For fans of: Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, Edan, Bilal.
Why you care: Ripley Snell is not a businessman, he’s a small business, man. That’s how he thinks, at least. Don’t get it twisted: The 25-year-old rapper isn’t harboring delusions of moguldom. He does, however, fancy himself an entrepreneur of sorts. And he doesn’t like sharing the market. “I don’t want to play at a bar where I’m competing with Jim Beam and Budweiser and all this shit,” Snell says. “I want my shit to be, you come to a Ripley show, and there’s Ripley there. There’s not all this brand competition.” He’s serious: If it were up to him, he would perform exclusively in cafes rather than nightclubs. And when he refers to some of the biggest companies in America as his “competition,” he’s not joking, either.
Certainly, he’s pushing a unique product. Growing up in Chico, Calif., Snell developed a fluid, melodic flow, influenced by jazz improvisation and metal guitar solos, and a lyrical sensibility blending the surreal with the really real. His latest EP, 6 Natural Flavors, filters social commentary through a psychedelic lens. Over kaleidoscopic production from partner Neill Von Tally—a fellow member of the Futro Records collective—Snell addresses racism and the plight of Portland’s homeless with choruses that sound almost like advertising jingles, promoting “gentri-fried chicken” and “high-fructose love.” The cover art, song titles and even the chopped-up samples nod toward the Coca-Cola Co., a wry consumerist critique that also doubles as an attempt on Snell’s part to make himself “synonymous with ubiquity.” But he isn’t interested in world domination. He just wants to be an inescapable part of the landscape. “It’s not on any strain of like, ‘Look out, Portland, I’m taking over!’” Snell says. “But I am showing up here and there.”
SEE IT: Ripley Snell plays Kelly’s Olympian, 426 SW Washington St., with Brakemouth and Cut Cut Paste, on Thursday, June 19. 9 pm. $5. 21+.