After four years Portland rap stalwart Slick Devious is back with a sprawling 50-track album that promises to satiate art rap fans while appealing to new listeners.
On Casual Anger, Slick’s first album with Portland’s Time Travel 444 imprint, he finds whimsy in his nihilism, forever content with a symbolic shrug of the shoulders in the face of authority and corruption.
Born and raised in northeast Portland, Slick’s love for hip hop — and his city — is evident on nearly every song. Having graduated from the University of Oregon, he even gives a shout out to Eugene on the track “White Whale,” produced by fellow UO grad Spencer Smyth.
The album itself is an ode to hip hop’s blog era in the 2000s, when, for the first time, fans could receive self-produced music directly from artists. There was a subtle intimacy in the exchange, one that isn’t present when listening to perfectly mixed and mastered music. In 2019, the best hip hop is often found hiding in plain sight, having been silently uploaded to streaming services like SoundCloud or Bandcamp.
Slick, along with his Time Travel 444 crew, exists in this realm. Time Travel 444, as a collective, has released a 50-track mixtape every month in the past year. Slick is featured on all of the tapes except one.
“I always felt like we were into something different, you know? Like, we weren’t making regular shit,” Slick says. “I don’t spend a lot of time with other artists or crews outside of my own, so I’m not really sure of what they’re doing. But our shit feels more experimental.”
This impromptu approach to album making turned holistic when Slick began writing hooks for his myriad tracks. Mixtape loosies began to take the shape of full songs. It’s why the album, cohesive and polished as ever, still retains elements of spontaneity, as though you were sitting in on a practice session of a perennially self-aware hip-hop jam band.
“It became 50 songs just because it felt like the right thing to do,” Slick says. “I didn’t really want to put out like five EP’s or whatever. I felt like it was more natural to my life, and to the message, to have it be one large cohesive project.”
Throughout the album, there’s a confidence in Slick’s cadence that conveys a kind of wisdom. It’s like listening to an old hip-hop head on a stoop, spinning a yarn to a group of neighborhood ruffians who all lack the context to know just how important this story really is.
Within Casual Anger, through four separately spaced tracks, Slick manages to tell the story of a crooked New Jersey detective caught in the throes of the opioid epidemic. What follows is a testament to Slick’s imagination. By encapsulating his trademark flippancy, mixed with some serious anger and a dose of black humor, these tracks act as the perfect anecdote for the album’s larger message.
In the past few months, Slick has made a deliberate attempt to brand himself as an average Joe. A highpoint of Casual Anger exists in the album’s first single, the 2019 viral hit, “Bus Max Walk (My BMW).” The song is an homage to Portland’s public transit system.
In the video he’s seen in a slightly oversized business suit, dancing at different Tri-Met stops. Casual Anger acts not only as a victory lap for the everyday person, but also as a love letter to the city that made him — a city filled with roses, rogue policemen and roach clips.
It’s this celebration of the mundane that makes Slick’s music so universal and compelling — a victory lap for the everyday people, who remain underrepresented in almost every facet of hip hop. Even Slick’s humble brags carry the stench of spilled ashtrays and malt liquor.
If having a sweaty dime sack languish in the center console of a ’98 Honda Accord is your idea of flexing, then Slick has roughly 50 songs for you.
Casual Anger is available on all major streaming services, as well as available to be purchased in full on Bandcamp at slickdevious.bandcamp.com/album/casual-anger.