Music

20 Questions: Porter Ray

Photo: Matthew Chernicoff / Sub Pop

Quiet and thoughtful, yet nimble in his poetic applications, hip-hop artist Porter Ray has much to say in our 20 Questions feature.

Porter Ray has been getting some due attention since signing to Sub Pop Records. His music, a smoky, neon-lighted brand of hip-hop, feels as though it is transmitted from the liminal space where ghosts live. Perhaps that is the world he is tapping into, in his numinous search for his deceased loved ones. Not exactly the kind of crowd-pleasing fare blaring from the jeeps or skimming up the Top 40, but Ray does moody well. And Sub Pop, the home of artistic nomads and eccentrics, is the perfect abode for his daedal talents.

His 2017 Sub Pop debut, Watercolor, is a heavily plush and atmospheric affair, full of muscular grooves and calligraphic rhymes that swoop with the grace of a condor. His follow-up, 2018's Eye of the Beholder, pushes the experimental boundaries further for an album of Klimt-inspired beats, purple haze and poems that scan the diaphanous world of emotional abeyance.

Quiet and thoughtful, yet nimble in his poetic applications, Porter Ray has much to say in our 20 Questions feature at PopMatters. He answers in earnest and good humour.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

I cried during Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. There's a character in the film that shares the same name as my little brother. My brother was murdered back in 2009 and this character in the film receives the same fate. I've had to deal with a lot of death throughout my life, so it triggers me whenever someone dies in any film or literature.

2. The fictional character most like you?

I don't know which fictional character is most like me, but I really like the character of Michael in The Wire

3. The greatest album, ever?

Watercolor or Eye of the Beholder, you decide...just playing. There are too many great albums to choose just one, and music for me is a mood, but some of my favorites are Arthur Verocai's self-titled debut, OutKast's Aquemini, and Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

I like Star Trek a lot, but I'm a huge fan of Star Wars. I love science-fiction, it's my favorite genre. I'm fond of the idea that there's a hidden force within each of us, and the lightsaber is the coolest shit ever, right? Also, I thought it was ill how Lucas starts the series with the fourth episode. Coincidentally, my born day is May 4th, which is Star Wars Day.

5. Your ideal brain food?

My ideal brain food would be books, chess, the Rubik's cube, and Scrabble. Feed the mind y'all.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Completing Eye of the Beholder and releasing it at the end of last year was a great accomplishment for me. My eldest son's mother passed away in a car crash the week after Watercolor dropped in 2017. She was also my best friend. I'm proud of myself for trying to push through that and continuing to create and keep working. Also, I taught myself Pro Tools and recorded the entire project without an engineer. That shit was big for me.

7. You want to be remembered for…?

I want to be remembered for being a loyal friend and for being a loving/caring father, brother, and son. I want to support my people and create positive change throughout our communities globally and build a better future for our youth. We're running out of time.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

Debra Sullivan, Leonardo da Vinci, Ishmael Butler, Malcolm X, Nipsey Hussle, my grandfather, LeBron, Kaepernick, Herbie Hancock, and many more.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Nas' Illmatic.

10. Your hidden talents ...?

I can raise each of my eyebrows individually, wiggle my ears, and curl my tongue. I don't know if any of these count as talents though. I can draw pretty well.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

To be myself and take pride in my unique qualities and characteristics. Easier said than done, but I'm trying every day. Also, to believe in myself with unwavering faith.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

The best thing I ever bought is the equipment I use to record my music. My guy [Manager] Geoff Gillis told me to invest in myself after signing my deal with Sub Pop. That was also some of the best advice I've ever received and actually followed.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?

I feel best in hoop shorts or sweats. I'm chillin'.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

My family and friends, of course. Or Rihanna.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

Egypt, specifically Amarna during the 18th dynasty under Akhenaten's rule with Nefertiti. This was a time and place of great tranquility, creativity, spirituality, consciousness, love and worship of the sacred feminine. Take me to a time and place without war. I'd also like to travel back in time and be with my loved ones that have returned to the essence.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

I need that spa vacation, off top. Fuck prozac. Be careful with what you put into your body.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or ...?

Music is essential in my life. It's everything to me. I need music all day, every day.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

I enjoy both the city and the countryside. That's what's ill about Seattle to me. It's a city built into the middle of the forest, surrounded by mountains and full of water. But if I could choose anywhere on the map, I might choose Brazil. Bahia, whatup!

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Power and wealth are mere illusions. Please stop attempting to divide us and destroy us. Please, use your position and your voice to spread love and create equality and harmony within our nation and in cohesion with the other nations of our planet. Harming others will ultimately bring harm upon yourself. You must know this. We are all children of the creator. We must love and care for one another. You can make the right decision. Please, stop promoting hatred and violence.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

I'm currently mixing and mastering the prequel to Eye of the Beholder. It's a project that I recorded shortly after I finished Watercolor, titled When Words Dance. I'm also finishing my next album for Sub Pop, trying to shoot music videos and developing more merchandise. Other than that, I'm trying to work on self-care, spend more time with my children, exercise, get my diet right, quit these blunts and drink a lot less alcohol.

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