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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released September 19, 2018 | Sub Pop Records

Watercolor is the proper debut from MC Porter Ray, a Seattle native who has been writing music for much of his life, but only began releasing mixtapes in 2013. The album appears on Sub Pop, which signed Ray in 2015 after he met Shabazz Palaces' Ishmael Butler, leading to a guest appearance on THEESatisfaction's EarthEE that year. Ray's lyrics reflect all of the tumultuous occurrences throughout his life; his father passed away in 2005, his younger brother was killed four years later, and several of his friends have been shot or become incarcerated due to gun violence. He's faced numerous personal demons, and has often turned to drugs and alcohol for alleviation. On top of all of this are all of his myriad relationship issues. His clearly stated lyrics address all of these concerns, and express his confusion, fear, loneliness, and aggression. The subject matter is usually quite intense, and his rapping style is urgent but not threatening. The music is generally calm and ethereal, verging on cloud rap, and often consisting of billowing, atmospheric synthesizer textures. The sample-free tracks were mostly produced by BRoc, with a few other Seattle-area producers providing beats, including Dez Anthony and Kmtk, so they maintain a consistent mood. The album's best tracks are the ones that seem to push slightly over the edge. "Arithmetic" features trippy, echo-covered vocals by Stas Thee Boss of THEESatisfaction over a fractured rhythm. "East Seattle" laces a tight, clapping beat with spacy whirring while Ray delivers his tragic street scenes. Watercolor's most touching moment is the cautiously optimistic "My Mother's Words," which actually ends with Ray's mother giving him life advice and congratulating him for his work and achievements. Too often, however, he gets mired in sexual pursuits, as well as excessive drug talk. The album's vinyl edition is 18 tracks long, including bonus songs and instrumentals, but even the 13-track standard CD version is exhausting, at 52 minutes. Regardless, the album undeniably seems like a labor of love, and Ray is undoubtedly dedicated to his craft. ~ Paul Simpson