Like some of you, but also unlike some of you, I started college a little later. My first stop instead was radio—KBOO Community Radio—where I produced a program called “The Soundbox.”
Those first radio programs were an insane mix of punk, hip-hop, and whatever other weird sonic thing that could be found. Eventually the show focused on local hip-hop at a time when most folks not living in Oregon thought that Portland was some weird logging town not far from Seattle. Through that radio show, I found folks like myself: music lovers, audiophiles for beats, rhythms and lyrics.
The proper hip-hop terminology for this is being a “head.” So, yeah, I teamed up with some heads from around town. This turned the show into a five-and-a-half hour weekly hip-hop scholars program—a headquarters for all things hip-hop. If you were a DJ, you were invited, freestylers were invited, beat makers were invited, graffiti artists were invited. Everyone came down to the station, with whatever crazy story attached to a new track, record, sample or drum kit they had to show off.
The phone lines would blow up with people waiting to guess the original samples to a track or for a chance to freestyle to an instrumental over the air. That experience showed me that Portland’s hip-hop scene is a complex network of players. Complex easily translates to a variety of whatever your flavor in local hip-hop: conscience rap, boom bap, gothic bangers, party style, gangsta. Portland always has someone here that’s got your vibe covered. And here you are, not knowing about them.
It’s not really your fault.
National social news pages like Buzzfeed and Noisey often only skim over the local hip-hop scene, often highlighting new acts, or the centuries-old drama between the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and hip-hop venues. Local newsprint can also be hit or miss, operating with a sort of tunnel vision focusing on, again, newer acts. That’s only skimming the surface, so if you live here and you’re into hip-hop, you might as well dive in.
So now I’m a student at Portland State and have moved on a little bit from strictly only being on the airwaves. I still have the radio show, broadcasting Saturday nights at 10 p.m.–midnight. Sometimes I’m there, and sometimes I’m out and about DJing—something else I picked up along the way.
Also the pen, or rather the keyboard: here I am. I’m writing this column for the Vanguard. “The Soundbox” started in 1998, meaning that I’ve been a fan of Portland hip-hop for about as long as some of you have been alive. That equals experience, and the good folks here are letting me put you up on game about great local hip-hop shows happening, great hip-hop spots to check out when you’re not studying, and great music you should study to.
Hope you tune in.