By Trevor Jones
MIKE, a 19-year-old New Yorker, is making subtle impressions among the hip-hop world. For now.
A couple months back, I was browsing /r/earlsweatshirt in hopes of finding any information about the then dormant rapper’s much anticipated 3rd studio album. A user posted a thread asking about artists like Earl and at the time, I was yearning for music that would distract me from the drought. The top voted comment was about some rapper named MIKE, so I decided to give him a quick search on Apple Music. I listened to Black Soap (2018), a 7-track mixtape, front to back and was slightly interested. Tracks like “Ministry” and “God Save the Queen” feature some really cool, lo-fi, and hypnotic production. I then moved onto Renaissance Man (2018), a slightly longer project featuring similar characteristics. He wistfully spits over a fascinating sample beat on “Peace Offering (feat. Fleece Flies)”. I began to see he and Earl’s likeness on the gritty, aggressive, and fragmented production on “For the Nation (feat. Kam Young & King Carter)”.
After going through these two projects, I was officially a fan of MIKE. I wanted to know more about him and how he came to be. MIKE was born in New Jersey, but in his early childhood, he and his family relocated to Britain. While there, he didn’t really listen to a lot of hip-hop, but he distinctly remembers watching some British rappers perform on TV. After that seemingly insignificant moment, MIKE gained an interest in the world of rap/hip-hop. A few years later, he moved back the States (NYC). He acquainted himself with some other young men and they eventually formed a collective known as [sLums]. Check out this interview that further touches on MIKE’s past and motives.
Only a few weeks after the pointer from that Reddit thread, Earl finally dropped Some Rap Songs, and I was very surprised to learn that the two artists are actually close friends. On “Nowhere2go”, a track discussing Earl’s recurring depression, he raps, “I be with Mike and Med (Mike, Med)”. Around Christmas, Earl plugged MIKE’s newest album, titled War in My Pen, on his Instagram story. I listened to it and was simply amazed; even though the project only came out with a few days left in the calendar year, War in My Pen firmly placed itself among my favorites of 2018. “Grabba” and “October Baby” feature dreamy loops (like some tracks from SRS), which reveal MIKE’s versatility as a rapper and producer.
Simply put, 2018 was MIKE’s year despite the fact that he flew under the radar. I anticipate that 2019 will bring MIKE into the spotlight, especially if he and Earl collaborate. If you’re into experimental rap, or just want something refreshing to listen to, I encourage you to graze through MIKE’s diverse and plentiful discography.