With a new outlook on life and a new project on the way, Rasheed Jamal is poised to move from underground favorite to local legend.
One of the most skilled rappers to ever clutch a mic in this city, the mere mention of his name is enough to have Portland rap heads rewriting their top 10 lists. A witty wordsmith with a lingering Arkansas accent, Sheed delivers conscious clauses at high velocity in mesmerizing melodies that flow effortlessly into exciting bridges and layered, singalong hooks that his fans love.
Surprisingly, and despite a preponderance of glowing reviews from the local rags and a slew of awe-inspiring performances, neither of The Resistance alumnus’ solo studio releases have translated to commercial successes or regional relevance. Third time should be the charm though.
Shortly after his summer ’17 release of Indigo Child (U Ain't The Only 1!)—a maniacally genius album (listen to "Muddy Waters," featuring one third of The Resistance in Glenn Waco, from the record above)—Jamal stepped back from promoting his music altogether to deal with life. “I had to take a break to process and decompress,” he confesses. Dealing with a stalker, taking care of (and eventually burying) a grandfather, mourning friends and cousins lost to gun violence and traffic accidents, and even the sudden loss of friend and supporter StarChile weighed heavy on the artist. In his own words, “My faith has been tested so many times, but at the same time, things are going to happen the way they are going to happen.”
During this time, Sheed really grew up. He’s always considered himself an old soul, but the sudden need to provide for his family reaffirmed what was important to him, forging his long-held wisdom with real-life experience.
“I use this metaphor a lot in my life—the symbol of the lotus blossom, this beautiful flower that grows in mud. I feel like that’s similar to how Pac felt about a rose growing in concrete,” the rapper explains.
In regards to his new record—the dramatically named Messiah Complex—Jamal extolls, “I really want legacy more than I want hype. Sankofa was a lot about my why. Indigo Child was more about my what... this right here is more of who.” Indeed, Sheed has spent the last few years learning about himself and seems ready to communicate his findings. In his syrupy, real voice, he describes the new album as “something you can come back to. It has a lot of nuance and a lot of subtlety.”
Perhaps just as important, this time around Jamal is mentally and spiritually ready to take his art to the next level. His lead single “Glory, Glory”—complete with a video from up-and-coming Portland director Riley Brown—provides all the overwhelming lyricism and hypnotic melodies we’ve come to expect over a laid-back jazz sample, making for an excellent introduction to the larger project. Rasheed Jamal is taking this release seriously and is ready to leave his mark with Messiah Complex.
UPCOMING RELEASE: Messiah Complex out this summer