Mic Capes “Concrete Dreams”/ “Caught Slippin’”

In a modern-day hip hop landscape where bombastic beats and over-the-top personalities tend to score the most attention, in effect, re-triggering the increasingly tiresome complaint of the genre once again being on life support, hearing a rap newcomer that’s as lyrical-focused, no-frills and, well, good as promising Portland up-and-comer Mic Capes can feel like a breath of fresh air.

On his freshly released debut mixtape Rise & Grind, the twenty-four-year-old Capes positions himself as a Northwest mic master to watch, putting his sharp, occasionally conscious rap-dipped pen game to fine use as he relates his own struggles of trying to turn rap dreams into reality alongside gritty urban vignettes that deal with the relentless gloom of inner-city trials and tribulations and recession-era frustrations, sobering themes that loudly resonate with their timeliness.

Couple those strains with a blatant lack of ratchetness or crossover commercial ambition, and a production landscape that mostly toils in a low-key soulful, crate-dug palette, and the gimmick-free straightforwardness of R&G almost feels like a hip hop piece from another time, giving a bone to heads craving for a bit more rootsiness (and hope for the future) in their 2012 rap.

Standout cuts emerge with “Concrete Dreams”, a pensive, wine-soaked confessional tracking Mic’s reinvigorated hunger after having to “clear [his] mind and take a step back” that lands as a solid introduction-to-Capes entry, and the striking story opus “Caught Slippin’”, where a throwback-hued jazz sound bed provides a wispy, cinematic scope to two narratives that leave people “willing to do whatever for the cheddar” caught in tragic situations by verses’ end.

Hear both highlights below, or simply pick up the entirety of Rise & Grind (which works far better as a front-to-back listening experience) over at Datpiff.