Let me start by saying that this had already been a whirlwind week of hiphop and photography for your humble narrator. Monday we photographed the legend "Rakim" at Neumos in Seattle, Tuesday we shot "Method Man" at the same place. Now it's Friday and I'm driving to Sea-tac airport to catch a flight to Portland, Oregon to capture images a couple of the most well known and well loved underground hip hop emcees in Vinnie Paz and ILL Bill.
I thought briefly about just driving to Portland but from Seattle it's about three hours each way and I knew that I'd be extremely tired, I had important meetings on Friday close to Seattle, I had a shoot and a wedding consultation on Saturday (gotta eat right). So it appears that flying was in order this time.
The flight from Seattle to PDX is a mere 30 - 36 minutes. A mere pittance compared to trying to leave Seattle during rush hour. To that I say no thank you! I only carried on my camera gear so score!
I've never really hung out in Portland. In fact, I've only ever been in the general vicinity three times in my entire life and never for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time. On the taxi ride from the airport the driver informed me that Portland has more strip clubs per capita than any other place in the USA. Hmmm, I find that a little hard to believe but , I had been getting a lot of facebook friend requests by hot girls from Portland so maybe there's something to this. Anyhow, I wasn't going to find out this trip.
I arrived early at the concert venue Dante's. A friend of mine in Seattle DJ Kiprawk, advised me that the setup was a little unusual. The shape of the stage and the configuration of the stairs to access it would prove to be a challenge in getting a nice shot from either stage right or stage left owing combination of the stages shape jutting out and the position of the stairs being well behind the arc. I quickly surmised that I'd only get at best a 1/4 view of the artists and some of the crowd from this position so I had to find another vantage point to shoot from.
I saw that they had some raised platforms in a couple spots. Those could be interesting as I wouldn't have to deal with the crowd and it could be an unusual angle. Check 2 spots Turns out that they're for go-go dancers that they have on their club nights when I found that out I was a little worried. Let me tell you I'm not a little guy and the posts and ladders started to look smaller and flimsier the more I looked at them. Needless to say I tested them out during the show and the construction was first rate.
Ok now I'd chosen a few different vantage points now what? There was an hour or so until show time so I decided to explore downtown Portland just a bit. Dante's is situated just a stones throw from the world famous "Voodoo Doughnut." The last time I was here a friend and I came to town for dinner and the line had to be about 300 people. Now, I've seen "VD" on Food Network shows before but I had to see what all the hype was for myself. I was lucky that it was early in the evening so the line was only maybe 20 people or so. No biggie, I've got nothing but time. It took no time at all (probably because while waiting I was either photographing tourists acting like well, tourists or chatting up a cute coeds.) I asked some of the people who where in line with me if they had any recommendations and what stuck out to me was the "Memphis Mafia." Behind the glass this looked like a slightly larger chocolate covered apple fritter. Up close and personal this thing looked like a fried version of Mt St. Helens before the eruption. I thought to myself there's no way that I'm going to eat this whole thing for a number or reasons.... So after eating about an eighth of this monstrosity it was time for the first act to go on.
As I'm not a Portland my knowledge of the local hip hop scene was subpar. The first to go on was a member of the "Sandpeople" by the name of "Onlyone" I've come to find out that "Onlyone" routinely competes in MC battles and does quite well.
"Onlyone" from Portland's own "Sand People" -photo by sureshotfoto.com
Next up was Portland's dynamic duo TxE (pronounced T&E). The group is composed of a couple emcees in "Tope", "Epp" and producer "G-Force." I'm very, very happy I had the pleasure of hearing these guys do their thing. I'd compare them to a mash up of De la Soul and A Tribe called quest with a new school twist. Listening to these guys brought me back to 7th grade watching "Yo-MTV raps" They even paid homage to A tribe called Quest by reworking the beat from the classic "Luck of Lucien" (one of my fav ATCQ songs btw)
Now it was time. I spoke with one of the crew that traveled with Paz and Bill and I was informed that they were going to go on at 11. I could feel myself getting nervous as Vinnie is one of my two favorite emcees (the other is from Philly as well and I'll be photographing him next month). I started out stage left as that would be where the artists would enter. Luckily Vinnie and Bill came up early to watch and show some support to the local emcees so I was able to chat with him and grab a couple shots as he waited to go on stage. In speaking with Vin he seemed very nice, cordial and even accommodating.
It was nearing time for Vinnie to go on so I took my first position which was in front toward stage right. Not too bad I got some good shots but the stage was a little high and I'm a little short to get the kind of shots that I like to get. I switched to a few other places including both gogo platforms but I finally settled on my first position front row stage right until....
ILL Bill started talking about one of his uncles that was very much an inspiration for a lot of his music. Yes I'm talking about "Uncle Howie." If you're a fan of Bill then you know about him. "Uncle Howie" unfortunately is no longer with us but Bill pays tribute to him whenever he can. I know how much Bill's fans have embraced Howie and what would happen if and when they performed the song "My Uncle."
Let me tell you, expensive camera equipment and mosh pits are not an ideal combination. Luckily, my camera didn't get damaged and I was able to escape with only a couple bruised ribs but I did get some decent shots.
(Above photo) ILL Bill performing the song "My Uncle." -photo by sureshotfoto.com
(Above photo) Vinnie Paz Portland, Ore -Photo by sureshotfoto.com
(Above photo) ILL Bill Portland, Ore -Photo by sureshotfoto.com
(Above photo) DJ Eclipse Portland, Ore -Photo by sureshotfoto.com
(Above photo) Vinnie Paz Portland, Ore -Photo by sureshotfoto.com
All in all it was a fast, frantic and fabulous trip. I was able to photograph and meet some artists that I've listened to and followed from afar for a long time. I was also introduced to some new artists and some true hip hop fans. I'd like to say thank you to Dante's and Runaway productions Anthony Sanchez.
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