Feature, Interview, Preview

Mic Phelps & the Plug debut at Detroit Shipping Co. beer garden, April 25

By Kevin Alan Lamb

Sunshine in the forecast, spring, and summer on the mind. I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate first show in the Beer Garden than Mic Phelps & the Plug. When I learned it was time to start booking shows at Detroit Shipping Company, I poured over a seemingly infinite number of experiences thinking of acts that would be a good fit to help us build a live music program in the Cass Corridor. I thought of my friends Brian and Blake, and our experiences together at SXSW in Austin some years ago.

Maybe a week later, I found my way to my first Sofar Sounds show at a house in New Center. I booked one of the musicians I work with (Michael Bush) to play that night, and was excited to experience the intimate, under the radar, pop up concert series that I’d been seeing great music videos produced from for years. I learned that both Bryce and Bryan worked with Sofar Sounds Detroit, and Bryan was there that very evening along with Mic Phelps & the Plug. Despite the time we spent together at SXSW, and occasionally crossed paths in Detroit, I had never seen a performance until that night.

Mic Phelps is smooth, intelligent, silly, and a powerful voice in the Detroit community. He speaks truth from his heart, from someone who has been around, been there, and is staying there. He wrote his first poem in third grade during Black History Month, and 20 years later he was named Motown Museum Spoken Word Artist Of the Year.

Like many who live and breathe Detroit, he is neither content nor fooled with face lifts and the gentrification of pockets within the city. For many who come and go from the city for a good time and Detroit experience, it is easy to overlook the failing infrastructure and the children, men, and women it is failing. It is the responsibility of art to portray reality in a manner that will move people to not only see behind the curtain but believe the status quo is insufficient and indecent.  

I appreciate the man behind the message, and the message behind the music. Mic Phelps & the Plug are an authentic music experience produced by professionals who are on the front line of giving a shit about their home.

Tell us the story of how you and your backing band, The Plug, found your way to one another?

The Plug started off with my pops and I and two of his high school students. With my father being a teacher and them being students and underage made booking difficult, so I reached out to a homie from elementary school that my father taught when we were in his band class. He (Aaron Green) and his brother (Willie Green) and a mutual friend and artist peer (Demetrius Parker) came together to become The Plug. Things have been going terribly ever since!

How old were you when you wrote your first poem? Do you remember what prompted it? I wrote mine in 7th grade when my Language Arts teacher asked me to.

First poem ever was third grade I wrote a poem for black history month entitled Black Is Me. This poem won me the title of Poet Of The Month and also got me the chance to see Maya Angelou live. Shit was lit.

I heard you received a pretty badass award from the Motown Museum?

Funny that 20+ years later I was awarded the title of Motown Museum Spoken Word Artist Of the Year.  I have been honored to hold that title, as Motown Museum has been doing an incredible job of preserving Motown’s legacy. I’ve learned a lot that I didn’t know about Motown and def gained an even greater respect for Berry Gordy and his vision. Or it could just be my imagination running away with my again…

In your eyes, what’s the weirdest thing about new Detroit?

There is no new Detroit in my eyes. I believe new Detroit is just suburbanites moving to small pockets of the city and shopping at even smaller pockets. But I still see thousands of kids being miseducated undervalued and simply ignored in our school system which carries an alarmingly low graduation rate. The water fountains have been shut off in most schools. In the neighborhoods of “old Detroit” there are still streets with no lights, police who have no genuine connection or love for the community it patrols and “protects”. The REAL Detroit is a food desert. Whole Foods wouldn’t be caught dead set up on 7 Mile and the lodge until Dan Gilbert or another big wig comes and deems it safe or acceptable. Potholes inhabit our streets like squatters who won’t leave as our car insurance stays at astronomically high monthly rates. New Detroit is like the Fyre Festival of Old Detroit. It’s a pretty picture with Instagram models and beautiful ideas but nothing concrete and the real citizens are left with the ruins and empty promises. Somebody please call JA!!!!

Who are a few of your favorite writers/lyricists?

Favorite lyricists and writers of all time would be:

Macs The Realest

Lil Wayne

2pac

Jay-Z

Richard Wright

Twista

Langston Hughes

Stephen King

Edgar Allen Poe

Natasha Miller

Brent Smith

Lawrence Young

Doc Illignsworth

David Blair

Dee Matthews

One Be Lo

Whoever wrote the song YO by Chris Brown

Mic Phelps.

Why is your kid so much better than you at making oatmeal?

My kid is better than me at making oatmeal because he is a genius. He is a product of SxSW, a multiple thousand square foot compound, an eighter of boomers and the unbreakable love and attraction I have for my beautiful fiancé Ashley Michele.  And because I’m lazy and would always wait until my Mom made oatmeal so I never learned.

Just in case you were listening for one, This Is A Good Sound, and the message behind the music. Please join us Thursday, April 26 at Detroit Shipping Company for a beautiful night in the Beer Garden with Chavis Chandler. Ticket are $8 in advance, $12 at the door. The forecast is beautiful, and so are you.

Tickets here

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