POH-Hop (the Portland Oregon Hip-Hop festival) is as much an institution in the local rap scene as weed and baggy jeans. For the past 10 years the festival has consistently attempted to gather artists from the area's segmented scene, bond them together, and expose them to new audiences. Nothing has changed in this, the show's 11th year, except that its promoters—Cool Nutz (Terrance Scott) and new addition Anthony Sanchez—have redoubled their efforts. "It's bigger than us," says Sanchez. "We want to build the scene because this is what we love."
This year's festival is larger than ever in terms of nationally known artists, including Portland favorites Zion I and E-40. Scott and Sanchez have embarked on a media blitz to get the word out, doing everything from peppering the town with 15,000 flyers to advertising on Clear Channel radio and cable TV. Local artists are featured alongside national acts on nearly all of the festival's stages, and local labels like Focused Noise are getting shouted on TV channels and radio frequencies all over the region.
This exposure will hopefully serve as a motivating factor for Portland artists in future years. One of the problems that Scott, Sanchez, and others have observed in the Portland rap community is a lack of professionalism and drive from its artists. While there are many—perhaps hundreds—of hiphop performers with aspirations of gaining a following in the city, only a small percentage are putting forth the concerted effort necessary to do so. "We want to bring attention to artists that have records to sell, that have albums up on iTunes—people that can benefit from exposure," says Scott.
Sanchez adds, "We hope that a successful POH-Hop this year leads to people knowing through the next year that to be involved here you have to really be grinding to be heard. We want to help professionals."
Helping the scene succeed is just what the festival will do if it is patronized at the level Scott and Sanchez hope. With passion and good music rolled together underneath a media push, POH-Hop 11 promises to start a trend in Portland hiphop that will continue for years to come. Says Scott, "There are a lot of people here that are doing great things. We just want to show that."