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.
EVENT CANCELED. Please visit the event website for current information. The Noon Tunes Summer Concert Series will return for its 30th year on Tuesdays in July and August! From noon-1:00pm enjoy music from some of Portland’s best regional and local musical talent. With eight FREE concerts, dancing, some of Portland’s favorite food vendors at Carts…
Musicians and fans alike flock to concerts at the Oregon Zoo each summer to enjoy live music, sunshine and friends.
EVENT POSTPONED. Please visit the event website for current information. Soul Queens & Blues Kings A benefit for HEALTH CARE FOR ALL- OREGON “Healing the Healthcare Blues” This very special showcase will celebrate icons of Soul and the Blues pioneers that helped shape the history of music. Norman “Boogie Cat” Sylvester brings together some of…
EVENTS CANCELED AND/OR POSTPONED. Please visit the event website for current information. Since 2008, McMenamins Edgefield, a bucolic venue located 15 miles east of Portland in Troutdale, has welcomed musical acts to its Concerts on the Lawn series, which is a local rite of summer.
Every Fourth of July weekend, the Waterfront Blues Festival takes over downtown Portland’s Waterfront Park.
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The Beaverton Night Market exists to create a vibrant, intercultural, family-friendly space that is reminiscent of night markets internationally. This year’s market will be an interactive, live-streamed, cultural sharing experience with performances, workshops, demos, interviews, panels and more. The Market will also offer a limited supply of craft kits for sale just prior to the…
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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…
Your ‘Sad Clown with the Golden Voice’ is here with a BRAND NEW set of emotive anthems, and this time he is packing his suitcase full of hope. Puddles is hopin’ for harmony and happiness around the planet. That’s a tall order for most, but this giant clown is willing to do his part one…
EVENT CANCELED. Please visit the event website for current information. High & Mighty Brass Band FACEBOOK There’s a reason that musical trailblazers from Galactic to DJ Logic have recently chosen to collaborate with High and Mighty Brass and legends such as Dr. John, Rebirth Brass Band, and Trombone Shorty have chosen them to share the…
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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…
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…
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An auto/moto/bike race and music festival.