Written By: Ethan Griggs
My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com
New York’s latest rap prodigy MIKE has something to prove. He’s determined, but he’s not willing to go to the ends of the Earth to insult his contemporaries – MIKE wants you to learn about him and his family history and his love and knowledge of the various corners of Manhattan. His latest effort, the earnest and often magnificent MAY GOD BLESS YOUR HUSTLE, is a vast and varied diary of a marred yet motivated Black man who seems desperate to find the meaning of success and self pride.
The first striking thing about the album is how distinctly East Coast it sounds. It’s the kind of music that makes you feel like you’re dwelling through the damp and dirty underground subway stations of New York City. The beats are especially grimy for the East Coast, and the sentiment given by MIKE is that he’s the kind of guy that likes to wander around on a rainy day.
Like the greatest rappers, MIKE uses his lyrical gift as a borrowed pair of eyes. Every track is jam packed with first and second hand accounts of growing up in New York and rising to be one of the current mainstays of underground rap. Nearly every beat is a genre-defying quagmire – covering psychedelic, stoner-soul, and even avant guard in its ground, often in the same song. With most tracks being under the three minute mark, the album offers a bite sized morsel of modern, conscious hip-hop.
MIKE’s flow on the record can be at times clear and concise, and at others it can be delightfully playful and sprawling. At the center of his verses lie many themes and concepts, but the most reoccurring narratives are those of his late mother and of his experiences as an eighteen year old thriving in the back allies of New York. “It sucks to be grown/Moving stunned and alone/There’s no percent on my phone/I should use it to call mama/Tell her I wish she was home” is the most powerful bar on the thesis track “Somebody Please”, and even one of the most powerful bars on the entire record. On the absolute standout “Pidgeonfeet” he spits, “Watch his jaw get broken like a vase when it drop/Papa think I curse too much, but y’all niggas think it’s hot”. MIKE is a young man who is deeply connected both to his inner fantasy and his family. It’s crazy he’s only eighteen, because his lyrics read as if they were written by a thirty year old.
Whatever prayer is being preached by MIKE on the album – whether it’s his stride towards success or his connection to his roots – there isn’t a moment on MAY GOD BLESS YOUR HUSTLE that isn’t genuine and piercingly honest. The sound of his voice alone is enough to invest some confidence into the listener, and the serendipitous sampling and beats illuminate the thematic points of the record. With his latest, MIKE certainly is paving his own road in the hip-hop game.