When it comes to Portland’s Black community and its musical history, the discussion is often focused on jazz and hip-hop. These days, however, a new generation of artists is attracting more light to the Portland R&B scene than perhaps ever before.
Here are 10 local artists making soulful waves in Portland.
For fans of PARTYNEXTDOOR, Bryson Tiller, Usher
TYuS is often credited with putting Portland on the nation’s map of modern R&B hubs. The then-20-year-old singer’s career took off in 2016 when his self-published songs went viral, thanks to his fierce online following. “City of the Rose,” a popular cut about a romance with a Portland woman, has racked up a staggering 1.2 million views on YouTube.
Now signed to Warner Brothers Records, Tyus released his 2017 EP Phases with the help of famed producer Hit-Boy. And although he’s gained recognition nationally, his work continues to feature Portland in content and collaborations with Portland rapper Cassow. The music video for “Other Side//Brand New” is filled with immediately recognizable shots of Portland’s skyline and bridges. Tyus croons to the upbeat R&B track while walking downtown, visiting Alberta Market and exploring Forest Park.
For fans of Patrice Rushen, Morris Day, Cheryl Lynn
After winning Willamette Week’s Best New Band poll in 2015, retro-futurist R&B group Chanti Darling’s star has continued to rise. Meanwhile, frontperson Chanticleer Tru has become one of the most in-demand artists in town. Tru grew up with a diverse music background, listening to jazz, R&B, gospel, opera, dance music and musical theater. This range of influences is apparent in singles like “Stars” and “Casual” (featuring Portland’s the Last Artful, Dodgr), which show off Tru’s immense vocal ability.
When you see the band live, you’ll understand why they draw crowds. Keys, live tracks and two enthralling back-up dancers typify the Chanti Darling experience. Shows often feel like traveling back in time to the days of disco — or jumping forward to a dance party in the funk-i-fied future. A similar vibe prevails at Jump Jack Sound Machine, the monthly dance party Tru DJs with singer Natasha Kmeto. Chanti Darling’s studio debut RNB: Vol.1 — a 10-track project that includes a wide range of R&B genres and production help from Portland’s Damon Boucher — was released in August 2018 on Portland’s Tender Loving Empire label.
For fans of Erykah Badu, Solange, Brandy
If you called Blossom — aka Keisha Chiddick — the queen of Portland soul music, not many would argue with you. Blossom is also one of the hardest working solo artists in town; she frequently brings her fun live act to venues like Holocene, Mississippi Studios, Rontoms and Doug Fir. She’s also been known to open for established national stars like Ginuwine and BJ the Chicago Kid.
With roots in Trinidad and Tobago, Blossom has lived in Portland since her youth. Her sound is diverse and ever-evolving; earlier songs like “Sass” mix jazz and neo-soul to create super-chill vibes, while newer single “Black Magic Woman,” produced by local artist Fountaine, shows strong reggae influences. Tease, her debut full-length with producer Hot16, includes poppier takes on soul, with summer anthems like “Get Over It,” “So Cool” and the ’90s-tinged “Loves Comin.” With Clout Atlas (a collaborative EP with EYRST labelmate Ripley Snell) released in summer 2018 and another solo album on the way, Blossom’s career is just getting started.
The Last Artful, Dodgr
For fans of Missy Elliott, Anderson .Paak
Originally hailing from Los Angeles, rapper and singer the Last Artful, Dodgr has become one of Portland’s biggest hip-hop acts. Another member of Portland label EYRST, the artist (whose given name is Alana Chenevert) gained wide acclaim with her 2016 single “Squadron.” Bone Music, a collaboration with producer Neill Von Tally, is regarded as one of the best Portland albums of 2017.
Chenevert’s raspy flow, commanding stage presence and impressive singing and rapping talents have earned her opportunities to back up Portland rapper Aminé on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, make an appearance on Sway in the Morning and even tease a studio session with “Uptown Funk” producer Mark Ronson, Christina Aguilera and Anderson .Paak on Instagram.
For fans of Lauryn Hill, India.Arie
A transplant from New York City, Fritzwa makes contemporary R&B that’s laced with hip-hop. Often performing live with a full band, the singer/emcee is constantly refining her craft as a musician and bandleader. Her full-length project Avenue A is a nostalgia-induced R&B daydream and an ode to New York that’ll resonate with anyone who feels like they’ve left a piece of themselves somewhere. Standout tracks include “Like My Art,” “Ice Queen” and the Trox-produced “Bouncin.’”
For fans of Erykah Badu, SassyBlack
Formed in 2016, interstellar neo-soul duo Brown Calculus features Andre Burgos and Young, Gifted and Brown co-founder Vaughn Kimmons — also known as Brown Calvin and Brown Alice, respectively. The duo, who are also members of soul/hip-hop outfit Tribe Mars, are a stalwart act on local bills around town.
In 2017, Brown Calculus released its debut EP Live at the Map Room, featuring spacey, twinkling production and spoken word/vocals from Kimmons. Highlights include the surprisingly cheery “Good Job” and the much-needed “Self Care.”
The Portland Jazz Festival returns every February with a stellar series of concerts and events celebrating Black History Month.
Every Fourth of July weekend, the Waterfront Blues Festival takes over downtown Portland’s Waterfront Park.
Whether you’re a lifelong soul fan or hunting for your new favorite band, Portland’s annual Soul’d Out Music Festival delivers.
For fans of originality and Michael Jackson-esque dance moves
Rapper/producer Fountaine (aka Michael Stewart, formerly known as Mikey Fountaine) is popular for his forward-thinking sound, energetic and captivating live sets, and innovative “anime rap,” first seen on his free 2015 project Blak $ushi. A native Portlander, Stewart plays the protagonist in Seena Haddad’s X-Ray web series about a young rapper hustling in Portland’s underground hip-hop scene.
Fountaine’s massive third full-length H.F.I.L (Hell for Infinite Losers) is a highly personal story of his experience dealing with depression and racism as a Black artist born and raised in Northeast Portland. Although the album is largely hip-hop, it includes “All for Me,” featuring Blossom and a sample of Aaliyah, as well as a danceable soul-infused song called “Dressed to Kill,” which utilizes talk-boxy vocal treatment. Fountaine also produces an array of sounds for other artists, and plans to release a more R&B-focused solo project soon.
For fans of Akon, Sean Kingston, Shaggy
Senegal-born singer/producer I$$A is one of the most experienced and hardest working artists in the Portland R&B category. His sound pulls from global influences — most notably dancehall and Afrobeat.
His most popular release by far is “Sleep on You,” a 2015 single featuring Canadian rapper/singer Tory Lanez. Since then, I$$A has released a pair of catchy island-hop singles: “Bambi” and “Open Your Heart.”
For fans of Princess Nokia, Big Freedia, Mykki Blanco
Marquis Dickerson, who performs under the moniker Maarquii, is probably best known for being a hip-hop artist with a focus on experimental booty-house music. But if you’ve listened to their 2016 EP Heavy Petty, you know not to place Maarquii in any one box. In addition to rapping, Maarquii also sings on select tracks and is a former dancer for Chanti Darling.
The 26-year-old’s stunning presence in the local spotlight has become a beacon of empowerment for Black femmes, and songs like “Wirecutters” and “Dam God” should show you why. Slowed-down R&B tracks abound on 2017’s Lullaby in Gemini EP, with highlights like “2Chill” and “Prettywrecked.”
For fans of Robyn, Alina Baraz
Portland R&B songstress Reva DeVito is known for her solo work, like her sultry debut EP The Move and tracks like “Babe Squad.” Lately, however, she’s been making waves as one half of Umii, a joint project with Cali funk producer B. Bravo.
The duo’s aqua-themed album This Time from the Fresh Selects label feels both timeless and modern, with fluid and electronic production, funky guitar and DeVito’s heavenly vocals. Lead singles “Masquerade” and “Dangerous” are especially addictive, with throwback vibes that’ll win the heart of every ’90s kid who appreciates a quality pop record.
Every Fourth of July weekend, the Waterfront Blues Festival takes over downtown Portland’s Waterfront Park.
What do a Venetian businesswoman, a champion fencer, and a music teacher have in common? They all wrote early Classical string quartets! In this program, Portland Baroque Orchestra presents works by Maddalena Lombardini Sirmen and Chevalier de Saint-Georges, as well as Joseph Haydn’s “Sunrise” quartet. This performance, like all of PBO’s 20-21 Season, is presented…
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra presents the November Classical Concert. Join guest conductor and pianist Awadagin Pratt as he opens this program by conducting from the piano a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12, followed by a deeply introspective late work by Richard Strauss, Metamorphosen, composed in Germany during the last dark and violent months…
Clarinetist Anthony McGill is one of classical music’s most recognizable and brilliantly multifaceted figures. He maintains a dynamic international solo and chamber music career in addition to being the principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic. McGill performed at President Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and is a champion of social justice in the classical music…
Enjoy an evening of authentic Iraqi food (including vegan and gluten free options), live music and entertainment with a Middle Eastern flair!
What better way to celebrate the end of the season than with some smooth jazz and a delicious mediterianain style dinner at Culture PDX. Get cozy with a warm drink and your comfiest sweater, and join professional vocalist Heidi Davis for an evening of beautiful songs inspired by autumn. This is a free concert, but…
Portland’s homage to the luscious dance bands of a bygone era launches into its fourth year of producing dances every month. The 11-piece ensemble painstakingly recreates the sounds of the large society dance bands that were so prominent in the 1920s and ’30s, found performing on ocean liners and in the grand ballrooms of Art…
The Pacific Northwest’s premiere alt-classical ensemble turns the evening purple, blending their deep textures with the unique harmonic landscape of the artistic power of Prince. Joined by musicians who have worked with Prince such as Saeeda Wright and Tyrone Hendrix, expect a lively evening of diversely-curated music that influenced or was influenced by The Purple…
Portland Baroque Orchestra presents the third and final part of Bach’s six beloved sonatas for violin and obbligato harpsichord performed by Artistic Director Monica Huggett and harpsichordist Byron Schenkman. Part I and II have premiered in August and October and are available to watch on YouTube. This performance, like all of PBO’s 20-21 Season, is…
“A performer of near-superhuman technical prowess” (The New York Times), pianist Marc-André Hamelin is known worldwide for his brilliant technique and intrepid exploration of the rarities of the 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-centuries, earning him legendary status as a true icon of the piano. In this concert from the stunning Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA, Hamelin…
A 2011 MacArthur “genius grant” winner, Weilerstein is known for her commanding performances of the classics of the cello repertoire as well as new music. This intimate solo performance will feature the first of Bach’s celebrated Cello Suites as well as modern and contemporary works by Kodály, Britten, and living composer Osvaldo Golijov.
The Catalyst Quartet combines a serious commitment to diversity, education, and contemporary works with virtuosic playing “reminiscent of great quartets of the past such as the Guarneri and Budapest” (Richmond Times). The quartet was founded by the Sphinx Organization, a social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts….
The Dance for Romance is a Valentine’s Day social dance for singles, friends, couples and partners. Enjoy award-winning live blues music and a professional DJ spinning pop songs you can dance to solo, grouped or partnered. Arrive early for one or more dance lessons or love life workshops, and throughout the night you can enjoy…
Jangle/psych rock cult-faves with Miracle Legion origins, ageless hooks. Polaris (from The Adventures of Pete & Pete) FACEBOOK “The Band That Lives Inside Your TV” are back! Polaris, the house band from cult-classic Nickelodeon show The Adventures of Pete & Pete, are escaping from your childhood television set and busting out on a national tour…
Praised as a “charismatic star” by the Boston Globe, mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron is the winner of Tanglewood Festival’s 2016 Jackson Prize, awarded to one outstanding young vocalist each year. “A collaborator gifted with sensitive phrasing and insight” (The New York Times), internationally-renowned pianist Julius Drake is the perfect accompaniment to Barron’s “thrillingly dark and rich-veined…
Actor/gaming YouTube sensation/musician with alt-rock hits and covers. NateWantsToBattle FACEBOOK A popular voice actor, musician, gaming commentator, and YouTube star, NateWantsToBattle is the nom de plume of Richmond, Virginia native Nathan Sharp. Sharp launched his popular YouTube channel in 2012, where he performs original songs about video games and cover songs from popular anime games…
Hailed as one of the most exciting young string quartets in the world, the Goldmund Quartet’s exquisitely refined playing has been awarded prizes at major competitions such as the Wigmore, Melbourne, and ARD Munich. They are the Rising Stars of the European Concert Hall Organisation leading to debut recitals at the Philharmonie de Paris, Amsterdam’s…
Inspiring performances, luminous sound, and exceptional musicianship are the hallmarks of the Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet. Renowned for its dynamic interpretations and polished, expansive colors, the group has rapidly distinguished itself as one of the preeminent ensembles of its generation, dedicated purely to the sound and depth of their music. In this concert, the Parker…
Applauded for their “flat-out amazing” performances and “stunning virtuosity” (Cleveland Classical), the Kenari Quartet’s larger-than-life personalities pop off the stage. The unique style and flair of this Protégé Project alumni all-saxophone ensemble electrified Chamber Music Northwest audiences in 2018. Their triumphant return to the CMNW stage will feature modern and contemporary work plus improvisation.
An auto/moto/bike race and music festival.