Mic Crenshaw

Posted: August 8, 2011

Interview by Chris Richards, July 2011

Born on the south side of Chicago, and raised in both Chicago and Minneapolis, Mic is a world class MC and poet now emerging on the national – and international stage. After significant music and social work in Minneapolis Mic moved to Portland where he quickly became one of the most respected artists in the Northwest. In 2001, Crenshaw won The Portland Poetry Slam Championship and went on to finish as a national finalist. In the coming years he became the driving force for some of most popular hip hop artists in the region, including Hungry Mob, Suckapunch and Cleveland Steamers, releasing numerous albums.


Can you give us a brief explanation of who you are and what you do?

I am an emcee, poet, activist, educator, father, worker.

What Goals do you have with your art and its impact on the world?

I hope to raise the level of consciousness of those exposed to my art and to also affirm what they already know, respect and feel.

Ideally, what experience or impact would an audience member take away from your live performance?

I want them to get the sense that there is good music with a strong message that is fun to listen to and that the personality of the artists should leave a lasting impression on the audience.

What place does art & creativity have within building a resistance movement?

Music with a message has always been an integral part of affirming my rights and desire to stand for justice. We need that shit!

You were a founding member of the ARA, how does your experiences with direct action and organizing inform your art?

Fighting in the street and bleeding for my beliefs as well as being a target of law enforcement gives my art a visceral edge. I feel it in every aspect from writing to delivery, the vibe I get when I choose what music I want to accompany my flows and the energy I exude when I perform.

Do you have any favorite pieces or experiences you’d like to talk about?

Getting to perform outdoors on a school campus in Rwanda for about 700 students and community members and hearing the silence of the audience as I performed and feeling the heat of a late afternoon in Central Africa stands out it my mind.

You’ve worked with youth as an educator, how does this work inform your art and vise versa?

I get to check in with the youth and see what they are listening to, what they like, and respond to. There is a lot of work to be done as far as spreading information in a way that is accessible  to youth. I feel a sense of urgency that is sometimes met with what seems like apathy. I don’t blame youth for this. It is troubling though and points to a lot of issues in society that lead to young folks being disconnected from their power. On the other hand I have had to opportunity to inspire and e inspired by some of the most amazing artist I have come to know.

Do you feel that using your art for social and political purpose has been successful?  Howso?

Always. When I share myself, art and vision with people it is mutually beneficial as we all learn, experience the joy of co creating culture based in our experience and come away feeling inspired to keep on keeping on.

Do you have advice for other artists looking to use their talent for political purposes?

Using talent for political purposes could mean so many things. It could just mean trying to get ahead in life, trying to organize a movement, or get laid by someone you deem worthy of your romantic aspirations so as to have access to their skills. Hopefully it would be a bit of the first two and less of the latter and ultimately an expression of your true self in its highest integrity.

Humor is important and take yourself as seriously as you do those you look up to.

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