Portland hip-hop culture gets its roses during Kendrick Lamar’s Juneteenth show

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Award-winning artist Kendrick Lamar hosted a show in California celebrating West Coast hip-hop. Portland hip-hop icon Cool Nutz talked to KGW about the moment.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — On Juneteenth, award-winning artist Kendrick Lamar hosted a sold-out show celebrating West Coast hip-hop in Inglewood, California, unofficially championing the show as a victory lap amid a heated diss war with rapper Drake. During the show, Portland received a shoutout regarding its contribution to West Coast hip-hop. 

Many online described the show, titled “The Pop Out: Ken & Friends,” as historic, healing and a collective moment for West Coast hip-hop. The event featured opening sets from popular hip-hop California DJs and featured many artists from the state with a nod to Lamar’s hometown of Inglewood.

During the show, Lamar stressed the value of community, unity and peace. “Let them see this,” Lamar said as he reunited performers from various L.A. neighborhoods and affiliations on stage at the end of the concert. “We put this together with peace. I promise this won’t be the last of us.”

Many online also called the show a victory lap, in reference to the late Nipsey Hussle’s Victory Lap project. His motivating mantra of the concept of a “marathon” embraced the idea that life is a marathon, not a race, that while setbacks may momentarily keep people from their dreams, they were all part of the journey. 

The “Pop Out” refers to a line from Lamar’s recent hit song, “Not Like Us,” which was a response to rapper Drake. Lamar performed the hit song five times during the show. The victory lap many referred to is Lamar’s Juneteenth show, after unofficially winning the high-profile online rap diss battle with Drake. 

RELATED: Drake and Kendrick Lamar’s feud — the biggest beef in recent rap history — explained

The left coast the best coast: Portland shoutout

Kicking off the packed show, legendary California MC Earl Stevens, better known as “E-40,” and also known as the “Ambassador of the Bay,” was tapped by Lamar to narrate. In the narration (see video in Instagram post below), E-40 gives a nod to Portland, along with other locations up and down the west coast. The “Tell Me When To Go” artist stated: “Tonight is a celebration of what makes the left coast the best coast … and the unification of the west.”

Lamar, also known as “K-Dot,” has a long-standing special history with the MC that dates back to K-Dot’s early career. Naturally, E-40 hyped not only the crowd but Lamar for his grand entrance on stage. 

“Tonight has been a beautiful sight to see so far; sometimes all it take is one domino to fall to get the momentum going, and the west coast needed this reminder. And I’m proud of us in this moment, how fitting that it’s on Juneteenth! This is a victory lap, y’all know what I wore. But man, as history has shown, it’s always been a fire and a certain kind of spark coming up out of Compton, especially. Y’all always rise up from the ashes and rise to the occasion. You love when they count you out.”

In a post on socials, E-40 posted an image with Portland hip-hop legend “Cool Nutz,” who revealed that he was with E-40 when he pre-recorded the intro. Cool Nutz said he also played a role in one of the momentous moments of the show, engineering his narration.

The Instagram post features an image of Cool Nutz alongside E-40, with a caption that reacted to the small but meaningful nod to Portland. Cool Nutz described the moment as “an incredible feeling.” He said: “not only the fact that @kendricklamar enlisted the voice of @e40 to narrate one of the most monumental nights in Hip-hop, but seeing the West Coast including Portland be mentioned as part of this historical moment was amazing.” 

In a statement to KGW, Cool Nutz reacted to the Portland shoutout:

“I’ve been blessed to watch Kendrick’s career grow from being on tour with him, E-40, and Jay Rock, so to see the respect he has for 40 was impressive,” Cool Nutz said. “Being able to record 40 doing the drops while we were in DC was crazy, especially watching it come to life at the concert, and him making sure he included my hometown of Portland was an incredible feeling. Kendrick did something amazing, legendary and unrivaled, and being able to be involved in that moment was crazy. Hip-hop has truly blessed me.”

Cool Nutz said he’s proud to have been able to witness Lamar’s career flourish and described the event as “a huge exclamation point for hip-hop culture.”

A few folks took to social media to express excitement for the shoutout. One user @bgdecolonized posted to Threads stating, ” K PORTLAND GOT A SHOUT OUT AT Kendrick Lamar JUNETEENTH SHOW!”

“The Pop Out: Ken & Friends”

“The Pop Out: Ken & Friends” show featured many surprise “friends” with California roots, including Tyler, the Creator, YG, Roddy Ricch, Ty Dolla $ign, Dom Kennedy and Steve Lacy. He came out during a set curated by Los Angeles’ producer DJ Mustard, who also held a moment in memory of slain Crenshaw rapper Nipsey Hussle. DJ Hed, a well-known Los Angeles’ DJ also brought out Ray Vaughn, Cuzzos, Westside Boogie, Zoe Osama, RJMRLA, OhGeesy and Jason Martin. Even krumping innovator Tommy the Clown played a role in the show. Kendrick, also known as “Kung Fu Kenny,” also brought out Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Dr. Dre. 

The show also included many high-profile attendees in the audience, including but not limited to Russell Westbrook, DeMar DeRozan, LeBron James, SZA, Rick Ross, Chloe Bailey, The Weeknd, Ayo Edebiri, radio host Big Boy and Lamar’s fiancée, Whitney Alford.

Lamar last performed in Portland at the Moda Center in August 2022 during his “The Big Steppers Tour,” following his fifth studio album, “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.” 

The album, described as conscious hip-hop, reflected on the “Count Me Out” artist’s life experiences through his therapy journey, highlighting the personal themes, including childhood and generational trauma, infidelity and celebrity worship, among others. The project went on to win Best Rap Album and received eight nominations, including Album of the Year at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards.

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