Of MIKE’s four projects last year, War in My Pen is the cleanest-sounding, but the New York rapper still prizes a faraway vibe that rewards close listening.
MIKE murmurs more than he flows. The 20-year-old rapper doesn’t mix his vocals high or bury them; he floats, cushioned and suspended, within his music. He has a lot to say, but he doesn’t seem concerned about who hears it. He shares this lack of concern with his friends and compatriots—Medhane, Adé Hakim, Navy Blue, Jazz Jodi, several others. Together, they feel more like a huddle than a movement, a group of introverted, dreamy souls trying to hold on to something intangible that they sense might be pried from them.
Notably, one of those friends is Earl Sweatshirt: “I be with Mike and Med/Nowadays I be with Sage and with Six-press, ya dig?” Earl rapped on “Nowhere2go” from November’s Some Rap Songs. Earl doesn’t appear on War in My Pen, MIKE’s fourth projects of 2018, but MIKE’s name was all over Some Rap Songs, and the style they are developing in tandem feels like one complete thought that requires both of them to express. When the sound is this dreamy, and this murky, you don’t really get clear takeaways, but the dazed solitude and determined quiet of MIKE’s music taps into a general sense that there is entirely too much noise; that raising your voice to match it contributes to madness, and that the only reasonable response is to draw inward.