The ninth annual Soul’d Out Music Fest is drawing some of the best R&B, blues, hip-hop, and soul musicians from around the globe to Portland’s stages. The lineup is jam-packed with highlights, but here are the Mercury’s five can’t-miss artists for this year’s festival.
Since dropping her debut album Baduizm in 1997, Erykah Badu has flummoxed, aggravated, and confounded critics and fans alike. After helping to pioneer the “neo-soul” sound, which she quickly disowned, Badu has gone further off in different directions, exploring new sounds and pushing sonic envelopes, challenging both herself and her listeners. Not only has her solo output been consistently brilliant throughout her two-decade career, her collaborations have a Midas quality—she regularly brings out the best work in other artists. Though Badu is one of the most innovative and original musicians of all time, she has also been something like our troublesome auntie, the one who’s liable to say some wild shit at the dinner table and embarrass us. Her mind, like her music, exists in a realm entirely of its own, but we love her all the more for it. SANTI ELIJAH HOLLEY Wed April 18 at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
Over the past two years, Maarquii (who used to dance with beloved R&B outfit Chanti Darling) has become a force in the city’s hip-hop scene. With immersive backdrops from local producers like Jvnitor, the Portland rapper’s no-fucks attitude, magnetic presence, and witty, cutting verses shine. On “Dam God” (from the 2016 EP Heavy Petty), Maarquii warns that they’ll “pussy-pop in a headstand at your funeral”; the 2017 single “Wirecutters,” finds them getting “obliterated by a weed lollipop” while visiting relatives; and the lyrics of “2chill” (featuring Dnvn, from the 2017 EP Lullaby in Gemini) showcase their vulnerable side: “I think I might’ve went too far/Dreaming ’bout a nice house and a car.” Last year Maarquii told Out magazine, “Aesthetically, I’m inspired by pure high faggotry. I live for a look, for drama, for gender fluidity... I’m driven by the need for Black, femme bodies being represented in music and media. It is extremely important right now for Black women/femmes to be loud, seen, and heard at all costs.” Maarquii’s Soul’d Out appearance is sandwiched between two fellow Portland powerhouses: Natasha Kmeto, and Cristina Cano of Siren and the Sea. CIARA DOLAN Thurs April 19 at Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison, w/Natasha Kmeto, Siren and the Sea
Chicago rapper/slam poet Noname (AKA Fatimah Nyeema Warner) made big waves in 2016, when she dropped her debut LP Telefone. She’d already been making moves in the years prior, with features on Chance the Rapper’s 2013 Acid Rap mixtape and 2016 album Coloring Book, along with Mick Jenkins’ 2014 mixtape The Waters. But Telefone is exquisite and completely unique; existing at the intersection of hip-hop, R&B, jazz, and gospel, it captures childhood nostalgia, illustrates the painful transition into adulthood, and recognizes the crippling systemic injustices that surround her while building up her own power and confidence. It’s a sweet, resilient album that’s made great by Noname’s conversational delivery, warm and grounding piano melodies, heavenly choirs of backup singers, and xylophone. She hasn’t released anything since, but last year she performed an incredible set for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series, if you want a preview for Friday night’s show. CD Fri April 20 at Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside, w/BJ the Chicago Kid, Gus Dapperton, Fountaine
Before Sir established himself as a songwriter, he worked at an engineering job for Tyrese Gibson. Like BJ the Chicago Kid and Anderson .Paak, Sir’s is the kind of Marvin-inspired, silky-smooth R&B that should age amazingly well: Gospel-trained vocals effortlessly ooze honey-sweet lyrics over contemporary- and vintage-colored production. Plainly put: Sir is prone to making “panty-droppers,” and his Her and Her Too EPs are both excellent examples (those unaware should listen to Her’s “Cadillac Dreams” featuring Big K.R.I.T., “Queen,” and my personal favorite, closing track “All in My Head”). “Why was last night the first time I felt anything in a long time?” he sings. “‘Feels like Imma fall hard,’ said my cold heart/Made up its own mind/Love ain’t what I came for, but it’s here now/And it feels good.” Billed as Top Dawg Entertainment’s next R&B star, Sir released his second studio album November earlier this year. Maybe you’ve heard the piano-driven and buzzworthy “Something Foreign” featuring Schoolboy Q, or seen the romantic and snowy music video for “Summer in November.” If you miss the Inglewood soul singer at the Soul’d Out kick-off party, at least you can still catch him next month at the Sunlight Supply Amphitheater with Kendrick Lamar and SZA for their “TDE Championship Tour.” JENNI MOORE Wed April 18 at Castaway Portland, 1900 NW 18th, w/Tribe Mars, DJ Wicked
It’d be cool to hear Wyclef perform just one verse from any of the classics from the Fugees era... and let’s be honest, he kind of has to, right? Either way, there are still enough boppable gems from his solo career to get excited about seeing the legend live. I admittedly enjoyed the 2009 single “Sweetest Girl (Dolla Bill),” featuring Lil Wayne and Akon, and “Two Wrongs,” featuring City High, ain’t half bad either. In his solo efforts, Wyclef is known for pushing genre boundaries, discovering and producing young stars, his philanthropic work for his homeland of Haiti, and producing the “Part 2” to Destiny’s Child’s “No No No,” for which he also contributed a featured verse. In 2017, just three months after telling Uproxx that Dave Chappelle was the one person who could get the Fugees back together, the rapper/musician played a set for NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series, showcasing his insane abilities as a singer, MC, and instrumentalist (he plays bass, guitar, keyboard, synthesizer, and more), as well as the talents of vocalist Jazzy Amra. Quite literally, Wyclef is everything. JM Sun April 22 at Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell, w/Culture Crew, Moira Mack, Anael Jeannis, Gigahurtz, AbdouBest