PORTLAND, Maine — Before Snoop Dogg — he of the 30 million album sales and almost as many monikers — takes the stage in Portland on Thursday, two of the state’s top performers will do so first.
If there are Maine music fans who don’t yet know Wells rapper Cam Groves or Saco native Brandon Aull — or B.Aull — the high-profile spot opening for Snoop could help make the connection.
Aull will be the first to go on stage, between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., and have a 30-minute set, he said in comments distributed Monday by his alma mater, Thornton Academy.
Aull — who first gained attention in Maine for a song and video he released last year to memorialize his former classmate and Biddeford shooting victim Alivia Welch — said Meg Shorette, executive director of the annual KahBang Festival in Bangor, helped him line up a slot in the Portland concert.
The Snoop Dogg show is being produced by the Bangor-based Waterfront Concerts, known for bringing big-name acts like Dave Matthews Band and Tim McGraw to the Queen City.
This year, Waterfront Concerts is making a bigger splash in the larger Portland market as well, lining up performers like Alanis Morissette, 3 Doors Down and ZZ Top for shows on the Maine State Pier, in addition to the aforementioned Snoop Dogg concert and others.
“It’s awesome, because it’s my first really big show in southern Maine and there’s likely to be near — if not more than — 1,000 people there,” Aull, now a student of Husson University’s New England School of Communications, said of the Snoop show. “[I]t’s an accumulation of a few years of hard work and releasing free music and various music videos, as well as doing shows throughout Maine and Massachusetts; steadily building a fan base and great supporters.”
Aull acknowledged that Maine fans will pack the Portland Expo on Thursday night because of Snoop Dogg’s fame and notoriety — the southern California rapper burst onto the charts with his No.1 debut album “Doggystyle” in 1993, and has in recent years switched genres and names to Snoop Lion and Snoopzilla, among others.
But Aull said those same Maine fans will probably find something more relatable in the lyrics he and Groves offer up.
“As for Snoop Dogg himself and his lyrical content, he may have said some crazy things in his earlier music, but he grew up in a place that you and I and a lot of people from Maine probably don’t understand,” Aull said. “In hip-hop music, people — for the most part — write about their lives, real life experiences and the things they grew up around and saw. So for me, growing up in the suburbs of Maine, I write about things I know and have experienced. Whether it’s the struggle of living a lifestyle people don’t understand, having fun with your friends, or a song about a love interest, I always try my best to keep it real to me but also relatable for the listener.”
But while Aull made his mark with a very solemn subject matter — in Welch’s controversial death — Groves is better known for his levity.
A close associate of “ The King of Maine” rapper Spose, Groves went viral in 2012 with his satirical rap serenade of Kennebunk prostitute Alexis Wright, whose scandalous story of taking sex-for-money clients through her fitness studio made global news. He still sells “Free Alexis” T-shirts on his website, www.camgroves.com, where fans can also buy his three albums and other merchandise.
In an online biography, Groves said he was first introduced to rap when Snoop Dogg was making his debut, and the Wells native went on to become “a fervent fan” of the Wu-Tang Clan.