Thur Dec 18 & Fri Dec 19
Ash Street Saloon
& Berbati's Pan
In 1995, when Terence Scott (better known as Cool Nutz) started staging the Portland Oregon Hip-Hop Festival (better known as POH-Hop), hiphop was a lot different. Not just locally, when only a few groups were coming up; but nationally, before the music of hiphop was divided by genre. It was before the invisible lines between hiphop artists--and its fans--were drawn; before there was an established delineation between genres such as "gangsta rap," "backpacker/ underground hiphop," or, more absurdly, "goth-hop," "emo-hop," "pop-hop," et cetera and so forth. It was before those delineations were vague signifiers of where your allegiances lay, before they even helped define the kind of person you were.
Cool Nutz liked it like that.
"It's one of the things that bothered me through the course of Portland hiphop," he says. "When we first started doing POH-hop, there was no segregation between the street gangsta element and the battle rappers and the backpackers and groups of that nature. There was never a separation. But hiphop has evolved, and now people choose their allegiances. [While hiphop] is really diverse, normally a show [consists of] a certain kind of artist; three groups all doing the same thing. I think the separation diluted the scene. Now you have people arguing whether 'this is real hiphop; people will say, 'oh, he said that he's from Compton or something, so I don't like it.'"
At first, POH-Hops were established to galvanize the Portland scene, to bring groups together and establish the idea that Portland, while not as nationally renowned as places like Oakland or LA, has a viable and vibrant hiphop scene. The first few POH-Hops were held at the now-defunct venue La Luna, and drew as many as 800 people, according to Cool Nutz. When La Luna tanked, however, the festivals became more difficult to stage. For POH-Hops Four through Seven, Cool Nutz says, "We included acts like Spearhead and Michael Franti, Luniz, Mac Dre, and Ras Kass and featured them as headlining--but we had to move the nights to Berbati's and the Roseland. And with the POH-hop being a locally featured event, it's kinda hard when you have a room the size of the Roseland, and the expenses are so high. That's one of the reasons I had to downsize it this year--so we could keep it local and keep the costs down."
Cool Nutz and his co-presenter, local musician/activist David Parks, opted to skip putting on POH-Hop last year, for reasons he attributes to a certain stagnation in the local scene. Despite the increasing visibility of the Lifesavas, and the overwhelming popularity of out-of-town performers like Aesop Rock and Atmosphere, it concerned Scott that other local acts had the talent, but weren't getting the exposure. With POH-Hop 8, Scott hopes to increase awareness and spark interest in groups that may not even play shows very often, especially on a festival scale. "I feel like in the city, there's not much interest in local hiphop except for a few entities. Portland hiphop is moving forward, but you only have a couple of groups establishing growth in the scene outside of Portland. So to be the catalyst for growth, we have to step up to bat and be responsible for that."
On Thurs Dec 18, the Ash Street hosts POH-Hop's Women in Hiphop Showcase, featuring Siren's Echo, Piece, Turiya, Kay Kay, J-Kron, Sonnie, DJ Deena B, Beyonda, DJ Niz; On Fri Dec 19 at Berbati's, catch Sleep, Maniac Lok, Brotha Luv, TD 32, Potluck, Young Fame, Bullet & Todd G, Cleveland Steamers, Mr. Meezalini, XTAC, Quivah, Dee Arthur & the Flytrapper, Myg, Sonny Bonoho, Trashheap, Face, and DJ Wicked. See Sidebar and Up and Coming, pg 21, for more details.