Portland hip-hop is in the headlines after a show earlier this month brought long-running tensions between Portland Police and rappers to a fever pitch (listen to our coverage here). But that concert was one part of a much bigger story — literally and figuratively. Photographer Beth Nakamura was attending a show in order to take some final shots for a feature she and reporter Casey Parks had been working on for The Oregonian about hip-hop in North Portland. When rapper Illmacculate cut the show short after police and the fire marshal showed up, Nakamura jumped on the news.
But the story goes back to a trend Parks noticed about a year ago. She covers North Portland for The Oregonian and she says it seemed like “every boy in St. Johns between the age of 16 and 24 were rappers.” St. Johns has a lower cost of living than much of the rest of Portland, and the low-income students at Roosevelt High School — aided by music teacher Jason Margolis — have been finding an outlet in hip-hop to describe their experience with poverty and violence.
Parks features some of the leading artists in her feature for The Oregonian, Straight Out Of St. Johns. The biggest name on the scene is Illmaculate, who has made a name for himself as a battle rapper, garnering hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. Glenn Waco, Vinnie Dewayne, and Egbevado Ananouko round out the profiles.
The rappers focus on their neighborhood, and the challenges they face just trying to stay afloat. Condos are going up (and rents with them), and many of the rappers Parks talked to can’t afford to live there any more. Rappers say Portland Police target their shows, as was highlighted this month when police showed up in force at a show that
Take a listen to Illmaculate’s new album, Clay Pigeons, out today: