"In the world of hiphop in general, there aren't really any other festivals that have legitimately taken place this consistently," proudly professes POH-Hop co-founder Cool Nutz (aka Terrance Scott) on the eve of his Roseland performance with Lloyd Banks. "That's one of the main things that stops the growth of [the Portland] scene... you have people who constantly come and go--you don't have a lot of cats who are consistent."
With this year's edition of the POH-Hop Festival, Cool Nutz hopes to change the local game. Now in their ninth year, the long-time organizers of the Portland Oregon Hiphop festival (including Scott, local musician/activist David Parks, and Stephen Spyryt) continue the noble call they've pursued since the event's inception in 1995--to allow many lesser-known regional artists a platform on a far greater scale than they would likely experience in any other local setting. The two-day showcase, stretched again between the Ash Street Saloon and Berbati's and featuring nearly 30 participating performers, has long served as Portland's hiphop summit--but this year, Cool Nutz hopes to take the next step.
"It's fine to have showcases that just show off talent," explains Cool Nutz, "but I want rappers that are actually trying to build a movement."
Enter "Politics as Usual," the face of POH-Hop 9. Coming off the success of POH-Hop 8's prominent Women in Hiphop showcase, Cool Nutz decided this year to again pursue a thematic bent--an idea that eventually evolved into a festival-stretching series of free information panels designed to inform performers and the public. Held at the Blazer Boys and Girls club, the first forum focuses on self-actualization in the music business, with "Completing a Quality Project From Beginning to End." The second forum examines politics in hiphop with "Hiphop and the Election 2004" and "Activism and Hiphop." And though the latter forum may seem perhaps more immediately pertinent, it's the former that seems to lend itself most to the umbrella ethic of the POH-Hop tradition--allowing performers (and the Portland hiphop scene in general) the tools of self-reliance that a yearly festival just can't provide.
As always, the focus of POH-Hop remains the music, which this year includes representatives stretching from Seattle to Humboldt County while maintaining a distinctly Portland-centric bent. Friday night at Ash Street features SP from Olympia, Potluck from Humboldt County, and a number of notable localites, including Ray Ray of G-Ism, J-Kron, and Thorn City Improv, among others; Saturday at Berbati's Pan has Seattle's Blue Scholars and Byrdie, and Portlanders Siren's Echo, Soul Plasma, and the Mercury's PIZZAZZ! Champions, Fogatron & Manic D. See Live Music pg 29 for full line-up