[ANXIOUS RAP] “It must have been a mix-up,” Illmaculate says three minutes into Clay Pigeons, after pummeling the listener with relentless bars dumped over a piano-led Lou Reed sample. “I think we was waiting for each other/ But all that isn’t important/ What’s important is we here now.” lllmaculate is nothing if not present on his latest collection, jumping wildly between topics—weed, radical politics, star-gazing and the usual healthy dose of self-examination—and stylistic approaches throughout the album’s whopping 20 songs. The St. Johns-built rapper has described the album as somewhat of a stopgap effort, a “momentum-builder” between more focused releases. But it also features technically brilliant rapping that will thrill the heads, and tracks that bluntly address the anxiety of becoming an overnight veteran who hasn’t yet hit his stride. A decade removed from his first Scribble Jam victory, Illmaculate’s finest work is usually his most personal. But Portland’s hip-hop scene is insular when it’s not downright cannibalistic, and the question has always been whether he could keep repping St. Johns without being swallowed up by it. Clay Pigeons shows off a lot of sharp tools and some real choice lumber in search of a blueprint. Greg Poe’s hometown would like him to build an ark, but a nice little cabin would be enough.
SEE IT: Illmaculate plays Alhambra Theatre, 4811 SE Hawthorne Blvd., with Nacho Picasso, on Saturday, April 12. 8 pm. $12 advance, $15 day of show. 21+.