Gigwise is thrilled to present the first in the new series of Pickathon Pumphouse sessions, featuring Portland's hip-hop star Rasheed Jamal doing 'Chattanooga Park' earlier this year at the festival. Watch the performance below.
A moving take, we're told by Jamal his cut harks back to his time as a budding star in the treacherous yet creatively buzzing Arkansas park the track is named after, and traces how his life has changed since. He is currently one of the burning suns of the now globally recognised Portland scene.
The music to which his scintillating verses and soporific main vocal hook is built on features haunting bass chords, churning industrial percussion and a restless hi-hat. It's a highly modern sound collage that feels as indebted to alternative hip-hop as it does abstract sound art and pure unthinking catharsis.
Jamal is the first of a selection of artists who played Pickathon to also be invited for a Pumphouse session - all of whom you'll see on the first Monday of the month on Gigwise at 3pm in the UK or 8am PDT.
The venue is an actual well pumphouse for the old agriculture and makes a unique filming location on the bohemian paradise of Pendarvis Farm.
The picture below shows the venue it's a 9x9 room that's part of the festival's backstage facilities. It's a living room for bands when not in use for filming and just down the steps from the pumphouse is another session stage called The Edge that "has an MC Escher inside outside vibe where we make it a bit nonsensical like staircases in the middle of the woods," says founder Zale Schoenborn.
The farm itself is the festival’s third home in its 20 year history (since arriving there in 2006, they’ve grown from one stage to 12). It's owned by a couple who've lived there for over half a century and have through their intimate care for the environment work with Pickathon to leave no trace. Sessions here in the past include Sturgill Simpson with his old band - before his career truly took off. Curiously, when it’s not the festival, a musician who helps on the farm lives in there.
Success stories such as Simpson’s is indicative of Pickathon’s knack for curating line-up’s that spot truly amazing talent – Rasheed Jamal’s a shining example of another we may refer to in years to come.
The uncompromising, well curated Pickathon is blurring the lines in terms the role of a music festival and carving out a niche to survive in the process. They are becoming a serious weight in broadcast with a number of stunning sessions from across its 12 stages to come on its YouTube channel. Over 5 million people tune into the sessions.
They've a knack too for breaking artists on the west coast. Recent success story include Ukraine's DahkaBrakha and Japan's Kikagaku Moyo, who packed out venues in Portland since slaying Pickathon.
More: Gigwise's Robert Ham meets Jamal Rasheed
Robert Ham: How was your experience at Pickathon? Had you ever been before? What did you like most about being there at Pendarvis Farm?
Rasheed Jamal: We had a great time at Pickathon. I hadn’t attended the festival before, so I didn’t know what to expect when I showed up, but once we got checked in and settled into the atmosphere it was business as usual. As an artist it was definitely work, but looking back at it now, the whole experience kinda flew by once it got started.
RH: So is life…
RJ: What I liked most was riding around in the carts to get from stage to stage. I remember thinking that I wanted to take one for a joy ride, but they held the keys hostage so that was a no go besides that the top speed was like 7MPH, so… Yea. Lol
RH: What can you tell me about the song that we're premiering - "Chattanooga Park”?
RJ: Chattanooga Park is a park in Hot Springs, Arkansas where my Dad taught me how to play basketball. At the same time, it was the main gathering place for people in my neighborhood which was a good thing most of the time, but other times there was situations that weren’t so positive in nature.
As I grew into a young man, my friends and I used to hang out at the park till 2 or 3am freestyling, smoking weed, scheming, dreaming, and talking about what was goin’ on in the town and in other cities. Without knowing it we made a mark on the culture of the city with the music we made. Just a group of young guys trying to figure out what life was about. This song is a little piece of what I’ve found out since then.
RH: The Portland hip-hop scene is in the midst of quite a renaissance right now with the rise of artists like Amine and Last Artful Dodgr. How has that been for you to be a part of this thriving community?
RJ: From a media standpoint, that question makes sense. From my standpoint, that Renaissance has been taking place since 2012 in Portland. But, now we're at a moment in time where we are really starting to capture the mind and imagination of the public. Once we can pluck the heart strings of the people to see beyond the “Keep Portland Weird” message and they get a chance to interact with artists who live here that Renaissance will really show how well rounded key artists are in this part of America. I would say the same about my homeland in Arkansas.
To directly answer your question: I have fun being creative. I love songwriting, recording, performing, making visuals, and building a business based on being creative. I like to be in my own lane doing my own thing and seeing people you know become successful is a huge motivator for me because it’s a direct indicator of how many more folks you can reach out and touch musically when you stick with it. Especially now that we have outsiders who want to be on the ground floor of the next breakout artist. It's a great feeling to have moved here 10 years ago and to now be at the forefront of a global movement. It’s an exciting time to be us.
RH: What comes next for you?
RJ: Next, I have a project called 22 GRAMS releasing. It’s a special collection of music that is very close to my heart that outlines my experience on this planet. Haha. It’s deep. Its rich in texture and it's not meant to be understood on the first 2 or 3 listens. It’s gotta grow with you.
If I could compare it to a film, it's something like Fight Club. Perhaps something like The Ninth Gate, or any film that requires multiple screenings because even years later you’ll still find little things you never noticed. Suddenly, after watching it 50 times you realize its your favourite movie and you know all of lines and you look past the surface presentation and start to critique the intent of the writers and directors. You judge it as a work of Art.
It's been a while since people made rap albums like that, so I’m really just making the kind of music that I want to hear at this point. I can make commercially viable mainstream popular music with simple lyrics and hooks (which is cool I guess), but it's not fun being a clone. A lot of music right now is boring no matter what genre because it sounds self similar. We look forward to doing our part to shake shit up.