Willamette Week has no shortage of haters. Few, though, have ever converted their beef into a full-on dis track—and even fewer have turned it into a music video.
But rapper Swiggle Mandela went there.
The video for "Dear Willamette Week" opens with someone urinating on a recent issue, which makes it clear that this is not a letter to the editor complimenting our reporting on Portland's pursuit of a Major League Baseball franchise.
"Dear Willamette Week you don't know shit about the streets/You should shut the fuck up when you speak," he raps while he and some friends alternately toss the paper into a fireplace and use it to spark up some blunts.
His main issue appears to be with our local hip-hop coverage, making what seems to be references to this year's Best New Band list and apparently taking a thinly veiled shot at suburban viral rapper Wynne: "It's young Swiggle, voice of the young people/Here to tell you hip-hop doesn't live in Lake Oswego."
He also accuses us of smoking meth.
Harsh, but as an act of media criticism, we certainly appreciate this more than having a mound of topsoil anonymously dumped in our parking lot.
So we reached to Mandela and asked, what's the beef? Here's an edited version of his response:
My beef is that I am one of the most prominent hip-hop artists in Portland—fact—and y’all never mentioned me ever. Not sure who all is on your list, but I know I am more relevant in the city than most. Every rapper in the city knows who I am, and if they don’t, someone around them does. I have booked more than 50 artists, and I am most likely the most featured hip-hop artist in Portland. I am one, if not the most influential artists in the city when it comes to music and entertainment. I have been highly respected in the hip-hop community since 2006, when I was only 16. I have helped a lot of Portland’s big names a long the way. I watched my community be gentrified, and I couldn’t do anything about it, ’cause I was a teenager. This Portland hip-hop? I helped build it. I own real estate in it. And I refuse to let my culture be gentrified like my old community. So when y’all offer your opinion, on my culture, without mentioning me, while also calling artists who aren’t from Portland “local artists,” I took offense to that. I was the first hip-hop artist to perform at World Beat Festival in Salem, to a crowd of 2,000 people in 2014. Opened up for Dead Prez, Immortal Technique and D12 before I was 20. Peter Wieden of Wieden and Kennedy taught me video production and helped me film my first music videos. I perform at high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. I get 10,000 plays the majority of the time I drop a music video. And I am a mentor and guide to many local artists. So sometimes I think, “Maybe if I did all this, and was white, and lived in Lake Oswego.” someone would notice. So yes, that was a shot at Wynne, and honestly, she could be a cool person, she just got the short end of the stick. I feel I have done, and will do, more for Northwest hip-hop than she ever has or will ever do. And no offense to her. Like, she could be a really cool person. But Oregon used to have exclusion laws, and when a ‘rapper’ from Lake Oswego gets media coverage before the city’s favorite, was kind of offensive to me The fact that I’m Black and Filipino and my family doesn’t own a newspaper, because we have been systematically held back. I’m working harder for Portland hip-hop than anyone I know—and this might sound egotistical, but you can go around the scene and ask about me. Go to hip-hop shows and ask about me. I felt excluded. I felt like this city’s and country’s racist history has to do with the reason y’all overlooked me—and I could be wrong. And how I feel about the Mercury is they could be next. I’ve sent both of y’all multiple press releases, and as one of the most powerful and well-known hip-hop artists in Portland, I feel I shouldn’t have to do that. I rarely ever got a response. And if my press release was professional or inspiring enough, cool, but I would at least like a response.
Y’all were just the straw that broke the camel’s back. And I’m almost sorry for that, because The Oregonian or WE96.3 could be next for imposing on a culture built on my people’s struggle, our work ethic and musical abilities. This is a culture that helps me feed my family. I’ve had to work so much harder than most, and I don’t thinks that’s fair. I think as artists, writers, journalists and media in general should consider the struggles of people of color. I’m not saying write about every artist that isn’t white. But I am one of the best musicians in the city, and I had to work five times as hard because I’m not white—because of my family’s history, because of my ancestors’ history. So I’m upset because y’all never cared to give me a little help. Now I could be wrong. Maybe I should have approached it different. But at this point, I’m so hungry, if y’all won’t help me by letting me use y’all platform, I will use y’all platform by force. Because y’all use my platform—Portland hip-hop—and never asked or consulted me.