The annual Soul’d Out Festival returns to Portland this year just in time for the blossoming of tulips and cherry trees across the city.

Classic acts from around the country are on the bill with new breakers of soul — from hip-hop’s big-thinker Lupe Fiasco to the analog soul-jazz hero Bilal to the prophetic R&B queen Solange.

KMHD DJ Derek Smith helped steer us through all the choices (we hardly knew where to begin). Here are his five must-see shows during this year’s festival, which takes place April 19-23. 

1) Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles at Wonder Ballroom on April 19

“Cory Henry has the spirit. He started playing the organ, I think, when he was 2 and had his first live show at The Apollo when he was 5 or 6. So this is a young kid who clearly is gifted and clearly something moves through him. He also had a video that blew up the internet — a live rendition of a gospel tune at his uncle’s funeral. It really is jaw-dropping.”

2) Tortoise with RJD2 at Crystal Ballroom on April 20

“For Tortoise to be here makes perfect sense because they traffic in indie rock; they traffic in jazz; and there’s a soulful expression in their music because they’re all virtuosos. … When you see them live, they just effortlessly switch between instruments. In this particular instance, they’ve added hip-hop collage artist RJD2 to the mix. I have no idea what that’s going to sound like — I just know it’s going to be awesome.” 

3) Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra at Wonder Ballroom on April 22

“I’m very excited to finally get to see Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. There are a lot of Afrobeat renaissance groups across the globe, but for my money they have done more to bring the fire of Fela Kuti’s legacy into the 21st century than anyone. …Their songs are about social change, about making the world a better place, about standing up to injustice and tyranny. I know I love those kinds of sounds and I think the world needs them.” 

4) Dead Prez at Dantes on April 22

“It’s unfortunate that the messages that they’ve been espousing for so long are still incredibly relevant. But we need their voice. They continue the ‘90s tradition of bands like A Tribe Called Quest of having socially aware hip-hop that is designed to empower people to make a difference in their society. They’re still dropping songs of resistance, they put a tune out a few years ago — “Globalization (Scene of the Crime)” — that’s all about getting corporate interests out of everything. To have a hip-hop component at this festival is hugely important, especially one that is so socially potent.”

5) Solange at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on April 21

“Her album ‘A Seat at the Table’ changed the game in terms of people’s perception of her as an artist. This album [is] awash in diverse sound. You’ve got R&B, overtones of jazz, electronica, gospel, soul. It runs the gamut, and really it’s the sound of a black woman in white America controlling her own narrative.” 

A few other quick hits: Don’t miss Coco Columbia’s jazzy future pop on the April 20 at the Star Theater and Portland’s magical Blossom open for Denita and Sene on April 19 at Holocene. 

Stay tuned to “Think Out Loud” starting April 17 — they’ll chat  with Soul’d Out’s Nicholas Harris and tell all about the hip-hop play SPIRITRIALS, written and performed by Def Poetry Jam alum Dahlak Brathwaite, with live beats from DJ Dion Decibels.