Mic Capes' Long-Awaited "Concrete Dreams" Paints Vivid Pictures of the Struggle and Triumph of Growing up Black in Portland

[STRAIGHT OUTTA ST. JOHNS] There are two very important musical statements Mic Capes conveys on his long-awaited album, Concrete Dreams. In one skit, the North Portland MC asks a group of kids what they want when they grow up. They talk excitedly about everything from being like Damian Lillard to owning a Bugatti. The following track, "Magic 8 Ball," finds Capes painting a vivid picture of the struggles he faced growing up in St. Johns, but never letting realities like "Daddy sold dope to pay the rent" tear down his spirit. Elsewhere, Capes wears his 2Pac and Ice Cube influences on his sleeve, addressing the black experience of being a target of police brutality on "One 4 O'Shea," a militant protest song that doesn't sugarcoat his message. As a body of work, Concrete Dreams will potentially shift Portland's overwhelmingly white identity, pushing forward the idea that artists like Capes—who performed at the first Portland Black Music Festival this month—are changing the status quo. Over 18 tracks, including a bonus cut dedicated to the street he grew up on ("Fessenden Flow"), Capes is vulnerable, revealing and bold, letting brash and colorful production bring a heartiness to listeners. He possesses a slick voice, commanding enough when he adopts a Kendrick Lamar vocal affect ("A.M. Thoughts") or effortlessly destroys a bouncy flow ("Jumper Cables"). While Capes got our attention with the lyrical barrage of "Razor Tongue," Concrete Dreams offers a sizable sampling of his gift for creating meaningful conversations that travel outside the city. ERIC DIEP.

Related: "Best New Band 2016: Mic Capes."

HEAR IT: Concrete Dreams will be available on iTunes and Bandcamp on Sept. 22.