Most hip-hop fans—or, at least, hip-hop fans who learn about emerging artists via indie-rock blogs—first discovered Atlanta upstart Young Thug via "Picacho," a wildly idiosyncratic track in which the MC compares his jewelry to a Pokemon character. That song, from Thug's widely acclaimed 1017 Thug mixtape, ended up on Pitchfork's Best Songs of 2013 list, while another single, "Stoner," has begun gaining traction in clubs and rap radio. Since then, he's received cosigns from everyone from Kanye West to Drake.
And so, have officially entered the discussion as one of the new kings of Southern rap, Thug took the next logical step and…released a mixtape called Black Portland. He and compatriot Bloody Jay dropped the new set—the cover of which is adorned by the Blazers pinwheel logo—yesterday, and at a first, quick listen, there appears to be little conceptual connection to the Rose City beyond the surface references, though it exudes the eccentric energy and off-kilter catchiness of his previous work and that of his fellow Atlanta street-rap statesmen, Migos.
So why is it called Black Portland? Beats me. As far as I know, Young Thug has yet to perform here, though it's certainly possible he's got family and friends in town. My guess is it has something to do with the Blazers rising national profile. After all, the Hawks aren't getting out of the second round anytime soon. Come aboard, Thug—there's plenty of room on bandwagon!
UPDATE: Finally, we get an answer! Turns out I was half-right: According to The Fader, who apparently had the same questions and went directly to Bloody Jay to get them, he and Young Thug have indeed jumped on the Blazers bandwagon, referring to the team as "young and ambitious. There’s a lot of players on their team that you might have never heard of, but they’re all coming in and playing as a real team. They stick together. You know that if you play them, you’re gonna have a hard night.”
But, as Jay explained to writer Naomi Zeichner, there's more to the Black Portland concept than just basketball:
“We’re on fire right now in the streets of Atlanta, and we’re stoners, so you know, we’re the Blazers and Atlanta is Black Portland,” said Jay. … But the Black Portland idea expands beyond weed and teamwork metaphors. Portland is one of America’s whitest major cities; in Jay’s words, “more of a caucasian city.” In turn, Black Portland is both a nickname for contemporary Atlanta and an imaginary place, like the Atlantis to OutKast’s Atlanta, where young creative thinkers live. “Black Portland is our own world,” Jay explains, “and all of us have some Black Portland in us. It’s where ambition, freedom and being young all roll into one. A never-ending party, just changing the color on your mood ring. That’s the kid in you, that wants to get outside when you’ve been in the house too much, that’s Black Portland. That Saturday when the sun is beaming through your window, that’s Black Portland.”
Sunlight? Ambition? Black Portland really is the Bizarro Portland.