When MIKE raps, he does it with love. The 19-year-old covers some dark themes in his songs, from his personal experience with depression to more amorphous ideas about mystical demons who crouch beneath bodies of water, ready to pull you in if you come too close. But his music, with its rat-a-tatting drum samples and skittering production, is uplifting too. I mean, there’s a reason I insisted last year that he should be your new favourite teen rapper (the sentiment stands).
On Thursday, he dropped five-track EP Resistance Man, which follows on from last year’s By the Water and May God Bless Your Hustle releases. Sonically, Resistance Man goes from sounding like a boombox blasting out from the bottom of a swimming pool on “Keep Spinning” to the cosmic, ‘record skipping while playing backwards’ instrumental of both "Stargazer Part 1" and Stargazer Part 2."
Through it all, MIKE skips through his usual stream-of-consciousness flow, bigging up his mother on one song before handing the mic over to Camden Maliik for a guest verse on piano and sample cut-and-pasted vocals head-nodder “You’ve Been Blessed.” On it, MIKE raps “In this maze, I was lost, lost my parents at birth / But it made me a god, I be wearing my work,” which showcases that happy-sad push and pull I mentioned. He leaps from something that sounds worrying – being lost, trying to find his way out of a maze – to how weaving his way through made him stronger than ever. As a young man who takes pride in himself, and particularly in his blackness, MIKE bleeds that idea of celebrating your blessings into his music, even when adversity led you to the good times first.
The first time I saw the 19-year-old play live, he spread that love out towards the crowd. He was doing a tiny opening set for BADBAGNOTGOOD at London’s Roundhouse and beckoned the audience forward, so they were practically pressed up against the stage with the huge, empty sweep of the venue’s rounded arc bending behind them. He treated the show like a gentle, welcoming congregation. Somehow, on this record, he manages to draw in his listeners in the same way, by rapping so often about intimacy and the power it gives us. Resistance Man’s “Coin Chasa” with Darryl Johnson plays that out literally, with a repeated refrain: “It’s just a little bit of love that I need.” We all need that little bit sometimes – so when it comes down to finding those moments in song, MIKE has got you.
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