Written by Garrett Thornton
Damian Lillard has been a household name in Portland for the past four years as he has quickly risen to super-stardom on the NBA.
On Friday night, Lillard, aka Dame D.O.L.L.A., became an absolute legend.
The night of his 26th birthday, Lillard performed his first hip-hop concert in front of a sold out crowd of 1,500 people at Portland’s McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom. Those 1,500 people left at the end of the night feeling like part of the family, like they just celebrated the birthday of a close friend.
When tickets for the show went on sale the evening of Wednesday, July 6th, they sold out in less than two hours. The man that draws 20,000+ to the Moda Center 41 times a year had no issue filling the Crystal Ballroom. From that evening on, the excitement crescendoed leading up to the show on his birthday, July 15th.
Doors opened at 7pm and the line started forming well over an hour before they would ever open. The line was full of a diverse crowd, just as you would expect from any crowd in Portland. There were folks dressed in all sorts of Blazer gear, Lillard jerseys, Lillard shoes, and of course, a lot of adidas gear.
As the doors opened and the crowd flooded the upper level of the historical building where the Crystal Ballroom is located, there was a ton of excitement for what was sure to be an event that would be talked about for years to come.
The show started with Blazer in-house DJ, DJ OG One, spinning a few tracks from past and present. The crowd was really starting to get into it.
Local Portland emcee Rose Ciddy was the first act to hop on stage as he performed a freestyle and one of his tracks. Danny from Sobrante, another Oakland native, was next on stage and started to bring a bit of the Bay Flavor.
The show really started when Lillard’s cousin, Brookfield Duece, performed. He brought so much energy and excitement to the building. Definitely a very talented rapper, Brookfield Duece was the perfect act to precede the main attraction.
There was a bit of a lull in the show when Brookfield Duece finished but that lull was soon replaced by a few classic tracks that DJ OG One played. Then the music cut off.
DJ OG One said, “I have some good news and some bad news … The bad news is Damian Lillard stepped out of the building … The good news is, Dame D.O.L.L.A. is here!”
As the crowd went wild, Lillard appeared from the car side of the stage.
What really set this show apart from any other hip hop show I have ever been to was the family atmosphere. Lillard has surrounded himself with good people and they were all there to celebrate his birthday with him. There were 20+ people on the stage the whole time. His brother, Houston, danced the entire show. His mom, sister, cousins, and friends were all a part of the show on the stage.
Lillard’s raps are very conscious and timely. His song “Bigger Than Us” speaks to the need that we each need to get better in a world that is so divided. His commentary between songs was even more intimate and important. He is truly a leader and role model on and off the court.
The crowd was loud, like Lillard just got a game-winner loud. There were 4 separate times when the crowd chanted M-V-P, there were Rip City chants, Dame Time chants. It was incredible. Not very often is there such a connection at a concert of this size.
At one point Lillard said, “What y’all are doing tonight is so Rip City … And that’s why I’m always gonna be here.”
It is so refreshing seeing a superstar step out of his own comfort zone and share something with his fans. Portland has had a run of distant stars (ala LaMarcus Aldridge) that what Lillard did Friday night was in stark contrast to what we are used to.
The night ended with cameos from Tim Frazier, CJ McCollum, and a Lillard family dance party on the stage.
Lillard vowed that there would be more shows to come but that this one was special. That it was. Rip City will remember this one for a long time.