Taking a hiatus from something can be refreshing. It can lead to a period of reflection and self-evaluation, and sometimes it can lead to discovery, perhaps finding a vocation that sends you on the road to contentment. But repeated and prolonged exposure to that which you’re no longer preoccupied with just means that it’s ingrained in you. On a microcosmic, more humorous scale, it’s like middle-aged men who haven’t touched a Super-Nintendo since their teens, if not before. True, the mystique of a video game may not hold the same weight as it did in their youth, and it may have already been decades since they last picked up a game controller. But once they play “Street Fighter II: Turbo” again, their eyes, hands, and fingers all coalesce to bring those muscle memories and reflexes back to the forefront to re-master the console. It’s just like never forgetting how to ride a bicycle. For Portland-based hip-hop band Five Fingers of Funk, the gist of this notion holds deftly true as their latest album is a return to the fold for the group’s original members since their split in 1998.

Originally, a nine-piece collective, they now consist of the Fingers three-piece horn section, Pete Miser, and DJ Chillest Illest on the mic and turntables. With the release of “Portland Say It Again”, the idea is three-fold: A return to form, a commentary on Portland’s staid hip-hop scene, and getting back into making hip-hop when in your 40’s. Most people don’t’ think of hip-hop when they think of Oregon, let alone Portland. It’s a state which isn’t as remarkable as the two cities it’s sandwiched between: Seattle and Los Angeles (no offense intended). But while the FFF do have bohemian tendencies by playing with live instruments, there’s now a self-deprecation about them on their current album. It’s akin to a comical slapstick awareness of their status as unearthed fossils of hip-hop venturing out into its newer era.

To prove just how mindful they are of this trope, the album starts off with the tongue-in-cheek “We Were Big In The Nineties.” They reference many artifacts from that era: Skipping CDs, wallet chains, universally illegal pot, and how Pete still “raps real good for a waiter.” The production has a heavy jazz-funk influence on it, which will certainly garner comparisons to the Roots, especially with the live aspect. “TIl The Night Is Through” features Bosko and Dres from Black Sheep and has the audio imagery of an improv jazz session with the way each emcee smoothly rides the beat. On “Without No Doubt”, which features Fogatron & Mic Crenshaw, they wax on the idea of still not knowing anything no matter how far you’ve come. On the single “My Mom’s Prius”, FFF make use of horns and wry-humored lyrics to show that a six-figure priced whip isn’t the standard vehicle that qualifies as a head-turner:



“You Already Know” contains live horns, bass, and drums to effectuate an organic 808 trap rendition, along with the accompanying vocal inflections. “Stick’s Theme” has a friendly, funky party vibe to it reminiscent at first of the Sugarhill Gang. It’s an instrumental track which loudly beggars the question, “How do you NOT get up and dance to me?” The reggae-infused “Kill Sound” is a posse cut featuring Cool Nutz, Jumbo the Garbage Man, & Jamalski while “Shorty’s Gonna Change the World” has a political charge to it, attacking racism in its lyrical message.

Closing out the album are “Up Late” and “Portland Say It Again.” For the former, it’s a playful jazz number with DJ scratches and a detailed lyrical rumination on the length of the creative process. The title-track is a seven-plus minute closer, a lyrical autobiographical journey about come-up and the city of Portland. Upon reaching the end, I’ve concluded that the Five Fingers of Funk have done something of a conversion: What began as a self-effacing lengthy version of the old 50 Cent line “Damn homey / In high school, you was the man, homey” ended as a love-letter to their city. While Oregon isn’t exactly a hub for hip-hop, “Portland Say It Again” shows that you just have to know where to look for it when you’re there.


Five Fingers of Funk :: Portland Say It Again
7.5Overall Score