DEAR PEOPLE who say there's nothing to do in Portland: Last week I chatted with local emcee and former radio personality StarChile (Jammin' 95.5, JAM'N 107.5) to see what was up with Mic Check, a new monthly hip-hop showcase in North Portland. In contrast to the Thesis at Kelly's Olympian every first Thursday, Mic Check will happen every last Thursday at the White Eagle (sorry kids, this show is another 21-and-upper).
"The deal was too good to pass up," says StarChile, who's hosted Portland parties since 1999. He joined forces with DJ Klyph (XRAY.fm) to snatch up the deal with McMenamins. StarChile will curate, coordinate, and host the show each month, while XRAY.fm is an official sponsor for the event and will provide support with on-air promotions. Portland producer Trox will be the resident DJ for Mic Check, and also helped secure local designer Dan Yaker to create the flyer.
The series kick-off will feature two local emcees with the name of Mic: Mic Crenshaw, one of Portland's most seasoned acts, and Mic Capes, the promising—and quickly rising—rapper from St. Johns. The other special guest on the bill is Jon Belz, who will be backed up on the boards by Klyph.
"Hopefully it'll actually turn into bodies in the building," says StarChile.
While the fact that it's a last Thursday show might seem opportunistic (what with the traditional NE Alberta celebration becoming less and less popular due to blatant gentrification and a shooting incident last summer), StarChile says it was just the most convenient time.
"I didn't want to have it on first Thursday because I didn't want to compete with the Thesis. I didn't want to come in and make people choose between one and the other," he says. "There's enough little weird tensions in the hip-hop scene."
Ain't it the truth.
A born and raised Portlander, StarChile knows the importance of coming together to build within the hip-hop community. Even with an all-star team behind the project, and the low cost of admission ($5 in advance, $7 at the door), he stresses the importance of public involvement at Mic Check and events like it. And he's well aware that the biggest hurdle for the scene is overcoming Portland's attitude, which is typically reluctant to support local artists.
Fortunately, since the White Eagle has a lower capacity than other McMenamins' venues, Mic Check can start small with the objective of selling out and creating buzz.
"If we can [consistently] pack out a spot that holds 100 people... let's make this crazy and then let's move it," StarChile says.
He'd also like to include other elements of hip-hop beyond just emcees, adding, "I want it to be a destination for hip-hop in general."
While Star says he does want to keep the event performance-based, it'll be flexible from month to month. For instance, instead of doing a three-person lineup, one month the show could be an album release party for a local artist.
"I want to keep it focused before adding a bunch of stuff," he says. "There's not a lot of money involved, and I don't like to not pay people. I want to make sure I'm able to pay people for their time and their services. That's why it's also so important that people show up and support it."