a portrait of Fountaine’s Wisteria, by stjms.
To hear it from Michael Stewart—known as Fountaine, the magnanimous Portland emcee, producer, and actor in the web series X-Ray—his newest project Wisteria is a step in a different direction; a step up. In fact, Fountaine's odyssey isn't altogether dissimilar from the specimen of which the album is named. Once wrapped around a structure of which it can further invent itself, it becomes enduring; quickly emerging. The plant referenced can survive in discontent soils but, in more fertile ground, will thrive with full sun. In the journey, however, from seed to flower, it sometimes takes the Wisteria decades to bloom.
Released earlier today, Wisteria is the blooming of Fountaine, and a departure from his previous effort Blak Sushi.
Fountaine: Blak Sushi was more about high school and college, and the shit you have to go through when you're not what people expect you to be. My brother went to the NBA, and not that I didn't hoop, but I wasn't trying to blow my knees out for a check. I'm a sword-slashing, kai-blasting, roundhouse you to your face type dude, but [people] just saw me another way. I got teased for liking Yu-Gi-Oh. Even in college, people were trying to box me in.
Wisteria is about something bigger—a fresh start. It's about the whole cyclical nature of life and death. Something's got to go to make room for something new. In 2015, my grandparents passed; I met this girl, and it didn't work out; lost some friends, made some friends. I felt like I finally became an adult. I'm a very emotional person, and a lot of this past summer was learning how to deal with that—learning how to deal with myself.
"I'm a sword-slashing, kai-blasting, roundhouse you to your face type dude"
But if you loved Blak Sushi, don't fret. Fountaine's evolution hasn't left behind the witty wordplay, the hella hype intonations, or the imaginative production. Where his evolution finds a venue is in the content.
Fountaine: I really just want the music to speak for itself. My first album was to showcase my lyricism—I wanted people to know I could rap. Topically, all that stuff was easy to rap. But to progress, I had to learn new things—I had to what was most important to me first. I wanted it to translate to my art, and announce, "This is who I am". I hear people telling me to quiet my shit down, but fuck that. My life is in my music.
Expanding on his 2015, Fountaine tells me about smoking lavender blunts, losing his job due to workplace racism, and attempting to commit suicide. He tells me how he felt like he couldn't survive being black—like, despite doing everything right (good grades, good college, good job), it felt like there was no place for him to fit into the world.
Fountaine: I would be in the house for days. Even if shit was going well, and I was getting paid, it wasn't enough. I tried to take my life. A few of my friends talked to me about it, and I went to the hospital and sought out help. It felt kind of like it was my near death experience that let me know I wanted to live. Afterwards, I went even harder to finish the album.
"It feels like my child—like I'm birthing this new life into the world."
The album, as a whole, is a trip. And, much like the self-styled modern day Piccolo describes it to be, Wisteria is very cyclical—at times transforming into high-energy sermons, then slipping, unceremoniously, into elegy-like prayers.
Off the 12-track album, closest to Fountaine's heart are "Pokémon Blue Moon", and "Emerald Greens"—both for different reasons.
Fountaine: I created the beat for "Pokémon Blue Moon" early in the morning. Like 5am before the sun was up. I didn't finish until 3 in the afternoon. That's why it starts upbeat, wake up, and get out of bed, then switches into into this "get ready to work" instrumentation. I had actually thrown my first house party ever that night before—that's why I was up so late. Everybody had left and I was playing Pokémon Blue on my SNES and drinking Blue Moon. Maybe it was all the partying, but it just made sense. That's where it all started. The soundscape was the iteration of that day. That was the official beginning of Wisteria.
"Emerald Greens"—I just get a tingling, weird feeling in my stomach when I think about it. It started off about my ex-girlfriend and I. We were both struggling with finding ourselves. My ego definitely came into it. It's about one of those times when you think you're grounded but the things that started to happen—well we just ended up separating. I wrote that song about how I felt I was being interpreted, and about being open-minded—wanting more, but lingering—not doing more to get what you want.
In the end, that relationship turned out to be one of my biggest inspirations. It lifted me, and made me grow up. That's why this project is so close to me. It feels like my child—like I'm birthing this new life into the world.
This music is me.
Fountaine is a Portland, OR based emcee, producer, and actor.
Find his newest album Wisteria at www.itsfountainebro.com