Historically, Portland’s amazingly vibrant music scene has been known for producing exceptional rock bands of various genres—“Old Portland” and its gritty punk-influenced rock, and “New Portland’s” more sensitive indie and folk music—but rarely do the city’s RnB and hip hop scenes get much love.
Now in its 8th year, the Soul’d Out! Festival has mirrored Stumptown’s rising RnB and hip hop scenes growth and has consistently brought top notch artists from all over the world to our fair city.
This year’s festival is no expectation as the lineup is absolutely stacked top to bottom with a lineup heavy on diversity both in terms of the performers and the music they traffic in. Primarily run by and featuring people of color, Soul’d! Out’s existence and continued success certainly challenges the notion as Portland as a lily white city.
I was once asked my fav place in America to find peace. Portland is the answer. Took a trip and found happynes pic.twitter.com/aYnBwH7D5v
— TRAVIS SCOTT (@trvisXX) March 17, 2017
Perhaps further challenging that notion is trap superstar Travis Scott’s newfound love for Stumptown. The Houston native has tweeted his love for PDX, saying it is “his favorite place in America to find peace,” and one would think our legal weed, myriad strip joints and all around chill vibe attributed to Scott’s enjoyment of the City of Roses. Scott took it a step further when he guested on Drake’s recent track “Portland, OR”, and sure, the only Portland-related line in the song is Scott singing “Out in Portland / Tryin’ to get in her organs,” but hey, at least he’s trying to get freaky with a Portlander, right?
Travis Scott will be sharing a bill with Flying Lotus, and that exciting pairing is a dream come for yours truly, and crunkness should abound when the two join forces on 4/19 at the Memorial Coliseum. Putting together artists that typically headline national tours is one of Soul’d Outs biggest attractions, and this year is jam-packed with them: Toots & the Maytals with Lee Fields and the Expressions, Bilal with Shy Girls, RJD2 with Tortoise (and local mind-blowers The 1939 Ensemble), Giorgio Moroder with Dam Funk; the incredibly stacked double bill has become something of a Soul’d Out staple. Not to mention The Ohio Players, Phutureprimative, Antibalas and many, many more will also be throwing down—be sure to take a gander at the full lineup here.
For me, even with this embarrassment of riches available to us, one set stands out above the rest: Solange Knowles’ show at the Arlene Schnitzer Theater on April 21 with Jamire Williams. Solange delivered on years of anticipation and promise and released a masterpiece with last year’s A Seat At the Table, a breath-taking examination of what it means to be a young black woman in modern times. Tracks like the Lil Wayne-featuring “Mad” find Knowles expressing deeply-held feelings of pain and frustration, and delivering them with so much passionately bittersweet emotion in her voice that it’s difficult not to be deeply moved by what she’s expressing, regardless of your race or station in life. I meant what I said about this record being a masterpiece—it’s my belief that this album will be taught in college courses for decades to come when people examine American art during this most tumultuous time in American history. (In other words, I like it. A lot.)
In a city that’s spoiled in terms of both music and music festivals, Soul’d Out stands out a unique achievement for myriad reasons, and the sometimes under-appreciated festival deserves to be lavished with our attention. This is, after all, the festival that brought us His Purpleness’s final Portland shows in 2013, and a quick glance at this year’s lineup shows more magic is ahead. Grab tickets to Soul’d Out right here, and prepare to get seriously down this week.