“Portland cops don’t f*ck with rap, might as well as sold coke n*gga,” that lyric is from Portland-based hip-hop artist, Rasheed Jamal’s latest single titled ‘VLR (Dope Tape)’ off his upcoming album Sankofa. Jamal pictured here (second to the right) is a member of a three-man collective called, The Resistance and was one of more than 30 people interviewed for the Independent Police Review Boards investigation on various city agencies’ relationship with local hip-hop entrepreneurs. This photo was taken at a March 22 concert at Kelly's Olympian named in the report as a 'case study' of ongoing tensions between police and hip-hop. Photo by Donovan M. Smith
After nine months of investigation into the city and its various agencies relationship with the Portland hip-hop community, the Independent Police Review Board has released its conclusions in a 27-page report, along with some recommendations.
Tensions have long been building between the hip-hop community and various city agencies with some saying the musicians and their audiences are being unfairly “targeted.” This targeting, the community says, not only is an annoyance but affects their ability to conduct business.
Under director Constantin Severe’s leadership, he and three members of the Independent Police Review board (a branch of the City Auditor’s office) attempted to evaluate “broader systemic issues” as they relate to hip-hop in the city-- a contrast from the board’s usual function reviewing individual officer misconduct or an administrative investigation.
The report’s suggestions call mostly for increased transparency from the City, Portland Police Bureau, and the Fire Bureau in regards to how they oversee entertainment venues (though not specifying hip-hop). The audit however does call for police to engage in ongoing dialogue with members of the hip-hop community
After conducting more than 30 interviews with hip-hop artists, promoters, fans, police officers, Office of Neighborhood Involvement staff, Fire Bureau personnel, and employees of OLCC, the investigators made these five suggestions: the City should make available to late night entertainment venues and promoters a comprehensive checklist of its expectations; Portland Police Bureau should develop Standard Operating Procedures that provide guidance to PPB members on how they will conduct bar checks/walk-throughs of late night entertainment venues; PPB should track walk-throughs of late night entertainment venues in a format that would allow it to regularly report such information to the public; The Fire Bureau should provide to the public on a regular basis a report that lists all businesses inspected during its night inspection program.
Portland police spokesperson Sgt. Pete Simpson says as the bureau gears for the upcoming transfer of leadership from Mike Reese to Larry O’Dea the suggestions put forth will be considered.
“We’re going to be looking at it to figure out what’s the best way to proceed as far as whether or not there’s a standard operating procedure on how officers do walkthroughs, and how we track walkthroughs,” Simpson said.
He also says dialogue with the hip hop community is important, but puts some of the onus of communication and safety on those involved in the scene, many of whom are small business owners.
“A lot of focus is educating the venues on how to responsibly manage the business, and that’s what we’ve seen in the past where we have problems. People who don’t know what they’re doing running a business, they want to do things that cause public safety risks. And that’s across the board, that’s not to do with hip hop specific.”
OLCC’s Christie Scott mirrored Simpson’s comments and said they are willing to participate in dialogues that will keep customers safe at business serving liquor.
The report lists two concerts as “case studies” in the tension between authorities and hip hop-related events. One headlined by three popular Portland acts, Hanif. (formerly Luck-One), Illmaculate, and Mikey Vegaz; the other, a March 22 show at Kelly’s Olympian in downtown Portland headlined by a three man collective, called The Resistance.
Police and fire marshal Rob Cruser showed up to the aforementioned show citing concerns about alleged “gang ties” by Vegaz during his set.
After surveying the scene, Cruser switched his focus from Vegaz alone, to the capacity. After speaking with the promoters who did not have a head count readily available, Cruser barred some patrons from re-entry while allowing the show to continue with the thinned out crowd.
When Illmaculate (real name Gregory Poe) took to stage, instead of performing, he ended the concert in a fit of frustration. "I will not perform in this city as long as the blatant targeting of black culture and minorities congregating is acceptable common practice," Illmaculate who is White and Latino wrote on his Twitter in the following minutes.
The second “case study” at Kelly’s Olympian was an alleged cut in capacity from 100 to 50 by Cruser the day before the show, though the report says the venue’s capacity was always 49.
“As this show was three weeks after the Blue Monk incident, word of the supposed reduced capacity spread quickly,” the report says.
Rasheed Jamal, one of the three members of The Resistance detailed in the report how that confusion affected one of his friends he said bought a ticket for the show.
“She was trying to enter the building and, you know, there was a cop at the door instead of the bouncer for some reason and he told her that this place is at capacity, you have to go somewhere else,” states Jamal. “And she said, well, I have a ticket though. And she was told, well, you can either come in here and go to jail or you can turn around and go somewhere else. And that’s offensive.”
Casey Jarman, former music editor for the Willamette Week following both incidents penned an op-ed in the paper both applauding the craftsmanship of hip-hop coming from the city and calling for ‘censorship’ of the music to cease. “These actions have not come in response to violent incidents or code violations at shows—there have been no accusations, that we’re aware of, leveled at these venues or artists—and they are not part of a larger campaign to police Portland nightlife. They are part of a systemic attempt to silence local hip-hop artists.”
Popular online news site Buzzfeed would later capture some of the tension in an article titled “Fighting for Hip-Hop in the Whitest City in America.”
Terrance Scott, better known by his stage name “Cool Nutz,” spoke with the Independent Police Review board about the importance of dialoguing with hip-hop artists, many of whom consider their art-form a small business.
With many Portland-grown acts receiving national and international attention many of the artists are continuing to expand their business whether it be Vinnie Dewayne receiving a feature in popular hip-hop magazine Vibe, Mike Bars accumulation over one-millions views on his music video ‘There Will Be Blood,’ or Hanif. getting MTV coverage.
“…if you want to do business, like real business, you want to have – you want to do hip-hop business, you’re going, to have to deal with the clubs, you’re going to have to deal with the OLCC, you’re, going to have to deal potentially with the police,” says Scott.