It's a rough moment for major-label hip-hop releases. Kanye West's sprawling Donda and Drake's warmed-over Certified Lover Boy were back-to-back bummers; Lil Nas X's Montero dropped this morning, and it's very solid, but most of its 15 tracks skew firmly toward the "pop" side of pop-rap.

Locally, it's a different story. We've already written about strong summer showings from Portland rappers Mic Capes and Swiggle Mandela, and Fountaine's July LP South of Nowhere deserves a spot in the conversation right beside them. Across 15 varied, muscular tracks, the PDX native is fast, funny, and affecting as he pulls out a dizzying variety of flows to boast and reflect and string together compelling, personal stories.

One of the record's standout moments is "Michael Corleone," a tight two-and-a-half-minute banger where Fountaine compares himself to Al Pacino's tragic Godfather villain. It kicks off with a harsh, distorted synth riff, before Fountaine breaks right into the hook: "Grinding on the clock 'cause I don't know nothin' better."

Any hints that we might be in for a hustle culture anthem dissipate once it becomes clear that Fountaine's focus is less on chasing paper and more on not knowing better. In just over a minute, he paints a vivid portrait of his youth, and wonders aloud about getting caught in the undertow of his environment (hence Corleone). His words—never totally rueful or totally cocky—would be plenty compelling on their own, but they're supported by a killer, no-nonsense track from local producer Weezbeats that helps them glide without ever overwhelming them.

All in all, "Michael Corleone" is a vital, speaker-shaking earworm, and a worthy reprieve from our current mainstream hip-hop drought. Check it out below:

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