Portland's demographics are apparent at most rap concerts, and Staples' two sold-out shows at the Roseland Theater on March 23 and 24 were no exception. JPEG's opening set of confrontational, noise and punk-influenced tracks was well-received—an awestruck "Who is this guy?" cut through the air during a break between songs.
Staples, one of L.A.'s most ascendant talents of the past decade, has amassed a fervent fanbase with his forward-thinking beat choices and masterfully dry sense of humor. The energy in the venue heightened the moment he took the stage, and it didn't dip throughout his 21-song set.
Both rappers candidly called out white supremacy in both its most obvious and more institutional forms. The two types of political statements each went over very differently with this crowd. There was no misconstruing the uproar that immediately followed JPEG rapping, "When Donald Trump dies, we gon' throw a party," in a freestyle. But large portions of the audience seemed to miss the point of a signature Staples moment: "Clap your hands if the police ever profiled." My fellow white people: Learn when to take a seat.
Staples closed his set by screening the late Mac Miller's NPR Tiny Desk Concert; JPEG rapped about listening to the late Lil Peep. Both were white men who achieved success in a predominantly black genre while showing respect and deference to their peers. See? This shouldn't be that hard.