Star Theater, Portland, OR
02/27/2020

“Are y’all ready to do some hip hop?”

With that simple inquiry, Rapsody took the crowd in Portland’s packed Star Theater on a 70-minute journey that celebrated rap music and all black women. Backed by DJ Face, the North Carolina MC turned in an electrifying performance highlighting her masterful new album, Eve, proving that she is a star on the rise.

Using the moniker “A Black Woman Created This Tour,” Rapsody doubled down on the concept powering Eve, an album she describes as “a love letter to all black women.” Each of the album’s 16 tracks is named for one of Rapsody’s heroes from Michelle Obama to Aayliah, and as she performed many of her new songs, Rapsody also took time to pause and talk to the audience about the importance of the black women in her life.

Kicking off the show with “Nina,” where she reclaims “Blood on the Leaves” from Kanye West, Rapsody brought an unflagging energy to the evening. Wearing a puffy black jacket, the MC tore through tracks such as “Cleo” and “Whoopi” before reaching back to the title track from her 2017 Grammy-nominated sophomore album, Laila’s Wisdom. The crowd danced and hollered back. One guy vociferously shouted out praise for Rapsody for most of the show.

Though Rapsody could easily command the stage on her own, she invited opening act and friend, Heather Victoria, to sing with her on a few tracks. She also asked after which men in the audience were single. She then invited a French guy up on the stage named Sebastian. In a performance demonstrating the different stages of a relationship, the MC proceeded to rap to Sebastian, caress his head and then dance with him for an entire song before sending him on his way.

Rapsody is multi-talented, spitting rhymes along samples from Phil Collins to Bjork or simply without accompaniment. She took time to recognize heroes and friends from Kendrick Lamar to Ms. Lauryn Hill. By the time she reached “IBTIHAJ,” Rapsody even paid direct homage to GZA with the song’s lyric. Yet the most moving segment of the evening was when she shouted out the names “Trayvon Martin,” “Michael Brown” and “Freddie Gray,” a constant reminder that it’s too early to pat ourselves on the back and think we’ve moved on from the violence against black Americans in the past.

In a city where Black Lives Matter signs rest on lawns of homeowners who are largely white, we need more acts like Rapsody preaching a message of inclusivity. In a time where an authoritarian president is hoping that we tear each other to shreds, we need to come together, appreciate black women and, most of all, each other.

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