Okay, Portland. I need to begin this week’s column by berating those of you who haven’t bought tickets to Jay-Z. Seriously: Why are there hundreds of blue dots representing empty arena seats for his show at Moda Center on Thursday, December 14? 4:44 was beyond excellent and his setlist is all hits! Why wouldn’t you spend $28 (plus fees) to see none other than Hov himself? This is why we can’t have nice things! You always embarrass me in front of Beyoncé!
Whew, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s focus on local news: This week the two-day Portland Oregon Hip-Hop Festival returns, the Thesis celebrates its three-year anniversary, and there's an all-ages Chill-Out Benefit Concert on Sunday, courtesy of Friends of Noise. But first, let’s acknowledge the dopeness of Portland rapper Karma Rivera’s latest music video, “Everybody Watchin.’”
Though Rivera has yet to drop a debut LP, she’s already become one of the city’s most visible hip-hop performers. She’s known for her high-energy sets, straightforward bars, fly athleisure, and cocky onstage antics. Almost a year ago she headlined Girl Fest NW, and she rocked PDX Pop Now! over the summer.
Rivera’s music feels like an authentic, fluid portrayal of her personality and style. And she’s not afraid to switch things up—instead of her usual DJ (Ms. Renee Lopez), Rivera recently played shows with backing band the Heavy Hustle. In many respects, she kind of reminds me of Cardi B; she talks her shit with confidence and wit but recognizes that she’s still a student of the game and isn’t afraid to let her audience witness her growth.
And her new music video definitely shows growth. Directed by Mexican filmmaker Adolfo Cantú-Villarreal, it boasts the best visuals of any of Rivera’s videos. In addition to music videos, Villarreal has experience with narrative, documentary, and commercial work—and when he moved to Portland last year, he saw an opening.
“I like to mix up my work, but as an immigrant, it is important for me to tell the stories of people that normally don’t get in the spotlight,” he says in a press release. “Arriving in Portland, I felt that there are many opportunities to tell these stories.”
Villarreal and Karma clicked when they met at a community event that I also happened to be a part of this past summer at Open Signal, The Happening 2017: Portland’s Love/Hate Relationship with Hip-Hop.
“During the Q&A I brought up how I noticed a gap between the immigrant community and the arts community, and how it was important that we close that gap to get a richer community,” Villarreal writes. “Karma looked right at me and said, ‘Let’s talk!’ It kicked off from there, and soon after we started brainstorming and talking ideas for a video.”
The video for “Everybody Watchin’” centers on girl time at the crib, complete with a poker game, cocktails, and sauna sessions (sounds like a recipe for disaster to me, but it looks gorgeous).
“For me it was important to hear Karma’s ideas and enhance them with my own skillset with the camera and translate her style and energy into a great music video,” Villarreal says, “and I think we succeeded.”