So we have to talk about this Black Portland thing, right? Right. If you haven’t heard, ATL rappers Yung Thug & Bloody Jay recently dropped a mixtape titled Black Portland. I found the interview in FADER to be funny, and honestly didn’t take it too seriously. A few pseudo-hippie Black kids from ATL, feeling like Portland is a buzz word right now and using that as a gimmick… Am I really going to be surprised by gimmick rappers from Atlanta? Have you seen Love & Hip-Hop?
Everybody wasn’t so passive about it though. Emotions on the matter ranged from flattery to threat-inducing repugnance as the @BlackPortland Twitter account engaged in the conversation online this morning. Things got pretty out of hand. Feelings were hurt, people laughed from the sidelines, etcetera…
One thing that stood out to me was that these guys – or at least the guy running the Twitter page, Propane – didn’t actually know anything about Portland. Kind of weird to make an album about something you know nothing about. Also kind of strange to compare Portland to Atlantis. So to end a Twitter convo he and I had (of which, he deleted his half), I told him I’d provide him a list of Portland things he is clearly oblivious to. Welp…
1. There’s Already A Black Portland
As infamous as the 6.3% stat representing the Black population for Portland has become, that still means there are over 36,000 people who at least identify as Black in Portland proper. Plus, keep in mind that it’s long been known that Portland’s Black neighborhoods have been some of the most gentrified areas in the country leaving many scattered into the suburbs and not counted in that infamous number.
2. We Out Here Magazine
Would have been smart to reach out to some Black Portland artists before naming your album after them. Did you think we’d be thankful that some smoked out strangers from ATL are repping us? But how would you find rappers in Portland? Ohhhh…
3. Lloyd Center
We have a Black Mall. It’s called Lloyd Center. (Yes, white folks, that’s ours.) Consider that Lloyd Center is to Lennox Square what Washington Square is to Phipps Plaza. Follow me?
4. Three Years Late
This might have been flattering 3 or 4 years ago, before Portland Hip-Hop really dug it’s claws into the local music scene and formed into a somewhat unified movement. But years of internal dynamics have created a truly marketable urban culture here, and to have some out-of-towners try and run with our swag now?
5. Massive / Beauty Bar
In a now deleted tweet (why didn’t I screen shot this?), Propane (who has been rumored to be linked with Kanye) talked about how Portland doesn’t turn up… Huh? He’s clearly never heard of the now-defunct Massive events or the old times at Beauty Bar. Truth is, we have new turn-ups as well, we just don’t blog about ’em because…
6. Hip-Hip Cops
Portland really has the Hip-Hop gestapo. The combined powers of the OLCC and Portland Police Bureau shut down everything Black people do here, but they target hip-hop instead of black people because that supposedly makes it less racist. Good luck throwing a show here with the names, “Black-Anything”, “Yung Thug”, and “Bloody Jay”. Maybe with the proper permits, you could play at the armory in Salem. Maybe.
7. All Black Portlanders DO Know Each Other
OK, OK.. We don’t ALL know each other but there’s only like one degree of separation. Don’t be fooled by Intisar Abioto’s awesome blog… She wasn’t from here originally, and now look, she’s found the rest of us too. That said, you do have to kind of watch how you talk to people…
8. Luck One
Luck One is a rather outgoing Portland rapper, currently living in New York. He’s a town favorite and exactly how their disagreement over the name escalated to the point of (since deleted) threats I’m not sure. It was really entertaining though, as it seemed that Black Portlanders were generally dismissive of the album itself, as well as it’s name.
9. Portland Already Has A Propane
He’s white, he’s popular, and he has a show on February 1st at Peter’s Room. Be there.
10. North / Northeast Portland
In all seriousness, North and North East Portland have had strong Black communities that have either been gentrified or it’s currently in progress. We have a hard enough time establishing identity here, amongst ourselves, so we certainly don’t need outsiders making popular some new caricature of our existence… Especially one that doesn’t represent us at all. Seriously, I’m trying to get a home loan. I don’t need the banker thinking I’m gonna smoke away my mortgage payments. The struggle is real out here.
Leave us alone and stop claiming our hood. Thanks.