Dropping beats in P-town

With hip-hop dominating the world’s music market, overwhelmingly saturating everything mainstream and underground, it was only a matter of time until Portland branched out from its standard three chords and a hug, and started producing beats. Which is not to say there hasn’t always been a glut of talent in town but it’s taken a long time for the best in the region to break.

The Oldominion family is finally releasing their best work, giving us amazing records lately from the likes of Grayskul and Christopher. The Lifesavas and Libretto continue to boost Portland throughout the U.S. and Seattle’s Blue Scholars’ Long March EP was one of last year’s best releases, period.

Artists like Brokaw, Sleepyhead and Hurtbird are pushing envelopes, while longtime artists and enthusiasts like Cool Nutz and Hungry Mob continue to keep the city honest. But recently, more than anyone, Portland belongs to Lightheaded.

Lead by MCs Ohmega Watts, Braille and Othello, with production by Watts and Munshine, Lightheaded have been longtime favorites in PDX with amazingly tight dynamics and a sound as steeped in New York’s Native Tongues tradition of the mid-’90s as they are in contemporary hip-hop.

Much like the Lifesavas and Cool Nutz, Lightheaded are practiced and positive without seeming kitschy. All three MCs feed seamlessly off each other, handing lyrics back and forth over heavy, warm beats and one-hit horns.

Live, Lightheaded have been stopping them cold for years now, their relentless energy and dynamic presence endearing even the most cynical of audiences and building them a reputation almost immediately.

Starting with Ohmega Watts’ solo 12-inch, “That Sound,” on the amazing Ubiquity records, Lightheaded spent last year proving quickly that it works on record too. The “Timeless” 12-inch led to the Pure Thoughts CD, Ohmega Watts released The Find, Othello released Let’s Play, Braille released Shades of Grey and I ran out of money.

Tours have (and are taking) members all over Europe and Japan and albums have garnered praise from such hip-hop standbys as The Source, Elemental and URB magazines. Lightheaded is buttery smooth, unabashedly positive and not afraid of playing funk music. Portland is lucky to have them.