For the past several months, the streets of Portland have been full of calls for a complete reimagining of this world—and for Black lives to matter. During a daytime rally at Lents Park marking 100 days of resistance since George Floyd’s execution, I was introduced to Jordan Fletcher who, for 12 songs, made North and NE Portland the center of the universe.
Performing his debut album Somewhere Off Alberta in its entirety, Fletcher made a declaration to the crowd that very well could have been a thesis to the entire project: “What y’all did to Alberta is disgusting!”
Speaking with Vortex, Fletcher explains his sentiments further: “When you think of being a kid, and that nostalgia hits, I just think of Alberta. I just remember when I was on Alberta.”
The 25-year-old emcee recalls memories of eating Jack’s Chicken with his dad, hitting the ice cream parlor further up the street, and being scared to go to football tryouts at the neighborhood park because people would think he was “trash.”
“That whole neighborhood is literally my life,” he says.
As he continues, the feelings behind his angst crystallize into a case study in the expected outcomes of a neighborhood marred by crooked policies like redlining and manufactured poverty, explaining how both his mom and grandmother were forced to move from their respective homes along with other family members as gentrification began to take hold of inner North and NE Portland.
“Just to see White people take it back so they can have a restaurant to eat at, or they can have a Little Big Burger close to their new apartment that kicked out a family that has been there for many years, it disgusts me,” he says.
It’s stories like these that have propelled not only Fletcher’s music, but his movement as well.
After news of George Floyd’s death, he says he was pulled to the streets, and almost every night since (save for a week of historic wildfires that engulfed the West Coast) he’s joined the chorus of protesters being met with chemical munitions and other weaponry from regional police bureaus and federal agents.
“[Going to the protests] was directly talking to the people that are responsible for a lot of this shit, responsible for a lot of the people I know that are in jail, or a lot of the people I know that have been killed,” Fletcher tells.
The uprisings have bled into his music too. A little over a week after news of Floyd’s death broke, Fletcher released “8:46,” titled for the nearly nine minutes Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin spent digging his knee into the neck of Floyd while three fellow policemen stood by. In under three minutes, the freestyle, which is not featured on the album, captures the pain that has flooded millions into the streets across the globe, and forced America into a deeper reckoning with its centuries’ deep anti-Blackness.
“Shit is crazy how when this shit happen they say to move along / But up in arms when they see busted windows at Louis Vuitton / They don’t like it when we come to settle scores / ’Cause another brother was murdered using excessive force,” he laments on the track.
“This shit’s still going on, there’s people still being shot by the cops and dying,” he says. “Nothing has changed.”
And change is all he wants. After charging through a sea of self-doubt to release his debut project full of piercing 808-driven prose this year, he hopes listeners hear both his anger and the hope between the poetry.
“I’m not a mad nigga if you know me,” he says, pegging himself as lighthearted and “goofy” outside of the booth. “So when people hear the album I just want them to know, yeah, this from the mindstate of a nigga that’s angry, that’s had to do a lot of shit just to survive, but also wants to change, and wants to make it a better place for someone else so someone else doesn’t have to do something like go trap and shit or do something else. I want there to be a light at the end of the tunnel. But I want you to know what it took for me to get there, nigga.”
MOST RECENT RELEASE: Somewhere Off Alberta out now