Milk.xyz Takes Portland: Red Bull x Dodgr
On October 19th Portland gathered at Roseland Theatre to celebrate the city’s burgeoning Hip- Hop scene with Red Bull Presents: Dodgr. From the city that produced Aminé, the local love and support this time around was aimed at Dodgr, Portland’s latest Hip-Hop icon and hometown hero. The rapper and songwriter, since entering the scene a couple of years back, has captured the attention of Anderson. Paak, Will Smith, and others in the industry who laud her as Portland’s next breakthrough artist.
Hosted by Portugal. the Man, the show was thrown in celebration of Dodgr’s rise to success and the diverse LGBTQIA+ communities within the city that has supported Dodgr on her way up. The concert kicked off around 8 PM, with fans singing along to Maarquii’s bass-heavy beats. Blimes and Gab took the stage after and wooed the crowd with a semi-choreographed rap-off. Falcon’s DJ set pumped up the audience at the beginning of the night and closed out after Dodgr’s headlining performance.
Milk spent the weekend in Portland to chat with Dodgr, Blimes and Gabs, Falcon and Maarquii to discuss musicianship in Portland, the importance of support in the LGBTQIA+ community, and their pursuit of art as a lifestyle, not only a career.
So after living in Portland for a while what can you tell us about the Hip-Hop and rap community here?
I can tell you that is thriving, and that there are so many people who are lowkey pushing the button a bit and doing things that other people definitely aren’t doing sonically, or even cadence wise. There’s hella talent in Portland, and people just overlook it because it’s Oregon. Aminé, came from here, you know? And if there’s one, of course, there’s like 22 others that are really talented, truly. Even people we haven’t found yet, you know?
Who are you really excited about right now?
In Portland, as far as music goes, my buddy Maarquii, who was opening. She’s incredible; raunchy, but hits your heart in a way that people don’t. Other than Maarquii, my buddy Tron, is just so out there and does whatever he wants sonically. When Toro y Moi was living up here, he befriended Tron. He’s on like his last mixtape. It’s talent like that, that you wouldn’t even know existed unless you dug.
How is the creative scene her structured? How is it different from other scenes like where you live in California?
Portland is still very much a small town, so, people still kind of live in that mentality. It’s super different compared to Los Angeles, you know, where everybody’s socializing, trying to mix with everybody. But here, it’s hard to mix with everybody, because everybody knows everybody’s business in a way that if you all grew up together, it’s hard to dismiss. There’s all this underlying lowkey drama in the musical community, if you grew up in Portland, for real, for real. It’s weird because it’s a small town, you know? I never experienced anything like it.
You have an unreleased song, but you’re playing it tonight. Tell us about it.
God damn right! That song, “Asi9ine,” I actually wrote when I was drunk, after going through some things with my now ex. I just had to get some shit off my chest and it was one of the easiest things to write.
Just so easy, “1,2,3 heavy metals on me.” It was real, I had three chains on.
“4,5,6 I ain’t worried about a bitch.” That’s a fact.
“7 through 11, Taco Tuesday.” It was Tuesday, I just left Taco Tuesday, and it’s from 7-11 PM.
It’s my actual life. I can’t wait to perform it, but also can’t wait for that to be in the world, and I have no idea what that’s going to happen, so please don’t ask me.
You worked on the merch that’s coming out today as well because you studied graphic design. Tell us more.
Honestly, I got into graphic design in my first year of college. I had a best friend who was pretty much self-taught and she was taking GED classes in high school and worked on the school newspaper. And I did too but not on the design end, I was just on the copy end. So hanging out with her, and taking a desktop publishing class, a graphic design class, and shit that she taught me, I just stuck with it and taught myself pretty much how to design. Not saying I’m great at all, but I just have an eye for things that are aesthetically pleasing. I co-designed the merch with trailblazin; all of that like retro shit, the glow-in-the-dark, it’s definitely me.
The teaser for this show was a video that highlighted the time you’ve taken off between shows and new music. 1026 days since you performed at the Roseland Theatre, 93 since the last time you released new tracks. So what have you been up to?
I’ve been doing so much. With a lot of things I’m doing, even if I don’t have to sign an NDA, it’s super hush-hush. I can’t tell you, but just know, I am working with my guy, Anderson [Anderson.paak] again, that’s one person I can give away. He’s incredible. Just expect my voice to be everywhere; I’m on the lead song for Spies in Disguise, the Will Smith animated feature that’s coming out on Christmas.
Outside of music, what do you do in your free time?
In my free time, depending on the state of mind I’m in, lowkey a bitch been on and off depressed. Depending on where I’m at, I could be watching a bunch of YouTube videos, hang out with my friends, play Uno, go to my favorite bar Moloko, smoke spliffs, talk on the phone, and talk shit, I’m on Instagram and Twitter, honestly I’m on my phone, more so than I should be; I’m trying to dial it back, go to movies, go walk. Whatever I feel, if my day isn’t booked, I do what I want.
If it was your dream day in Portland tomorrow, where would you take us? What would we do?
Oh, first of all, the sun would be out and it would be at least like 67 degrees, but we’d spend half of the time inside because I want to go to the nickel arcade up on Belmont. And just get it in, spend like a good eight bucks; that’s a good three hours of fun, you feel me? Moloko, vintage shopping. Hawthorne, for sure, has a bunch of shops. Even Killingsworth has a couple of shops, off Killingsworth and Albina. Go visit some homies at their jobs; I still be on that local movement/local activity, stay in my neighborhood. Just normal everyday shit.
I was watching an interview from 2016 and you were talking about manifestation, are you still a manifester?
Are you kidding me? Big manifest! I’m annoyed with myself sometimes because half of the songs that I wrote for this fucking project… once again, I have my heart broken because I wrote about it, right? It’s manifesting what you actually want to happen. I also have to be in a better state of mind when I write. And that’s been better for me when it comes to manifesting too because I’m feeling better so I can write things that will actually happen, and that are good, you know?
It’s one thing to write down your wishes and goals, but to put in all of that energy in performing it too — that’s manifestation on steroids.
It’s a spell. It’s all a spell, it’s all magic work. So if I’m out there, doing all this shit, singing all this shit. I’m making it happen.
In one of your social posts, you said “If you’re black, brown, a womxn, college educated, or queer in any city in the whole world & have no idea who I am, I wanna change that ASAP. Dodgr is for everybody, but especially for you.” What message do you want to send to those people?
That people like you exist and can succeed, and can be heard and seen, and you deserve that too.
How have you seen the Hip-Hop landscape change over the years?
As an artist, I haven’t been involved that long. I feel like you can do what you want, for real now in Hip- Hop. Even though a lot of people do things based on what’s popular and what the wave is, what’s going to sell, (that’s a real thing because it’s still business) there are more people who are willing to take risks; like myself. There are more companies willing to take risks on artists who aren’t the standard. I’m definitely on of them bitches, I’m not the standard, and people are taking a big risk, and it’s not even that big of a risk! For me, it’s a big risk getting involved with anybody. But I’m gonna deliver, I’m gonna stand and deliver.
What changes do you still want to see?
I think people still have to be more open-minded and willing to kind of detach themselves from the patriarchy. When you mentioned top artists, top whatever, it’s a dude who’s going to be number one, and its a cis dude who is gonna be number one, you know? I’m so sick of all that shit. And that’s what I’m hoping will change in the landscape, real soon. That we’ll give them enough of us, that are different from them. We need representation all across the board, if you’re human, and you don’t just have that body part, you know? Or claim? I could go so deep into this bullshit.
What’s 2020 looking like for you?
Huge. If I were to call it, y’all are really gonna be up on the game, like big time. I got smacks, hits, for real, for real. And if they chart, God bless you. I mean they fucking better cause, I wrote them to hit you in the gut, hit you in the heart, but it’s going bang. So 2020 is going to be big for me. I’m trying to do everything that I’ve been doing, but on a grander scale. Maybe I won’t be so quiet. But I’m a very private person. I’m better safe than social; that’s my whole motto.
What’s your favorite lyric that you’ve written?
“I feel safe on my own.” And it’s not even like a grand lyric. “I feel safe on my own.” It’s so real because so many of us experience codependent relationships and feel like we can’t be by ourselves, and I always have to remind myself that I can be by myself and I can be glorious by myself.
What advice you have for someone that looks up to you?
Look in the mirror and look up to yourself. Life is just a reflection of you.
So you guys just got in today? What are your relationships with the other artists here, tonight? What is relationship to Portland? Why are you here?
Blimes: We love Dodgr. She’s one of my favorite artists out, period.
Gab: Man, she’s a really hard worker. I like how she works in silence; she’s one of those people that has her hand and everything, but you don’t really know it unless you know her track record. She’s a fantastic performer, probably one of the best; her live performance is top-notch. She’s a lovely fucking person, she smokes hella like me. We have similar humor, so we’re always clownin’ all the time. She’s just a dope person.
Blimes: The coolest part is that Gabby and I are so different, but parts of Dodgr’s personality resonate with both of us. She’s got that spiritual, super plugged-in spiritual side, and then she’s got that reckless, street-side like Gabby. My DJ Bayroo showed me a video of Dodgr’s like four or five years ago. I was sitting in my room in LA, and he showed me her video and I was like, “I want to be her friend.” Here we are, friends. She asked us to come play.
Are you based in LA now?
Blimes: MacArthur Park. Glamorous, glamorous neighborhood. Beautiful.
How have you seen the Hip-Hop and rap landscape change since you’ve been in this realm?
Gab: I would say that women are definitely more at the forefront now. And I think that’s just because people are tired of the same old shit, you know what I’m saying? And want a different vibe. Women have been around in rap just as long as the men you know? Every every group had a woman involved, so it’s not like this is a new thing, but at the same time, now, we’re finally…we don’t need a dude counterpart, to be seen. With that being said, a lot of people are trying to kind of hop on the bandwagon, so to speak, especially with like the festivals and shit. Everybody’s like, “Oh, we support women! We fuck with women.” Like no you don’t, you’re just doin’ it because it’s a fucking wave, but ay man, I’m gonna hop on that and use it to my advantage for sure.
Blimes: Female rap is trending, for sure. Gabby’s been really vocal about it, and you know, has inspired me to be more vocal about too. It’s not a different genre, you know? We are rappers, we are artists just in the same right as men. As Gabby said, we’re not gonna deny any business because of it; sure we’re going to get paid. If this shit is trending, we want the check. We’re coming for it, for sure. But you know, it should have been this way for a long time…But here it is, so we’re going to show up, and we’re going to show exactly why this should have been happening all along.
So who were some of your favorite rappers growing up?
Gab: I still am, but I was a really big Ludacris fan. I really like the humor rap, so the Ludacris’s and the Redman’s, and shit like that, where it’s lyrical, but there’s still some humor to it; their videos are always hella funny and animated and shit like that. I’m a really big DJ Quik fan, from his rapping to his production…Wu-Tang, Method Man specifically. I just always been a Hip-Hop head, for as long as I can remember. I have an older brother, so whatever he was listening to, I got to sneak and listen to.
Blimes: I grew up listening to Hip-Hop. I remember in first grade, memorizing, “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls,” TLC. The teacher left the room, and I got on the table and performed it for all my classmates. I grew up in the Bay, I too like humor in my rap, so Mac Dre is one of my all-time favorite rappers. I grew up on The Chronic series; Eminem and Dre, I looked up to that duo so much, which is pretty cool. I didn’t see it in my future that I would be in a duo, but here we are, which is pretty fucking cool. Missy [Elliott], obviously. I remember looking at her as a kid and being like, “Wow, this person has everything that I want to be.” The confidence, the artistry, the singing voice, the lyrics, just all of it through and through. That’s actually something that Dodgr embodies too. The singing voice, the rapping voice, the style, the artistry, the inception of the concept; the artistry starts at the inception of the concept. It’s not, “I’m going to make music and this is going to be it.” It’s like, “I’m going to do all of this and it’s all going to come out as this body of art.” You can tell that everything has been thought through. Jay-Z is also another one of my favorites.
You both have solo projects, but then you are also on stage together. How would you say that your shows together differ from when you’re on stage by yourself?
Gab: I know for me, I’m trying to get up there and perform. I’m not really talkative, that’s where she comes in, which is dope when we perform together. If I had it my way, we would just go song to song, maybe say a little something, maybe something funny in between, but I just be up there to perform and not really say too much. We were just talking about this the other day. Blimes is the starter, she’s gonna give the information and I’m gonna come in and clean up in and say the final words. When performing by yourself, you gotta wear all the hats, which is cool, because I’ve been doing it for so long, but it’s really refreshing, but also a learning curve to have someone else and to kind of share that creativeness with. You kind of let go of some of the things that I’d completely do on my own.
Blimes: We carry each other’s energy too. If you’re getting tired, you have another person on stage with you, not only to pick up where you might be dragging a little bit, but also to keep you in the game; to remind you it’s not just your show anymore. This is ours now. I’m not gonna do you wrong. So, let me go through and give it the best I got. Gabby brings that like really hard-hitting, packed punches dynamic; she’s like look, “This one’s for the thugs, you know? Where the uncles at.” I’m coming with the spiritual touchy-feely-vibe- feelings, you know? I’m encouraging our queer fans to pop it and be themselves, and love themselves. We’re really yin and yang with it. I’ve never been happier performing with somebody.
What advice do you have for people who look up to you?
Blimes: People can smell it from a mile away when you’re not being yourself.
Gab: Be good at what you’re doing, work to be good.
What is 2020 look like?
Gab: I’m thinking about running for president, or mayor at least. Nah, 2020 we have an album coming, tour, Europe.
Blimes: We’re not just doing music, it’s moving into other sectors. So we’re really excited.
Okay so you just came off stage, what was that like? How are you feeling?
Oh my god, that was really fun. I feel like I’m on Cloud 9. The last show I came here, I was like17 or 18. And I saw Steve Aoki. That was the last time I’ve been here, and now I like just opened a sold-out show. It’s all weird, it came full circle. I’m just taking all of that in, and people knowing the words to my songs, that was really weird.
How long have you been in Portland?
I’ve been in Portland since I was 18. After I graduated, I moved out here. I lived in LA for seven months a few years ago, I was in Salem but mostly once I graduated high school, I moved out here.
What made you want to come to Portland?
My video productions teacher in high school would take us on field trips, and bring us out here. We’d just play around in the city and one time we came here, and we had a bunch of time to kill. We went to Red Light, and I fell in love with everything. There was nothing like that in Tillamook. I remember getting this really amazing, perfect for who I was at the time, shoulder bag. That was almost 10 years ago, and there were all kinds of people just everywhere. That was not the case where I was living. It was far enough away from Tillamook, but still close because my family is there. When I graduated I was set on going to LA, but my AVP teacher suggested Portland because it’s so supportive of independent artists and there is lots of room to explore and experiment. He was a big mentor to a lot of us in that AVP class.
How would you describe the creative community in Portland?
From my lens, there are a lot of opportunities; it’s very much like collective minded. So people really try to help each other out with resources when they can. Portland has its own sort of gatekeeping blah, blah, blah, just like any other city, but at the core, people really are trying to share resources and give people their dues and opportunities when they arise.
I was reading an interview in which you talking about your style and fashion and how it really relates to your self-expression. For people that are not here, tell us about what you’re wearing now.
So I am wearing custom Alexa Stark, she’s a local designer. It’s very sheer, very soft, very light; what I love about this is that she does this stitching of the seams where it looks like it’s drawn; it looks illustrated. I want it to be comfortable, but I also wanted it to almost look like I was constantly moving. Then I have my little dominatrix attachments on it; I just wanted to look very strong and feminine.
Who are you excited about right now?
A producer call Snuggsworth.They have a really, really great ear. A lot of people in Portland right now are really starting to believe in themselves a lot more, and believe in their worth and believe in what they can bring to the scene. Also, Snuggsworth is not just a producer, I’ve heard a couple of their tracks of them like rapping and singing. I’m like, “if you don’t put this shit out…”
What is your relationship with the other artists here tonight?
Tonight is my first night meeting Blimes and Gab, and Falcons. I played a show a long time ago with Portugal. the Man with, this band called Chanti Darling; they’re kinda like my big brother. I used to backup dance for him for that band. And we played a show, a long time ago, opening for Portugal.
Dodgr is a big sister. We work really close to her, I had the date on my phone for a long time before she even told me what the gig was for. She was like, “you just need to save this day.” She’s always been so supportive of me, and encouraging; that’s the biggest thing. She’s helped me have a lot of confidence in myself and what I’m bringing. She was also one of the first people to be like, “you need to advocate for whatever rate you set. Advocate for it, you deserve that.” That was one of the most helpful things; knowing my worth, and setting a standard for myself.
What advice do you have for someone that looks up to you?
Even when like this world looks so bleak and tries to do everything to step on your chest, and keep you from inhaling, exhaling, just know that there is someone in your corner somewhere. You might not even know them, you might never meet them, but there’s someone fighting for your right to live on this planet in comfort and care.
And then what’s coming in 2020?
So you’re based in LA?
I’m from Texas, and I’ve been living in LA for seven years. Right now I’m in DTLA. It’s starting to pop off.
So we’re in Portland – what brings you here? What’s your relationship to Dodgr?
I actually didn’t know her until there was a song that got passed around, an instrumental that I had made, and it got picked up for writing camp with a big artist (can’t say who it is, yet.) She did something to it, and she reached out to me because she was like, “Yo, this beats crazy. Let’s make some shit like this.” So we became internet friends. She’s just dope, she’s very personable.
Have you played in Portland often?
I’ve probably played in Portland like three times in my whole career.
What’s your favorite place to play?
I used to play at Holocene, it’s an underground venue, and then I played here at the Roseland with Goldlink.
Tell us about your creative process.
There’s not really rules to it. A lot of things inspire me, and sometimes it’s just like one sound, not even a sound as in the genre, like a sound, that will inspire me to make a beat. I listen to a lot of music. I don’t listen to a lot of new music. I’ll take something from the 90s or the 50s, or whatever, and I’ll take one little thing from it; I don’t start from completely from scratch. I like to have some sort of like direction from the beginning.
Once you make a beat, do you then just kind of pass it around and see who is interested? Or do you know when you’re making the track?
I definitely have two different folders of beats; I have beats that are just for sale, and I have beats that I know who’s gonna like this, you know? I have a pretty good little rolodex of friend vocalists and stuff like; I know who will fuck with a certain sound. I give the good shit to my friends.
What artists are you most looking forward to right now?
I love Santi from South Africa, he’s been on tour with Goldlink. He’s a younger dude who clearly is influenced by American music, but he’s still super African in his vibe. I’m really into this like World Music thing right now; this younger generation, they all have Instagram. They know what’s going on in every part of the world, but they like still keep it real to their sound.
What is 2020 for you?
2020 is scary. Nah, it’s just crazy that it’s 2020. I’m going in strong right now; I’m really being myself. I’m really working with artists that I really fuck with, even if it’s not somebody that people listen to in LA. I’m just reaching out to the people and it’s working. I’m trying to start a collective and crew this kind of based around this mentality of world music and bringing people together and shit like that. Pangea Sound be takin’ over 2020. Let’s get it.
What advice do you have for someone that looks up to you?
Be yourself no matter what. Never, never ever follow trends; you can be aware of trends, but don’t just do shit just because it’s the trend.
So how do you tap into what’s really you, then?
I just think about where I came from, what my dad and my mom were listening to when I was little, you know what I mean? Your parents might not have listened to music that you like, but you got to kind of be honest with where you came from, and like what made you who you are. Where did your influences really come from?
Stay tuned to Milk for more music across the map.