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Our sister paper, the Portland Mercury, originally published this article. For more Portland-related stories, follow Jenni and the crew over at Blogtown.

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North Portland-raised rapper Mic Capes established himself years ago as one of the city’s most promising hip-hop artists. Whenever he gears up to drop new music, the city is ready and listening, amped to support and promote the artist. On his fourth studio project, In Spite Of... Capes' evolution as an artist is on display, and that growth is paying off. Since its official July 20 release, In Spite Of... peaked at the #4 spot on the Apple Music Hip-hop/Rap Albums chart.

The In Spite Of... title means to keep going in spite of one’s obstacles and adversity. Throughout the project, Capes spits inspirational, motivational lyrics that pay respect to his family and roots. The project as a whole sees Capes evolving from more ego-driven tapes like Cold Blooded Vol 1, and 2017’s Sheesh; the new album is about his journey with music, staying humble, working hard, and being true to his faith and values.

On “Affirmations,” which features Farnell Newton and jaminah, Capes raps about his family being on food stamps and getting free boxes of food when he was growing up, and how that motivated him to pursue his music dreams. “I chose to quit my job and go against the odds/I’d rather chase a dream than work a 9 to 5/I’d rather take a risk than say I never tried,” he raps like a mantra, and then goes into prayer mode with “Lord give me strength/ Lord give me drive.” Another standout track is “Urgency,” in which he appropriately raps at a fast pace, and mentions balancing his music career with his relationship with then fiance (now wife): “I found the lady I love, yeah/ She wanna settle down/ I wanna marry her, I do this music though, hard to be tethered down/ I made a promise though, I gotta keep my word/ I know I gotta pray/ Ain’t even trippin though, I put my faith in god, I know we’ll find a way.”

“Hunger (featuring King Leez)” takes off where 2017’s “I Might” left off, affecting a similar rhythm and energy in the choru. But instead of materialistic goals like buying a plane as the inspiration, it’s more about surviving and thriving as an independent artist. “Tired (Grateful)” sees Capes rapping about being “tired of getting by,” and another major highlight is “Reminders,” which packs groovy nostalgic production by Dontā and featured vocals by Jane Handcock. Capes delivers lines like “Same cops that used to stop and give us stickers/ the same cops that wanna lock us up and kill us,” and rhythmic lyrics like “They say my flow could be the catapult to stack a profit/ lately I been losing weight, just making space for fatter pockets/ Remember that lame though told me that I’d never make it/ In my mind I used that doubt to elevate to greatness.” On the track “W.W.J.D,” Capes samples his late father who recently passed away from cancer, and credits him as “My Dad” on the track, which also features Flvmingo and Big Bro Johnny.

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On the excellent final track “Adamant,” Capes raps about how far he’s come in spite of loss, giving credit to his parents for the man he is today: “Son of a hustler, I’m functioning with my dad’s genes/ Son of my mother, another one of her Black kings.” He talks about the murder of Nipsey Hussel, and references Dame Lillard as a proxy for himself and his loyalty to his hometown of Portland: “A fixture in my home like Dame Lillard, the same spirit/ Loyal to my team, ain’t switchin/ We raised different.”

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Mic Capes perform; it was a We Take Holocene hip-hop show, and Damian Lillard was in the crowd. Understandably impressed by Capes’ set, Lillard proceeded to share an Instagram post praising his skills as a lyricist and performer. Capes has gone on to garner Lillard’s praise on several occasions over the years. In an interview with Nardwuar in July 2020, Lillard AKA Dame DOLLA shouted Capes out as Portland’s best rapper and Capes sampled the clip for the beginning of “Reloaded (Freestyle)”: “Mic Capes might be the best rapper in Portland, to me. Me included. I think Mic Capes is the best,” says Lillard.

Whether it’s better than his debut full-length Concrete Dreams is up for debate, but it definitely matches it. The overall result of In Spite Of... is a deep, heartfelt and mature project that not only shares a three-dimensional Capes with his Portland fanbase, but also has the power to resonate with a national audience and put some authentic Portland hip-hop on the map.