Which came first, the poet or the MC? Broaching the philosophical debate implies the two are not one in the same. History shows us otherwise, whether the funky notes of blues rattled off the tongue of greats like Billie Holiday, or, more recently, the appearance of the Last Poets on Nas's [Untitled], poetry is relevant and prevalent.
Bianca Mikahn is the answer. Balancing the grit and the grind with eloquence and grace, in boy's town, this self proclaimed Box State baby is Queen. Front woman of hip-hop, funk band Paradox, Bianca is a poet, vocalist and MC. Her quintessential artistry is defined by activism with youth, an involuntary connection to hip-hop and undeniable talent. We recently sat down with Mikahn and chopped it up with her on sexuality, hip-hop requirements and the ultimate paradox. This is why shes hot.
Westword (Ru Johnson): Whats so special about you?
Bianca Mikahn: My multi-everything-ism. From racial background to genre representation to social outlook, I really feel like I work to hone talents of proper assessment towards different perspectives.
WW: In your view, which came first, the MC or the poet?
BM: The desire for the MC came first, when I saw my brothers rapping Run DMC back and forth to each other. Everything I wrote was in meter, but when I started spitting, it was more free verse poetry. I got really comfortable in that realm. Being that my rap cadence and style is unprecedented; it took me a second to figure out how to work the MC side.
WW: How does being a poet influence your MC status?
BM: It offers me a wider scope of possibility. I might pause in an atypical place that results in something rhythmically fascinating. Poets have to be ready to go with one mic or no, so there's something brazenly freeing about knowing that as long you can speak; you can put on a show -- fuck the P.A. Neumann ain't got shit on a diaphragm.
WW: Talk about your main projects.
BM: Paradox is home, and I've learned much by ways of business and production. I am writing on some local projects, an unexpected bit of sugar coming out with O.N.E. of Infinite Mindz, guest spots on Ronin with Ace of Paradox and a slew of other projects. The non-profit work! Heavy mental health activism with Art from Ashes [therapeutic poetry workshops] and Check Your Head with Mental Health of America [hip-hop and mental health]. The arts are a great vehicle for change. As rates of suicide, mental illness and self mutilation rise in our communities we need to have the vocabulary to affect change. I try to spit loud and honest enough to do something for the pain.
WW: How can women MCs and artists come across as sexy and discuss sexuality without being Trina or Nicki Minaj?
BM: I wanna say something judicious about people finding different things sexy. Shit, I had a hard time looking away from Minaj's rack! I guess people choose the perspective that they want to take on the subjects they approach. Dudes say shit like, "I think smart girls are sexy," and that is cute, however untrue, in general. I trust inference and imagination. What a pause or a breath can do. I think work is sexy, when someone is simply convinced about themselves enough to convince you. Confidence.
WW: What's your favorite Mos Def album?
BM: Aw damn, killing me with this. Well, technical albums I'd say Black on Both Sides or the latest, The Ecstatic. I'd have thrown on a couple from the middle children albums like "Dollar Day" from True Magic, "The Beggar" or "Bedstuy Parade & Funeral March," from The New Danger.
WW: Finish this sentence: When I step on stage, I feel ...
BM: Called, to do the work to manage the energy in the room and do my muses justice.
WW: Who are female MCs you listen to?
BM: Locally I keep eyes on the Aja Black of the Reminders, Patience Syrus, Heaven, Basheeba Earth. X L Wing has stepped back on stage; in that sense has influenced me. Non-local, I'm remiss to say. I'm slipping on the ladies lyrical newness. I havent salivated for something since Bahamadia, Rah Digga, Ladybug Mecca and Lauryn Hill.
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WW: Where can we find you in the city taking over a mic on a random eve?
BM: Anywhere Paradox is. Appaloosa can find me when Big Wheel or Lamp is there. Mercury Cafe has always been a home. Anything Art from Ashes or Check Your Head related. I'm called to a lot of mikes right now.
WW: Is there such a thing as hip-hop requirements? And if so, what are those requirements?
BM: Funny thing is when I was younger I had these dreams of a panel that governed such affairs! At this point I don't think so. Mind you, the question was, 'Is there?' Not, 'Should there be?' I think all you have to do is be convinced. I remember when using the same anchor word in your rhyme was unacceptable; who knows what might be normalized next?