Portland-based hip-hop band Five Fingers of Funk will release Portland Say It Again on Kill Rock Stars on May 5. The album marks the band’s first release with the original members since 1998. The 10-song album documents the ironies of being a grown-up in the young man’s game of hip-hop.
Five Fingers Of Funk began as a five-piece backing up MC Pete Miser, but quickly exploded into a ten-man behemoth including a three-piece horn section and DJ Chillest Illest on turntables. The band established itself as a major draw at Portland music venues through its energetic shows. By playing alongside indie rock mainstays such as the Dandy Warhols and Heat Miser, the Fingers bridged the gap between Portland’s alternative movement and its blossoming underground hip-hop scene ushering in an era in which local hip-hop was showcased in downtown venues for the first time.
The band remained fiercely independent, self-releasing three full-length albums and sharing stages with Funk legends Maceo Parker and Bootsy Collins as well as hip-hop icons Run DMC, De La Soul, and another live hip-hop band coincidentally founded in 1992, The Roots.
Unceremoniously, Five Fingers Of Funk eventually split up over the predictable politics that come with ten young men touring in one van for years. With the perspective of time and individual musical accomplishments, the band has reunited to release Portland Say It Again on its new label home Kill Rock Stars this spring.
Of the video for the single, “My Mom’s Prius,” an autobiographical cut and tribute to his mom and Portland, video director and band member Pete Miser says, “‘My Mom’s Prius’ is an earnest autobiographical song inspired by visits home to Portland, Oregon after I moved to Brooklyn, New York. I would stay at my mom’s house and borrow her car to go meet up with the homies. I couldn’t help but notice the look of envy on the faces of my boys when I pulled up next to their low riders and Lambos in her stock hybrid… that look was envy, right?”
“The backing track for ‘My Mom’s Prius’ was originally a melodramatic song called ‘Man In The Middle’ that the Fingers recorded circa 1997. We were working on our second album and I was in the peak of one of my many tortured ‘no one understands my struggle’ periods. A little voice told me that the song wasn’t worthy of a final vocal recording, let alone a mix, so it languished on a 2-inch Ampex reel in my mom’s basement for years and years.
“In 2012 my mom passed. In her will she stipulated that her Prius be sold and the proceeds go to the First Unitarian Church of Portland. Additionally, she wanted her house to be sold with the proceeds benefiting Outside In, an organization that she volunteered for that provides services for homeless teens. That meant that my brother, Chris and I had to clear her house out and ready it for sale, which meant I had to do something with the Ampex reels. I found a studio in Portland that could transfer the analog audio to digital files. I went ahead and digitized everything I had. Fast forward to my pandemic isolation of 2020 and out came those old recordings and this backing track.
“The concept of the song came from visits home when I’d touch down on the turf in mom’s whip. I even remember a time when I went to pick up Cool Nutz one day. He looked at the Prius and politely said “let’s take my car.” Nothing sits at the intersection of Portland and my mom more than a Toyota Prius. Shout out to the town and to her. I tip my hat to both.”
Pre-order the album now here.
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Photo by Caitlin Justice Redd