i’ve been back on r.a.p. music this week, and (surprise) it still sounds great. (i always enjoy this listening phase; the one after the smoke has cleared from the initial high-off-the-new-car-smell, on-repeat-forever rush, and you’ve left it alone for maybe a month or so, the one where you casually flit back to it (“oh, i haven’t listened to this in a while”) and it’s like your ears got a new pair of glasses. from here.) where the initial swoonings were mostly focused on the writing and production, this time mike’s mic-handling has stood out moreso. he spits hard—not just in the colloquial sense, but rather literally; “hard” as in percussive. el’s beats need to be rapped in, more than simply rapped on (i stand by my initial video game comparison), and, not unlike professed hero chuck d, one of mike’s greatest strengths is being able to make himself the focus even amidst such ruckus. their mechanicalness flatters his technical skill, and sometimes (“go!”) it sounds as though he’s using it like an exercise machine—though, thankfully, neither presses it too hard in this direction. i think my favorite thing about mike is that he sounds like he really enjoys rapping, a trait i find often lacking in political-outrage rappers; technique is showcased as much as message. in terms of details: i like how he sags “actually aaccurate” after the preceding jackhammer barrage in the second verse of “Butane”, and the deft ct’s and s’s and p’s of the following lines.
i remember something i read once, i think in reference to freddie gibbs, that he could never be a truly great mc because he was stuck too fast in that certain brand of traditionalism; too faithful/reverent to the greats to push himself to match/surpass them. mike, on the other hand, coolly asserts himself “a storyteller on the biggie and slick rick level”—and though we’re accustomed to taking such statements as heresy, artist-egos gone mad, mike just sounds confident. it’s not for lack of reverence or appreciation—he’s too outspokenly geeky to ever give that impression—but he refuses to let his passion get mired in nostalgia. details: “don’t die”, which reminds me of “black steel” and has plenty of nods to mike’s predecessors in the struggle, but remains nonetheless viscerally in the now.