Local artists ready to (w)rap their talents around national acts
by: Courtesy of Arian Stevens Rapper Mic Crenshaw is a musician/poet who has become a leading hip-hop artist in Portland. He also has worked on behalf of disadvantaged youth in Central Africa by helping to set up a computer center in Burundi.

Ice Cube, you've been warned - your opening act, Hanif 'Luck-One' Collins, plans to hijack your audience this Friday, April 8, at the Roseland Theater as part of the Soul'd Out Music Festival.

'I always want to leave them saying he was much better than the person they came to see,' Luck-One says when asked how he handles opening for big names.

The ambitious young man has already opened for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Naughty By Nature, among others. A witty, classically trained, socially conscious Portland hip-hop artist, Luck-One plans to use the moment to promote his latest album, 'True Theory.'

'It's gonna be crazy man, it's gonna be nuts,' Luck-One says of the Ice Cube show. 'It'll be interesting to see what his crowd is like after all these years.'

These days, Ice Cube is probably better known for his warmhearted TV and movie acting than his controversial music, which in the late 1980s and early 1990s helped define gangsta rap. However, his influence on the current generation of hip-hop artists can't be denied and neither can the collective influence of the artists coming to town for the Soul'd Out Festival, which runs from Thursday, April 7, to Sunday, April 17.

The festival kicks off with a performance by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans and Portland's own MarchFourth Marching Band, at 8 p.m. April 7, in the Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W. Burnside St.

Some of the biggest names in African-American and Afro-influenced music today will be on hand over the next 10 days, including:

• Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of the famous Marsalis musical family of New Orleans, which includes Branford and Wynton. (Aladdin Theater, April 16).

• Dr. Lonnie Smith, master of the Hammond B-3 organ (Mississippi Studios, April 14).

• Lauryn Hill, the ex-Fugee who carved out her own idiosyncratic career (Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, April 9).

• Prolific hip-hop artist Mos Def (Roseland Theater, April 16).

• New Orleans gender-bender bounce queen Big Freedia (Holocene, April 8).

The festival's spirit is probably best embodied by its artists-in-residence, the Hot-8 Brass Band, whose members play hip hop, rhythm 'n' blues, funk and jazz. The group will perform with Hill, Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears and Mos Def, among others.

Haytham Abdulhadi, one of the festival's promoters, says Soul'd Out is designed to bridge all kinds of audiences, from jazz and funk lovers to hip-hop and electronica fans.

'We thought that this one would transcend the generations,' he says.

Local souls

Luck-One is among the local artists who will be performing on stage with national acts. Abdulhadi says the promoters deliberately wanted to highlight 'the local players that mean a lot in the community,' including rapper Mic Crenshaw and the Doo Doo Funk All-Stars.

'A lot of promoters tend to overlook local talent,' he says. 'It's definitely exciting to have a lot of people locally based involved with this.'

Many of the local artists are happy to see a festival that celebrates soul, notes Tony Ozier, frontman/singer for the Doo Doo Funk All-Stars.

'There's not a whole lot of soul bands in Portland,' Ozier says. 'I think the soul and the funk is coming back to Portland, and I think the festival definitely proves it.'

His band, which has collaborated with Bootsy Collins, Cool Nutz and Soul-T, gets decent turnouts when it plays, a sign that Portland yearns for funk.

'You can tell that it was a void that was missing,' he says.

Ozier's group will open for the upbeat funky Breakestra, an 11-piece band out of L.A, that will storm Dante's April 15.

Another local to catch during Soul'd Out is Mic Crenshaw, opening for Mos Def at the Roseland, April 16.

'I really appreciate what Haytham has done with the Soul'd Out music fest and the range of artists he brings,' Crenshaw says. 'I don't feel like we (in Portland) get oversaturated with the kind of music in the Soul'd Out festival.'

Crenshaw's opening date with Mos Def comes at an opportune time. His new album, 'Under the Sun,' has received critical praise in the hip-hop community, and its first single, 'Yeah,' spent six weeks on the Rapattacklives Top 30 Chart, peaking at No. 2.

Like other local artists, Crenshaw says the talent coming to town for Soul'd Out overwhelms him. He hopes to check such newer artists as Das Racist, the humorous Brooklyn rappers, but is sure he'll miss some shows he wished he could see.

'There's really too much music for me to catch,' he says with a chuckle.

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