Portland Music Scene Pt. I (Hip Hop)

This is the first entry in a three-part series on Portland's music scene. Tonight I head out to the MusicFestNW festival, and I realized I still have notes from two previous concerts/festivals that I had yet to share with you, our loyal readers. We'll start with a look into the Stump's hip hop scene via a show earlier this year, then check out last month's PDXPopNow, and finally end with my thoughts on this year's MusicFestNW sometime after I collapse from exhaustion Sunday night (well, early Monday morning actually) when it finally wraps up.
The Portland hip hop scene has yet to really blossom and capture the nation's attention. Granted, Cool Nutz's Harsh Game for the People, and Lifesavas' Spirit in Stone, both instant classics in their own right, received accolades from hip hop heads around the country, but the city has yet to really come into it's own. It's my belief that this is mostly due to a serious lack of support by the local music-loving population.

Nothing was more evident than this on a chilly and dark night way back in late winter as I strolled into Berbati's for a Black History celebratory show, featuring some of the hardest-working emcees in the city. To my surprise, there were no more than 15 folks "crowding" the floor below the stage. If you think that's bad, well, peep this...1/2 of these were the night's performers. Not sure if this was an indictment of Portland's respect-level for local rap artistry or local black culture in general. I grabbed a Pabst (noticeably out of style with this crowd...Heineken seems to be the drink of choice for rap connoisseurs), took a seat against the back wall next to Cool Nutz and his girlfriend, gave a sad laugh to the announcer's quip that "black history month is the shortest month of the year," and popped my ear's open for what was essentially a show geared towards an audience of other rap artists...the folks on the mic were more relaxed on the stage than usual, cracking jokes and holding conversations with their friends down below for 10-20 minutes at a time, but the music itself was mo' dope than G. W. Bush.

The night's lineup:
-DJ Chill on the Ones and Twos...a nice guy who once mistook me for a close homeboy at the Lloyd Center DMV. Apparently I look like someone named Gizzerelli. It was awkward, but a fun time for all involved, I'm sure.
-E-Wise & Wisdom...I don't really remember these two. Sorry gang.
-Ray Ray (from G-ism w/Young Randall...these two are Cool Nutz album regulars)
-Syndel (from Siren's Echo w/ Toni Hill...hardest-hitting female emcees in Portland)
-Soul P (formerly Soul Plasma) This guy has an amazing stage presence. I chatted with him for awhile about his experience with putting out his first nation-wide album, The Premiere, which I ended up buying.
-Mic Crenshaw (of Suckapunch, Cleveland Steamers and Hungry Mob)...one of the most under-appreciated and hardest working artists in the area. Wake up soon, or he's likely to move on to greener pastures (in fact, at a show that Lucky Green and I attended more recently, Mic proclaimed that Suckapunch will likely perform less in the future, saying that Portland is too small of a scene, and that they want to avoid over saturating it with too many shows = i.e. Portland isn't ready for this shit).
-Libretto...another guy I talked with for a good long while. He's folks with Lifesavas, and Vursatyl even showed up to help out with the hit track "Volume". Walked like 20 blocks to his truck after the show to pick up his latest, Ill-Oet: The Last Element, which is very Portland, very Watts, CA.
-Cool Nutz...you know, the locally-proclaimed "Godfather of Portland Rap." He's an often cheesy, gangsta-poet, but he's Cool-fucking-Nutz, and it's impossible not to like him.

It was a great night, too bad less than .00000001% of the City of Roses came out to enjoy it.
Faces to names:
DJ Chill
Lifesavas (L-R...Jumbo, Rev. Shines, Vursatyl)

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