As much as I enjoy experiencing the headlining performances of big tours that swing through Portland, I must admit that I’m often just as interested in checking for local openers. Promising hip-hops acts draw decent crowds on their own, but opening for artists with national – or even international – fanbases provides local emcees with a chance to move even larger crowds. Beyond that, I’m often intrigued to see who gets tagged to open. Far too often in the rap scene, I’ve seen awkward pairings that ignore sub-genres and fail to lend to any sort of theme. However, with the entrance of European band Young Fathers, Holocene seems to have got it just right.
Trying to describe Young Fathers is a frustrating and exciting task for a music writer such as myself. The oft-used description of a “Scottish pop band” failed to provide me with any useable comparisons, and once I dug into their music, whatever image I had conjured in my head was quickly evaporated. The Mercury Award-winning, multinational band of friends who met in Edinburgh’s Bongo Club 13 years ago as highschoolers are really on a plane of their own. Sure, traces of hip-hop and funk and rock and dancehall and afro-beat and probably 5-10 other genres can be mined from the sounds that the trio creates, but to me the music simply ascends genre. As confusing as it may be, perhaps “pop” is the best definition for a band that makes music so widely appreciated and so structurally fluid.
Genre-demolishment aside, Young Fathers is all about identity. The members, Graham “G” Hastings, Kayus Bankole and Alloysious Massaquoi – all named after their fathers – lived through distinctly different upbringings. G is a Scotland native, while Bankole was raised in Maryland by Nigerian parents, and Massaquoi hails from Liberia via Ghana. The bands latest album, White Men Are Black Men Too, delves into the constructs of race and culture, questioning the concepts of ancestry and heritage with questions both literal and rhetorical while setting a serious mood that still somehow still encourages dance. It’s been said that their live performances – often void of smiles and dripping with primal emotion – are some of the best in the world, and Young Fathers has, in fact, played all across the world.
The amalgamative music of YF would seem to make for odd pairings, but Portland’s Rasheed Jamal – native of Arkansas – somehow fits the bill perfectly. The skilled and popular rapper dropped the critically-acclaimed Sankofa last year, which challenged the status quo of rap music (especially for the region) while utilizing a barrage of mainstream sounds along the way. Though certainly hip-hop, Jamal’s music evades sub-genre categorizations making it a music writer’s dream and nightmare. The music ranges from deeply emotional to foolish to conscious with production that challenges your body to do things that your ears and mind are not ready for. Whether bouncing around stage or sitting on his stool in signature fashion, Rasheed Jamal commands crowds large and small. The intensely somber energy of Riding Slow transitioning to the frenzy-creating Dope Tape (VLR) is a sight to see and the combination of his live-show and his masterful album led to his inclusion in Willamette Week’s prestiged Best New Band list in 2015.
We Out Here Magazine is proud to partner with Holocene and give away a pair of tickets for tomorrow’s exciting concert before the joint sells out. To enter for a chance to win, make sure you’re following Holocene (@holocene) and Rasheed Jamal (@RememberAlwayz) on Twitter and tag WOHM (@weoutherenet) with the hashtag #YoungFathers. You’ll have to do it today, because the contest closes at midnight. The winner will be announced in the morning.
So treat yourself to something nice this Thursday. Check out a niche band with worldwide acclaim, and at the same time, be #OutHere and support your locals. Click the picture below to buy tickets directly.
Cover photo: Young Fathers in Cape Town, taken by Kent Andreasen for the Guide