MIKE, who is sometimes linked to the new hip hop generation that is thriving on the internet, is delivering his first studio album at age 19, after several noteworthy projects. This entry into the music industry is not designed to siphon off the rapper’s identity. Because MIKE doesn’t make music to get famous; there is no shortage of experimental tracks and erratic beats on Renaissance Man, an atmosphere that is difficult to tame for the average listener.
Deconstruction is the cornerstone of MIKE’s artistic approach. “Why I’m Here” relates in a quasi-experimental way the spluttering reading of a book in standard English by a little girl who lives in a world in which African American slang is recognized and used in school. Born in Nigeria and raised in England to the sound of grime, the rapper, born Michael Jordan Bonema, naturally sees Shakespeare’s language in all its diversity.
In the same way, the music of Renaissance Man is deliberately askew. The album’s 12 songs only last an average of three minutes and their abrupt endings create an unfinished feeling, like a book with no punctuation. His musical vocabulary is also used in a unique way, with beats being more an exception than a grammatical rule. The concepts of chorus and verse are only rarely explored, allowing MIKE to ad lib the thoughts he shares with us.
Loneliness and depression are the young rapper’s favorite subjects. But unlike this new generation of hip hop that turns toward self-destruction when beset by the same malaise (cf. XXXTentacion and others), MIKE advocates recovery. This resurrection introduces the album’s title and completes the album with “Rebirth (Outro),” while taking hold in whispered lyrics: “We lose touch with the ones that we care for the most / We can’t afford to be away from one another / We need each other in every sense of the word” (“Goliath”). This is more than a rap album; it’s a diary, with its deletions, its blank pages, and deep intimacy.
MIKE, Renaissance Man (Lex Records, 2018)