Underground Spotlight: MIKE
Monthly Listeners: 105,344 (September 2019)
Associated Acts: Earl Sweatshirt, Navy Blue, King Carter
My Favorite Project: War in My Pen
My Favorite Tracks: Prayers, Grabba, HURDLES, AFC, and Ain’t No Love
Ok ok ok it's Wednesday. I'm sorry for the late post but we had hella articles drop yesterday so I thought today would be better to drop it today. Anyways... It’s week three of the Underground Spotlight! Once again, I would like to thank all of you for taking time out of your day and reading my article. I enjoy seeing all of the feedback and I love getting suggestions of who to put on the spotlight in the coming weeks. But, before I get started with week three, I want to announce that Supa put me on his Instagram story and retweeted my tweet so I’m pretty much a HUGE deal and a clout god. Just thought I would point that out because I’m a literal man among boys. Nah I’m just playing, but I am actually starstruck as I’m typing this and I just want to give a last shoutout to Supa Bwe for recognizing me. With that being said, week three, here we go!
On today’s spotlight, I’m featuring the fantastic rapper MIKE. MIKE was born in South Livingston, New Jersey but grew up in England. Later in his teens, he lived in Philadelphia for four years and then in Brooklyn. Although his upbringing was very scattered and colorful, his music definitely conveys a New York flow. He is known for collaborating with rappers like Earl Sweatshirt and for using intriguing, grimy, and chaotic instrumentals. He has been actively making music since he was 14, but really started to take off after his mixtape God Bless Your Hustle which he astonishingly recorded at eighteen years old.
My first time listening to MIKE’s music was after the release of his albumWar in my Pen after Earl Sweatshirt gave the album a shoutout on Twitter. I'm always open to new music, so I gave it a listen. Little did I know the dramatic influence this record would have on me. The album is a straight masterpiece from front to back. It is filled with sorrow, spliffs, and sportatic instrumentals. The songs “Prayers” and “Grabba” reveal MIKE’s tremendous family values and the constant struggles that he faced at the time. The song “Nothin’ to Me” discusses his loneliness while in New York and the difficulty of trusting new friends. Every song portrays different messages and different lessons that he has learned in life and lessons that he hopes the listener can gain. Once I heard this album, I had to listen to more and I was mesmerized by what I found. While the lyrics of the songs are captivating, the first aspect of MIKE’s raps that caught my attention was his voice. Some may consider it boring to a sense because of his monotone voice, but I feel the complete opposite. I feel his voice symbolizes all the hardships and despair that is engraved into his depressing lyrics. In the song “HURDLES”, he says the devestating quote “Depressed and I'm lonely, I don't give a fuck, don't address me as MIKE if you don't know me as such”. His monotonous voice in this song cultivates the mood of the line. If he were to show mass amounts of emotions and different voice changes, it simply wouldn’t be able to convey the aganous tone that MIKE is trying to portray in his music. His nasally voice truly resembles how he is feeling at the time of the creation of each song. He is not trying to show false beliefs or “flex” like other rappers will; he is simply trying to emphasize the complex and different mindset that he encompasses.
But what really drives MIKE to prodigiousness is his insane samples and instrumentals. His mixing on all of his records is phenomenal. He uses booming piano chords, beautiful voice samples that tend to dominate his tracks, and a New York style flow that creates a distinct method for MIKE. His music is unlike anyone I have heard before. African culture has a huge impact on almost all of his rap samples which shows the beauty of different types of jazz and blues intermixed into his discography. His instrumentals are unique and have a crisp delivery. One last thing that distinguishes MIKE from the thousands of other rappers who use Soundcloud is how he lays out his albums on Soundcloud. As almost all artists split an album into individual tracks, MIKE only has albums in full length. No cuts. No tracklist. Nothing. As many might find this a small touch and a slight inconvenience, I find it astonishing. I feel that every album should be played start to finish and no skipping songs. I believe that MIKE wants us to look as his albums as a collective story, not tracks. He wants us to look at his music as a Gestalt and not from a functionalist viewpoint. Each album seems to symbolize a different part of his life that needs to be explored. I really respect the choice of doing that with his music. It proves that he has a distinct style and he won’t let anyone fuck with it. And I respect the hell out of it.
MIKE is a beautiful artist that everyone needs to hear. I really believe that his music is super creative and conveys a stylistic viewpoint that not many artists are not willing to try. You can tell the impact that rappers like Earl Sweatshirt or MF DOOM have played in his music (Maybe MF DOOM is the reason his name is all caps, I don’t know). If you like rappers like Akai Solo or Cosmo Pyke, you will probably enjoy MIKE. His latest album came out in June and talks about the struggles he faced after the death of his mom, titled Tears of Joy. The album is incredibly moving and powerful, so I totally recommend that you guys listen to it. Check out my favorite singles that are listed above but really check out the rest of his discography. Well, that’s all I got. Peace!!