Portland’s rising star Mic Capes drops his long awaited album Concrete Dreams after four years of preparation and buzz. The saying “you can’t rush great art” definitely applies to Cape’s sophomore release as you can hear the blood, sweat, and tears put into this project with even one listen. From the opening “Alia’s Prologue” featuring Alia Zin to the closing North Portland anthem, “Jumper Cables” featuring Vinnie Dewayne, Mic uses an array of producers and musicians throughout the 19 track project but it’s Capes himself who is the breakout star.
It seems like every time Mic Capes turns on the television these days, he sees a reflection of himself. He saw it in Beyoncé’s nod to the Black Panthers at the Super Bowl, and in Kendrick Lamar’s uncensored display of pain and anger at last month’s Grammys. It’s fuel, the St. Johns native says, to see like-minded artists on the world’s biggest stages.
“With their celebrity, they could just choose to sit back and collect money,” says the 26-year-old rapper born Michael Caples, “but they put a message out there, and they’re willing to make some people uncomfortable to do so.”
Capes is well aware of how America responds to raw displays of black pride. But the willingness to push through all the noise and express one’s personal truth is basically his mission statement. On songs like the fiery “Razor Tongue,” Capes engages closely with the country’s legacy of racial inequality, pointedly bouncing from references to broken homes and race wars, from Ronald Reagan to Marcus Garvey. He acknowledges that, if things had gone just a little differently for him, he easily “coulda been slangin’, bangin’, a killer, even a pimp.” If listeners take offense to any of it, his answer is curt: “I don’t really care if someone feels uncomfortable with me speaking on something I feel is wrong.”
Capes‘ aim to empower his community on wax is an outgrowth of the real-life work he does with Step Up, an organization supporting ninth-graders through their transition to high school and beyond. His forthcoming album, Concrete Dreams, is essentially directed toward those students, because he knows what they’ve been through. “It’s dedicated to inner-city youth,” he says. “People that come from poverty, messy violence and a rougher life.” He hopes it will also reach the nearsighted masses living across the bridge from where he grew up, and “open their mind to a new perspective.”
Topics ranging from police brutality, to gang violence, to aspirations of making it out of the neighborhood, to straight up bars, Mic Capes really does it all on latest release. Stand out track “Black Pearls” taps Trox and Tony Ozier on production, with vocal stylings from Aaron O’Bryan Smith and is an ode to the strong black woman, drawing inspiration from Mic’s own relationship. Take your time with this album as it defintely deserves your full attention.
That’s no simple feat. But Capes embraces the challenge.
“I don’t just do this because I like to rap,” he says. “I do it because I feel like what I’m saying needs to be heard, and there’s people that don’t have the voice that I have, or the platform I have.” – MATT SCHONFELD.
Stream/Download Concrete Dreams below, plus catch up on Cape’s visuals to go with the album.
Mic Capes – Concrete Dreams