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New School Principle: Mic Terror is setting the new standard for rap

By Joshua Weitz, Photos by Suzy Salazarfeatures
Dec 30, 2008 - 1:45 AM

Cutting across the deck in airport arrivals, Mic Terror keeps the head on his six-foot frame ducked low although his eyes stay cast looking straight ahead. From first glance one could mistake his nappy late 80's style hightop fade as a signal of unkempt appearance, until he clarifies that it's a calculated method of keeping style biters guessing. He's betting that people will be too afraid and lack the confidence to adopt the gruff look, so he can keep the swagger jacking hounds at bay for a little while longer and steadily remain a step ahead at all times. Making his way to a parked SUV, he swiftly grabs the shotgun seat of the Expedition and announces that the weather in San Francisco at 80 degrees is so much warmer than cold ass Chicago as his eyes survey the car’s interior. It's small talk and a mundane ice breaker and, as an interviewer, I'm hoping that he's not too tired from his flight to truly open up. That is, until he sees the plastic bag filled with comics in the back seat.

Almost on cue, Mic Terror launches into the lighthearted story of how he and his producer/DJ, Million Dollar Mano, first met. It was back in the 9th grade when he approached the young Emanuel (Mano) with a homemade comic he had written and illustrated himself; he thinks it was titled "Black Funeral." A comic and animation head himself, Mano was delighted to check out Mic's creation and was initially juiced on the dope story line Mic T had crafted. Although, later after closer examination, he was taken aback by Mic T's horrible stick figure drawings, Mano informed Mic Terror that he should definitely stick to writing and creating characters because that was what he was really good at. Which Mic did, and the rest is history in the making.

Flash forward 10 years and Mic Terror's trademark "Hi-Ooooo!" call, along with his smooth, lascivious and boastful rhymes have been making their way across the planet. Don't believe it? Check the colossal Adidas ad in Hollywood featuring M.I.A that lists Mic T's "Juke Them Hoes" as the track she busts a move to. Weaving rhymes dripping with sexual innuendo without looking like a lewd-perv takes real swag, and it’s something Mic T has cultivated since birth. Rhyming since he was seven years old, the Chicago denizen never wanted to be anything else but considered a king amongst the kings of MC’ing. Joining forces with high school collaborator Million Dollar Mano amplified his serious buzz nationally as he's joined the ranks of heavily lauded artists stampeding out of the Windy City. His mixtapes Welcome To The Terrordome volume one and two set him firmly in the spotlight. Now he's prepping a third and aptly-titled mixtape, King Of The New School, that he promises would qualify for five mics if the honor were available. On a recent stop in San Francisco, Mic T took a moment to lean back in the barber chair with Oh Dang! and elucidate on his recent battle with Mazzi, the usage of categories in hip-hop, and the separation between samurais and ninjas. Enjoy.

Listen to "Juke Them Hoes"

Oh Dang!: How did you come up with the name Mic Terror?

Mic Terror: Basically, it comes from my name Mike. And about 7th grade, I was writing a rap that went, "Yo they call me Mic/ The T stands for Terror/ bringing new styles to this era/" And I liked how that sounded and I've been rollin' with that since I was 12. I used to write Mic Terror on my shirt for gym class.

OD!: Is there any rapper out there without whose influence you can say you wouldn't be doing what you're doing now?

MT: I got four major influences. First off, Ice Cube. Second, Wu-Tang Clan. Third, Canibus and then Eminem.

OD!: So you couldn't narrow it down to one person.

MT: I think Canibus was originally my biggest influence from a lyrical standpoint. He let you know the difference between a rapper and an MC. You know, it's like samurai's and ninjas. And it made me realize I want to be a samurai with this shit.

OD!: When you were younger, I know you were into MC'ing but was there anything else within hip hop culture that you were really into?

MT: I used to DJ. I'd do house parties here and there. But I was never was too good at any of the other elements. I couldn't draw so I couldn't tag. Breakdancing, I was a little too paranoid of breaking my arm so I ain't get into that. So really DJ'ing, but I've been MC'ing since I was 7 years old so that was my strength within the elements. I didn't want to be a jack of all trades, I just wanted to be the king of one. Let the other cats do what they do. I'm a be an MC samurai.

OD!: Speaking of samurais. You had a short battle with Mazzi, has there been any closure to that situation?

Watch "Detention" by Mic Terror

MT: Closure? I mean, for the most part, the tension ended on the rap side. He hasn't come back. I haven't had any contact with him or his people. If he wanna take it personally, that's him. To me it's nothing.

OD!: How about the phone call? Was that real at all?

MT: It was partially real. But it was edited to sound a certain way. That was my voice on the recorder but a lot of things that I said were taken out, ran back, and chopped up. It's just real fugazi. I was smart though because when I first heard it, I was like, "Damn! That was dope." I wish I thought of that shit. As far the actual record, I felt like he didn't come hard. But the phone call was a dope move.

OD!: Part of that whole battle to me is the issue of the usage of labels. Major media outlets and people themselves are always creating labels and slapping them on people. There's gangsta rap, conscious rap, horror core rap, hardcore rap to name some ... and recently they have added nerd hop, or hipster hop. What do you think about labels and when they are applied specifically to you?

MT: I understand why labels exist and I do think they define certain artists but not all artists. If you really sit down and listen to my music, you might think something is "hipster" rap. Or you might think it's gangster rap. But I just spit my lifestyle, every aspect of it. Some of it is gangsta, some of it is conscious. It's just my overall outlook on life. I think real people can't fit into a box. People call rappers hypocrites for changing their ideas, but they're people! If you're making that real, passionate, and heartfelt music, it's just going to come out as real. A lot of critics said that 2pac was a gangster rapper. But if you were a real fan of 2pac you knew he was more than just a gangster rapper. People who call me a hipster rapper probably wasn't going to be a fan of me anyway, so I don't even care about 'em. So that's what I call my shit, "Real". I say what mothafuckas are scared to say.

OD!: How do you feel about the label hipster rapper being aimed at you?

MT: I don't even know necessarily where that's coming from. Because I like streetwear? That's the only reason I can see. Jeezy wears Crooks & Castles but nobody saying shit to him. So it's whatever.

OD!: Being on the fashion topic. Kanye came in with the Polos and tiny Louis V back pack, Jay-Z started the button up craze, Jim Jones has...

MT: The Ed Hardy steez.

OD!: Yeah, he has the skulls and scarves. And going back further, certain hip hop artists created a fashion niche. What would be yours?

MT: I'm most known for the hair cut. The high top. Right now, I got the De La Soul nappy high top ‘cause fools started biting the other high top. So I had to shake the biters and do some shit they scared to do. I figured they won’t rock the nappy high top for a minute. But I'm pretty much a Levi's, fresh fitted hat, new kicks type of dude.

OD!: The Chi gang culture is very prevalent and has a very long history. Growing up, what was your experience with that lifestyle and did you ever get sucked into it?

MT: In Chicago, if you're from a certain neighborhood, even if you ain't plugged in, you are what that neighborhood is. So you might as well be it. I lived off a GD (Gangster Disciples) block so all my friends are GD. So if I'm chillin' with them and another gang would come through, we all ridin'. I was looked at as one of them, but I wasn't. But I was from that area, so it is what it is. Gang culture is embedded in Chicago. It's ingrained in you. You gotta know the rules; it's part of your survival. Like, “Watch how you turn your hat. Be cool over here. Don't do this.” It's like The Warriors. You just gotta be knowledgeable about that shit and you'll be cool. The lamest, nerdiest dude knows all the rules. The guys around me always felt I was the weird dude from the block. I never wanted any part of that. I might have gotten into it a couple of times but they were like, "Naw, son this ain't for you."

OD!: The internet can make anyone famous for 15 minutes. What does an up and coming artist like you keep doing to keep interest in your music?

MT: Consistency and diversity. Constantly dropping new and changing material. Don't just let that one song be you. The internet is still the wild wild west. Everyone's just winging it. Everyone has their own way of doin' it.

OD!: What's in the pipeline for you?

MT: I got Mic Terror-Vision/Treated T.V. which is gonna be a YouTube channel; look out for that. It's gonna be interviews, skits, and jack ass shit. I've got a mixtape called King Of The New School. I got the Cool Kids in there, a lot of Chi Town heads on there, a joint with M.I.A and Rye Rye, along with some of the sickest freestyles. I dunno if mixtapes get five mics, but I'm going for it. I also got a joint with Kid Cudi and Jay Electronica but I don't know if that's gonna be done in time for the mixtape.


Joshua Weitz is an assistant editor and event coordinator for Oh Dang! A born and raised “Frisconian,” Weitz is a certified 80s baby. Between traveling the world, working 50 hour weeks and driving classic cars at top speed, he drops introspective and incisive questions on your favorite hip-hop artists.

Suzy Salazar is a freelance contributor to Oh Dang! She can be reached at souxiecue@gmail.com.

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