The Theater of the Clouds was packed on Saturday night, and it was Portland out for Portland. Amine was at home. The Woodlawn rapper kicked off his Best Tour Ever Tour on the 29th of January for a hometown crowd at the Moda Center, and the crisp night air around the stadium was filled with an easy excitement. This would be Amine’s first show in Portland in two years, and his first time ever playing the same venue usually occupied by the Blazers. For his part, he was determined to make it a homecoming for the ages.
Opening the show were a selection of other Portlanders, including Blazers DJ OG One, Niro Gotti, Heff, and Mic Capes, accompanied by producer and DJ Drae Slapz. Capes’s set culminated in a high energy performance of his St. Johns anthem “Jumper Cables,” which had the rapidly filling crowd on their feet. Cousin Stizz followed Capes with a short but equally hype set, including “No Bells” and “Fresh Prince,” setting the stage for the man the people had come to see.
Amine’s stage design was itself a microcosm of North Portland, replete with a Woodlawn Park sign, a larger-than-life likeness of Oliver, Amine’s golden doodle, and a miniature Broadway Bridge in the background. A facade of the legendary Alberta Market served as the portal to the stage, a door through which Amine and his various guests emerged out into that formative Portland of his memory.
In the way that all things change and fade, so too has the Portland of Amine’s adolescence. Underpinning the ecstatic absurdity of his dancier songs has always been a strain of protest, against the gentrification of his hometown and his artform, and a pushback against the erasure that comes with the declaration that “Portland is a white city.” In many ways the issues are as bad as they’ve ever been, but the night was less about criticizing what’s broken and more about conjuring the beauty of what remains whole–Amine realizes that carving a lane for his own weird brand of Portland hip-hop is a transformative act on its own.
To his credit, Amine draws perhaps the most diverse crowd in town–the audience encompassed a wide swathe of Portlanders all there to witness the ascension of a singular artist who, in one way or another, speaks for them. After a performance of the throwback “Heebiejeebies,” from his 2017 debut Good for You, Amine stopped the music to announce that he was bringing back his tradition of “tour pants”– a pair of jeans with a patch added for each venue he plays, signed by a fan from the the crowd. “For this tour in 2022, we’re bringing back the motherfuckin tour pants! For this shit right here, we always put on a new patch for every city, and tonight we got Oregon right motherfuckin here, Portland to be exact!” Amine brought up a young woman named Gemma, who presented him a hat that her wife threw up to the stage. “I want you to write your name,” he told her, “and then I want you to write something that you want me to know personally about yourself, that you don’t want anyone else in this crowd to know. This is just between you and me, your dreams, whatever it might be.”
Further highlights included a heartfelt version of “Dr. Whoever,” which Amine performed sitting on the bridge behind Madison, his longtime DJ. After the slow number, Amine came back down and brought the crowd up for “Pressure in my Palms,” which reached a fever pitch thanks to a surprise appearance from Vince Staples, who followed his feature verse with a performance of “ARE YOU WITH THAT?” from his self-titled album, released last year. The set was loaded on the front end with a mix of tracks from Limbo and TWOPOINTFIVE, but Amine paid homage to his earlier hits, including “Red Mercedes,” “Spice Girl,” and a stripped-down version of his breakout single “Caroline,” which was a sing-along with the whole crowd. “I made this shit in a classroom at PSU!” he announced as the opening stabs of the beat began to play. “I made this shit when my bank account was on overdraft fees!”
There’s something special about watching a local performer climb to new heights of success and artistry, and something particularly triumphant when that person is a classically braggadocious rapper at the top of their game. Amine is that, but he also has a humbling love for the city he’s from, and a clear reverence for the venue that he grew up attending. As the lights came up and and the crowd filed out into the night, that same energy was palpable, binding the groups of friends and couples walking their separate ways together, into one city, there for each other.
Photos from the evening were shot for ELEVEN by Sean Khuon-Paige.