Humor me for just a moment, please, and imagine you’ve just stepped off of a plane in the flattest place in America. It’s about 110 degrees out and you take a look around, only to see miles and miles of flat, brown land stretched out in front of you. No mountains. No hills, for that matter. Welcome to Wichita, Kansas.

On August 16, 2011 I moved to a tiny college town in Southwestern Kansas to attend a very small school, (student body of about 200 students… total). I was born and raised in Newberg, Oregon, about 30 minutes south of Portland. I’m the girl that loves the rain, is used to 89 degree summers and swims in the freezing cold ocean in June. I could most likely live off of Voo-Doo Donut for the rest of my life and never get tired of the maple bacon bar. (By the way, who thought that up??) I grew up watching the Rose Parade with my dad from the same spot on the Burnside Bridge every year. I honestly don’t care about basketball, but I know things are good when the Blazers bring home a win. I am a Northwest girl through and through, and needless to say, landing in Kansas and looking around for the first time was shocking. I’ve been in Kansas for six months now and I’ll say, I’ve already learned a lot from this experience. But the number one lesson I’ve picked up so far is that where you’re from shapes who you are more than you could ever imagine.

“Home” is defined by Merrian Webster’s dictionary as, “one’s place of residence”. Popular NW hip hop artist, Tope, elaborates on this by saying, “They say home is where the hatred is / Home is what you make of it / Couldn’t pay the rent so now home is where the vacant is. / I heard love could turn the house into a home / But if there’s no love, then the house is just some stone.” Recently voted #2 in The Deli Magazine’s “Best of Portland” poll for “Best Emerging Act of 2011”, the man knows what he’s talking about. The first time I heard this remix of Kelli Schaefer’s “Home”, I fell head over heels in love. Over 1,000 hits on YouTube later, (not all of which are from me), I’m still listening to this track every chance I get. Tope’s work on this song is definitely classified as “hip hop”, but both he and Kelli’s soul and jazz influences are evident. While Kelli and Tope’s styles are incredibly different, (the NW version of Norah Jones meets Portland’s own up-and-coming hip hop star), the two come together to make a smooth, melodic piece of musical bliss with a video almost as magical as the song itself. Filled with iconic Portland images, this video is a tour through everything I miss from the “503”. The video begins with shots from the Portland airport and moves through the sidewalks of the city showing street view clips of Dante’s, the Max, the old Salvation Army sign, Portland Rescue Mission, and of course the beautiful white stag “Portland Oregon” sign, which I know as the former “Made In Oregon”. To me, this song and video together are extremely relevant and personal. It’s been a long time since I got to roam through Oregon but every time I hear this track or watch this video, for just a moment, I’m taken home.

Here on the Respect My Region blog, my focus will primarily be on NW hip hop music. I’ll be writing up reviews of artists, mix tapes and individual tracks, but I’ll also be sharing what it’s been like to live outside of the NW for the first time. I can tell you all, it’s a different world out here and I look forward to giving you a glimpse.