Porter Ray

[THE SIX is a regular interview feature on 206UP.COM with a simple format: One member of the local hip hop community and six questions. For past editions click here.]

Porter Ray is shining on the strength of three stellar albums. His BLK GLD LP dropped mid-May and was followed by two EPs, WHT GLD and RSE GLD, in October. In partnership, they are the most exciting hip hop to originate from the Town this calendar year, and will undoubtedly find slots on all of the self-important blog year-end lists that populate the local internet from now until the annual turn. (And of course keep your browser tab tuned right here for just such an entry.)

Accolades are immaterial except for the most narcissistic among us, and Porter Ray is not Seattle’s answer to Kanye West. His raps are observational in tone, a little like Kendrick’s and a lot like Nasir’s. When he does stop to honor himself, it usually feels in passing, like his hustle is already rap’s oldest certainty and listeners should know this because they probably read about him in an ancient book — or blog — somewhere. In this way he reminds you of Shabazz Palaces: A brief flicker of genius that sparks up from the communal rap flame burning in perpetuity.

All this to say: Porter Ray’s shit is the new, but it already feels like a fable, son.

206UP: Local media and rap heads around the Town have been quick to place you in that ambiguous “alternative / indie hip hop” category. Does the segmenting of rappers into different sub-genres offend you, or do you welcome it?

Porter Ray: I welcome it. There are different styles of rap music, just as there are sub-genres of rock. We have classic rock, heavy metal, acid, punk, etc… The same principals apply to hip hop.

What’s your earliest Seattle hip hop memory?

Watching Sir Mix-A-Lot’s limo drive past 23rd and Jackson in the video for “Posse On Broadway”. The video for “Baby Got Back” was another one of my first memories of Seattle hip hop as well.

There seems to be a transition in sound from the BLK GLD album to the RSE GLD/WHT GLD EPs: Softer beats on BLK GLD to a bit harder on RSE/WHT. Was this a conscious decision or did it just come about organically?

The transition of sound from BLK GLD to RSE and WHT was definitely a conscious decision we made to try and elevate the music. At the same time, it is something that happened organically being that all of those albums were recorded in the same stretch of time. The music that we were creating, naturally developed into different sounds and vibes as we progressed as artists and began to find ourselves. We’re stepping it up another notch for my next project.

Describe a typical day in the life of Porter Ray these days.

A typical day for me consists of writing, recording, rehearsing and strategizing. I spend a lot of time searching for things to keep me inspired and fuel my creativity, whether its reading, searching for new music, or watching a film. In between all of this I usually have my son Aaron during the late afternoons and evenings. I’ll play him beats and rap to him, or we’ll hit the park and I’ll draw while he plays. After I drop off my seed [with] his mom I’ll link up with MFB or B Roc and hit the studio.

Your rhymes have a strong philosophical and observational quality to them. Would you describe yourself as more of a “watcher” or a “participator”, and why?

Both. I consider myself more of the “observer” as an emcee, however I feel that I’m the “observer” that somehow always ends up participating by proxy.

What’s the last great book you read?

The Egyptian Philosophers: Ancient African Voices From Imhotep to Akhenaten written by Molefi Kete Asante.

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