Mic Crenshaw and Kool Chief Rocker are LOAD B (Last Of A Dying Breed). Award-winning poet and spoken word artist Kool Chief Rocker was one of three people stabbed in a 2017 hate crime on Portland public transit in which two men died when Rocker came to the defense of two women of color, one of whom was wearing a hijab. Micah was stabbed in the neck but survived. Chicago-born poet and emcee Mic moved to Portland after founding Anti-Racist Action, making him a lead figure in street wars between neo-Nazi skinheads and anti-racist youth in the Midwest in the 80’s and 90’s. Leading bands like Hungry Mob and Suckapunch before establishing his solo career, Crenshaw was 2001’s Portland Poetry Slam Grand Slam Champion, a National Poetry Slam finalist, and was voted Portland’s Best Hip Hop Artist by Willamette Week in 2016. Mic co-founded GlobalFam, a non-profit project to create and maintain a computer center for disadvantaged youth in Burundi. Over 400 people have received free training. Mic also partnered with Education WithOut Borders (EWOB), which supports education, music and art initiatives in Portland and beyond and serves as an umbrella for the local Books For Prisoners chapter and GlobalFam itself. Mic’s last solo release was Earthbound (miccrenshaw.com). Brink Of Distinction is set for a summer release.
You guys are very similar in your mission and aesthetic but you’re also from two different generations of hiphop. In what aspects do you think that gap is the widest?
MIC CRENSHAW: I literally think the gap between us is widest in terms of chronological age. There it is. Years. We recently played a show in Minneapolis and most of the audience were people I grew up around. The people that were close to Micah’s age were their children. Obviously with Micah being white and me being Black, there is a myriad of different ways in which we experience life.
ROCKER: The only wide gap I can perceive is that Mic is older and has a family, and is black. These differences have lead to vastly different experiences in life both growing up and just existing. But despite there being experiences he has that I will never fully understand, I’m still able to relate and understand via my own experiences in life.
In what aspects do you think you’re most similar?
MIC CRENSHAW: We both think deeply about the political, spiritual and existential. We both think that lyricism and having a message are integral to quality Hip Hop Music. I’m our own times as young men, we have both been committed to the concepts and activity of being involved in anti racist Skinhead culture as well as Hip Hop.
ROCKER: Both of us grew up in environments in which we had intimate relationships with violence, poverty, and prejudice. They fueled much of our experiences growing up. And by Meeting the mentors we have in our lives, Who passed their wisdom to us, it allowed us to see the context of why those things exist in the big picture of the society we live in. Which lead us both to extremely similar political, and morale philosophies.
Why did you decide to name the album Brink Of Distinction?
MIC CRENSHAW: It has a familiar ring to it reminiscent of the term; Brink of Extinction and let’s face it, the latter term holds weight. We live in a time where we don’t know what the future holds regarding the survival of humanity and the species we share the planet with. More specifically aligned to our project, the world doesn’t know who we are yet, what distinguishes us, but they’re about to. We are the Last Of A Dying Breed.
ROCKER: I feel like we both have been told by many people in our lives that greatness was inside of us. I personally agreed to the name because, as our first album, it was to me our moment of being on the brink of distinction as a duo. Symbolic of what we both hope to be a long adventure together into the discomfort of growth, especially as artists.
Micah, what’s the biggest way your life has changed since the attach in Portland? Do you feel as though you’ve made some measure of peace with it yet?
ROCKER: I am no longer able to stay quiet and uninvolved in the things, political or otherwise, that are occuring in portland. It would keep me up at night if I didn’t atleast stay as aware as possible, And actively engaging in such things helps me process the problems that created the situation that changed every part of my life without my permission. As far as coming to peace with my life now, it’s a complicated daily process. It’s harder some days then others. I have certainly gotten some semblance of peace, but I’m not sure i’ll ever settle into the new normal of my life.
MIC CRENSHAW: Shout out to all the supporters of what we’re up to. I want to acknowledge that there are people like us everywhere engaged in quality work that aligns with a purpose higher that individual gratification. Let’s continue to grow strive to win.
ROCKER: Shout out’s to Theory Hazit, Trox, Dj Wicked and Dj Klavical, Who have all contributed significantly to the sonic feeling of the album. Shouts to Anael, Eloe, Mandela, Magic, Beutee, and all my Caldera family for the gift of teaching me how to be human. Finally shout out to all the hip hop artists persevering through the Suppressive Bullshit of PPB and the OLCC. We got something beautiful goin on in the town. We won’t shut up or give in.