It’s a curvy and meticulously landscaped drive out to the headquarters of iHeartRadio in Tigard. The building at the end of the road is half-business park, half-castle. At the front desk, two women listen to a viral-video mashup of Kanye West’s “I Love Kanye” and the old NBA on NBC theme song and laugh. A producer leads me down a narrow hallway with sweeping views of subdivisions and freeway lanes, into the womblike radio booth. There’s a “Keep Portland Weird” bumper sticker tacked to the wall, and just below it, a chart full of demographic information that reads “USE THIS TOOL TO IDENTIFY TARGET LISTENER FOR YOUR STATION(S).” This is where Terrance Scott—better known as local hip-hop godfather Cool Nutz—is prepping for today’s show.
It’s one of the city’s little miracles that, in these Clear Channel–owned surroundings, Portland native Scott manages to produce the weekly Breakout Show, with its focus on giving local hip-hop artists airtime. That show takes its civic responsibility seriously: breaking local artists, premiering new hip-hop tracks from the Northwest. But today he’s here to cohost the thoroughly entertaining Playlist, where he’s straight man to Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, who selects whatever jams he’s feeling at the moment and discusses the off-court life of a rising NBA star (which, apparently, involves binge-watching Empire and taking a lot of naps). The show is fun, but McCollum takes his radio duties seriously. A graduate of Lehigh University’s journalism program, “CJ is a consummate professional,” Scott says.
When McCollum—who lives down the street from the studio—shows up with this week’s guest, his mom, I ask him whether he partakes in the Portland nightlife. “Portland has no nightlife,” he quips instantly. He’s considering radio or print journalism as a post-basketball career, he says, but “I don’t have a clear picture of it. I’m young, and jobs are going to change—journalism is going to continue to change.”
When the taping begins, it’s clear that McCollum is an on-air natural. Between cuts from Maze and the Ojays, his banter with Scott is relaxed and sitcom-quick; he’s even playful in name-dropping the sponsors. There are no second takes.