MIKE is a Bronx rapper, prominently known in the underground Hip-Hop scene. Since his breakout mixtape in 2016, “Winter New York”, he’s been one to look out for due to his unique rap style and cunning lyricism. He has brought another style to New York rap, based on minimalistic production, raw flows and strong lyricism. In fact, many listeners heavily associate Earl Sweatshirt’s current style to his close ties to MIKE. On his latest project, “Weight of the World”, he gives the world another introspective album. The project sees him address his battles with the loss of his mother and his inner demons. From the first to the last track, one can see the MF Doom influence from the flow to the bars. The beat production is a merge of the influence of Madlib and J Dilla.
“Love Supremacy” is the opening track and from the get-go, MIKE dives into his emotions about the loss of his mother. The instrumental is soulful but hastened. On it, he discusses how he has been coping with the grief and how his brother must look at him as the source of strength within their household. It’s obviously difficult for a young man to step-up and play the role of a parent figure so he finds himself needing substances to numb the pain and escape from reality.
“Alert*” and Trail of Tears are just a continuation of the idea of substances being the escape from reality and numbing the pain that he faces at moment. These two songs express his vulnerability and that self-medicating is how coping with it all. On “Alert*”, the laidback nature of the instrumental allows him to float. Notably, “Trail of Tears” shows some sort of optimism from the situation.
“Coat of Many Colors” sets a saddened tone within the album as the production kicks off with rain drops and MIKE repeatedly says the phrase, “When it get cold…”. He allows the audience to hear his thoughts of loneliness and neglection from those he considers his friends. His friends continually ask for his advice, but it seems as if it falls on deaf ears. His vocal tone is dark, his melodies are almost monotonous but there’s slight vocal inflections that hit different alongside the instrumental. It’s soul bearing.
The saddened sonic direction is followed by “Never Thought (tribute)”. The song is a skit, which pays homage to his Nigerian ancestry as his mother was Nigerian. “222”, “More Gifts”, “No, No” shows MIKE coming to terms with his mother’s death and reminiscing the time he spent with her as a child and as well how affectionate she was. It’s essentially the point where he has finally dealt with traumas. While the melodies are mostly minor-based, filled with dissonance – there’s a sense of sonic resolution and that idea is reinforced with how MIKE speaks about coming to terms with his loss.
In “More Gifts” and “No, No”, he seems to take in his mother’s death as a curse but he knows that there are blessings on the way. He believes that, after all of this grief, he will come out of this moment as victorious. There’s a sense of optimism and that’s shown in the choice of production. “More Gifts” sees MIKE travel back into in to 70s/80s, the production is funky, sultry and a reminder of more soulful times. Melodically, it’s beautiful.
“What’s Home ½” and “Delicate” are more dimensional in terms of his self-awareness, gratitude, and growth. He realises his position within music and the criticism he receives for the music he makes but he is grateful for those who have shown appreciation for his craft. His self-awareness emphasises his growth as he understands himself and feels at peace with himself. The latter’s instrumental is Madlib-reminiscent, from the choice of sample, audio pan effects to the touching melodies.
“Plans” is where self-doubt plays on his mind and shows that he is a God-fearing man who needs God to take the wheel in his life as he tries not to find himself droving in substances to numb the pain. The production is incredible and again, I can hear his influences within MIKE’s choice but this time, he goes into his Dilla bag.
The song. Is followed by “Get Rich Quick Scheme”. The song acts as a monologue where Mike relives memories of his younger years and how they convey an image of his self-image and the image perceived by the public. He comprehends that certain moments have carved people’s perception of him and is well informed that those moments do not reveal his identity.
“Weight of The Word*” is the main single of the album and which is split into two parts. Part one tells the story of the euphoria and the come down of euphoria from self-medicating. During the euphoria, he feels confident and expressing unlimited amount of love to those around him but more than often – once he comes down from the euphoria, he is perceived as cold and issues of self-doubt may arise. On the first half, the production is upbeat, fastened and gorgeous. It’s rife with beautiful melodies, heard through jazz piano keys and a gorgeous brass section. The drums drive the song until they’re removed and a solo melody is heard. Suddenly, drums enter with urgency as they create a distinct groove. Combined with a guitarist playing harmonizing chords, it sounds amazing. To match the production, MIKE rhymes exceptionally well. A quickened flow and storytelling, where he speaks on his relationship with friends and family during the loss and how certain relationships were strengthened and weakened during the loss.
“Iz U Stupid” is a sonically different to the prior song. The production is mellow, minimalistic and very raw. On it, he is addresses the friends which he thought he could count on but now he’s realized – there were snakes in the grass , as they would downplay him and discredit him when presented the chance. The penultimate song, “Da Screets” features UK rapper, Jadesea, as both deliver verses that describe the trauma and aftermath of it. Their verses divulge how one feels lifeless and finds themselves going through the motions as they struggle to put an end to their depression. On a light melody, accompanied by simple drums – the song is carried by their deliveries and lyrics. Jadessa and MIKE sound raw but it fits the overall aesthetic of the song. It’s intended and it’s well-executed.
The final track off the album is named “AlllStar”. The song features Earl Sweatshirt. And just as the track name insinuates, the song is filled with all-star performances. MIKE and Earl go back-to-back. Their verses complement one another and they are well-aware that people have been waiting for this collaboration. There isn’t a MIKE or Earl verse that doesn’t have clever wordplay and a high rhyme density. This isn’t any different. However, Earl’s strong delivery brings all the conviction in the world.
All in all, MIKE delivered a comprehensive and well-thought album. The production is unique, enticing and mostly soulful. In alignment with the soulful production, he addresses issues and delivers verses which details his grief and battling with his inner demons. He allows the listener into his life without filtering out any thoughts. It’s filled with great wordplay, very dense rhymes, great flows, strong production and good guest features.
The project is honest and his transparency exposes how vices and how he deals with them. On numerous songs, he shows he finds himself self-medicating to numb the pain and to escape reality. He exhibits self-awareness throughout and shows room for personal growth. His introspective writing allows him to reach a lyrical ceiling which many skilled musicians and rappers cannot reach. The production is incredible. In fact, combined with the use of tightly-knit flows and a strong delivery – there’s conviction in every bar and it makes this easier to listen.
Written by: Mondli Ndebele | Twitter @ElDiosExcentric
Edited by: Dithekgo Mogadime | Twitter @Dithekgom