening.
Listen to: East Seattle, My Mother’s Words