Listening to MIKE’s 2017 breakthrough album MAY GOD BLESS YOUR HUSTLE, it’s easy for me to get lost in his passionate lyricism and the lo-fi experimental production. So much has changed in his life since this release, as written about on his later projects Renaissance Man, War In My Pen and Tears of Joy. His latest release tackles the unfortunate and truly saddening passing of his mother, who recently would have celebrated her birthday. There’s something undeniably captivating about MIKE. His straight-forward lyricism and utterly captivating idiosyncratic soundscape that complements his words are all incredible to me, as he truly pierces my soul with his words. There’s no rapper that has been as relatable to me in recent years than MIKE, and MAY GOD BLESS YOUR HUSTLE to me is him at his most vulnerable and poetic.
The reason why I’m writing about this project now is that he recently released this album on vinyl as well as increasing its online availability. I’ve had it on repeat for the last three weeks, basking in its depth and soulful energy. “Somebody Else” kicks off the album with a drum and synth-heavy instrumental composition that features some muffled samples and swirling electronic effects throughout. When MIKE starts rapping… goddamn. I can feel and relate to the pain in his voice, as he sounds like he’s about to completely break down. “Bust my ass, bust my head/How I’m supposed to trust the path that’s been doubling the stress? Tryna hold on to my life/ negotiating with my death” is how he starts the project off, and I can feel every single word. There’s nothing overly cryptic about what he writes about. It’s pure unfiltered emotion, something I genuinely haven’t felt with a project in a very long time. Soul oozes out of tracks like “Hunger” and “Rainforest,” with soulful chopped samples and slower-paced beats that provide a moody, reflective soundscape. “GREED” featuring experimental maestros Standing On The Corner is a eclectic guitar-driven mood-setter, while “GREEDY” featuring Jesse Brotter similarly features a soulful vocal chop from Standing On The Corner, as they sing “Going, I’m going crazy
Come on, take your loss.” It almost acts as the heartbeat to the track, as MIKE navigates through the looped and spaced instrumental, taking honestly about the depths of his pain and sadness. “STANDOUT” featuring Wiki & Chip Skylark is another highlight, with stellar, upbeat and punchy production from Tony Seltzer, while ”awalkingharlem” featuring King Carter features a hypnotic, hard-hitting beat and a raw and honest verse from both rappers.
There are three tracks however, that truly standout for me – “Pigeonfeet,” “FOREVER FIND FLIGHT” and “Years/Alone.” The first track features a muddy, muffled beat. MIKE comes through with some of the most heartbreaking lyrics on the entire album. “Death always win the race, n***a, depression isn’t just a phase / It’s hard to dub the L when it’s all up in your face/ Cough up in the race, caught up in the place/ Getting lost in these days, harder to place.” He says this with such emphasis and passion that it genuinely makes me tear up sometimes. He raps in the same verse “Watch his jaw get broken like a vase when it drop/ Papa think I curse too much, but y’all n****s think it’s hot/ Waiting at the edge, wobble on a rock/ It’s getting to my head, here’s a bottle of Ciroc/ Always on the pavement, never with the flock/ Running ’til that gun pop, headed for the two like a jump shot.” That’s all I’m gonna say. He’s too raw with it. “FOREVER FIND FLIGHT” is produced by fellow sLUms member Adé Hakim, who creates this uplifting soundscape with soulful vocal samples, and the instrumental is broken down in three distinct sections, as MIKE brings more introspection and open lyricism about his mental health. Sandwiched between his dense verses is a chorus that sings “I’ve been going, I’ve been finding/ You lost, but you don’t gotta tell me that/ I can see ’cause I know/ You gotta plant your seed tryna grow.” Despite all the darkness and disappointment he’s faced in his life, he’s still trying to plant his seed and grow beyond the pains of his trauma and depression. “Years/Alone” is a two-part track, with MIKE’s almost shouty delivery on the first half of it really hitting hard. He shouts out his friends and family that have shaped who he is now, and reflects on his own path. The second half of the tracks features my favourite instrumental moment on the entire album. With an angelic vocal sample, piercing horns, gorgeous keys and a driving beat, it’s a truly stunning track. Lyrically, MIKE really comes into his own. He’s finally found serenity within his mental health, ending on the inspiring lyrics “We cooking up until we burn the house down/ Every course is like the fucking last round/ I stand up, I don’t fucking back down.” He has finally been able to shine through and grow beyond the deeper struggles he was facing throughout the project, and his ability to translate that in music is just amazing. “VICTORY LAB” featuring Mal Devisa & King Carter is another soulful moment on the album, while “ROCKBOTTOM/PEACE TO COME” closes the album out with a submersed and self-reflective track over a woozy and almost drunk-sounding instrumental (you’d hopefully understand what I mean when you listen to it).
MAY GOD BLESS YOUR HUSTLE is MIKE at his most vulnerable. His fears and thoughts are painted on a soulful, eclectic canvas that acts like therapy to him, as he starts to shine through and come into his own as the album progresses. The album, to me at least, is a true masterpiece and showcases a man’s ascent into serenity and peace. The album captures all of this beautifully, hence why I firmly believe that this is not only one of the best albums of 2017, but one of the best albums of the decade. Thank you MIKE.
Listen to MIKE’s incredible 2017 album MAY GOD BLESS YOUR HUSTLE below via Bandcamp and don’t forget to support! Released via 10k.