Hip Hop Headquarters sits down with Chicago-born, Portland-bred poet and emcee Mic Crenshaw.
Which specific ecological crisis do you feel is biggest right now and why? What do you propose we can realistically do about it?
Capitalism driving the deterioration of the oceans through rising temperatures, bleaching of coral reefs, acidification of the water and decreasing the oxygen levels in the water is probably one of the biggest crises we face as a planet that supports life as we know it, including humans. The current and ongoing transformation of the oceans will include massive die offs and extinction of species that humanity depends on for food. This in turn will effect countless other species from plankton to apex predators and the consequences are actually immeasurable. Since we can’t seem to think beyond capitalism, the economic consequences will devastate the global financial systems. We have to simultaneously create systems of governing that are not based on profit while redistributing wealth and resources into creating repair and building systems that can sustain and heal the natural world where possible. The re prioritization of human values and industry will have to be pursued with the same vigor that we pursue war and profit.
What do you feel is the strongest line you’ve ever written and why?
“Thoughts make energy, shock wave symphony, potentially eliminate blockades mentally, all aspects of my abilities are all assets or liabilities.”
These bars were taken from “I Am” a song on my Thinking Out Loud album released 2008. The rhyme is powerful as it speaks about transforming consciousness into matter and having the power to create and or destroy within ones being and awareness. It’s also multiple bars of multi syllabic rhyming.
You’ve set up a charity in Burundi. Have you been there? Tell us about your travels and how they inform your art.
The computer center that I helped establish in Burundi is the result of international solidarity work resulting from a trip to the Central African Great Lakes Region in 2004. I was invited as an activist to participate in a conference on Genocide Reconciliation, Economic Justice, Youth Empowerment and HIV/AIDS in Rwanda. One of the conditions for participation in the conference was that I do 2 years of follow-up work related to the conference upon return to the U.S. There were over 50 different activists from various countries in the Central African region and throughout Africa in attendance. Some of the activists were from Burundi, a neighboring country to Rwanda. Burundi’s history is similar to that of Rwanda and youth in the region were experiencing deep trans-generational poverty and lack of access to education. Two activists from Burundi approached me and asked me to assist in establishing a computer center that would help youth become computer literate. I had already visited one community center where students were learning to use computers on cardboard replicas of computers. I was impressed by the tenacity and will to succeed at endeavors that would benefit the youth and communities in the areas I visited. Upon return from Africa, my business partner Morgan Delaney went to work figuring out how to answer the call that had been put forth in Rwanda. We approached a local company called Free Geek and got them to donate 7 desktop computers. I knew in order to sustain our efforts, Hip Hop had to be a part of it. We decided to throw a Hip Hop concert featuring Dead Prez as the headliner and up and coming local youth artists to raise money to ship computers to Burundi. The concert was a huge success, the computers were shipped and the computer center has educated hundreds of youth and expanded to a second location. I have not returned to Rwanda or ever been to Burundi to visit the computer center. I hope to return to Rwanda before 2020 and see both centers in Burundi. The word of the success with the computer center project in Burundi led to me being invited to Zimbabwe in 2012 to play the Shoko International Music Festival. I met comrades in Zimbabwe who were organizing an international touring project spanning multiple African countries. I asked if I could be involved and they invited me to participate on the condition that I helped organize the project. In 2013, 2014, 2015 I was able to tour South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tanzania with the Afrikan Hiphop Caravan, hiphopcaravan.net. Relationships I formed with comrades in Africa resulted in me touring in Germany in 2015 and going to Cuba in 2018. Travel is a huge reward and result of my work. I love traveling more than life itself and I have a deep love for Africa and intend on going there to live indefinitely at some point. There are so many countries to see and I haven’t decided where I would like to live yet. My perspective on life expands every time I travel. I get to see and experience things that cause me to reflect on new and old lessons in different ways. As a writer, I can draw endless inspiration from my memories and things I hope to accomplish in the future.
What’s a life motto you try to live by?
A motto I live by is “have something to look forward to”. I’m a dreamer and a visionary. Trying to see new places, be better at what I’m good at, learn new things, all of these things inspire me. My imagination is where the dreams and visions that drive my work take place. I have to continue to grow and push to reach broader audiences, have deeper experiences, visit new places and make better music.
What do you think makes Pacific Northwest hiphop music unique from the hiphop coming out from the rest of the country today?
The Pacific Northwest has never had the shine that LA, NYC, Atlanta and the Bay have had as far as Hip Hop. This has forced artists to work harder to be noticed and respected and it has created a culture with a strong work ethic and sense of determination that is remarkable. Due to the fact that we’ve never been a region that gets a great deal of credit for its Hip Hop, we’ve had a situation where artists have looked to other regions for inspiration and still maintained whatever sense of style and pride they associated with their home state and city neighborhood. You might hear a little bit of the South, Midwest, East Coast and a whole lot of the West Coast in the Northwest” unique brand of Hip Hop.