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“Twenty three around the Earth, see the world different,” NYC-based rapper MIKE muses on his tenth album Beware of the Monkey. No longer is he the underground hip hop wunderkind who made waves in the 2010s with his prolific Bandcamp mixtapes and EPs, nor the Earl Sweatshirt acolyte-turned-collaborator being mentored by his hero. In the years since those early teenage days, Michael J. Bonema has proved himself to be a distinct voice among other hip hop luminaries who define the rap game, with Beware of the Monkey adding even more evidence to the fact.
Big subjects are weighed up with laidback flows and breezy confidence as MIKE stitches verses together with interview clips and messages from family, expanding upon the thoughts and feelings uttered in his confessional, conversational raps. A bell rings on ‘nuthin i can do is wrng’ and a sparkly platter of 80s synthpop loops is served with MIKE’s nonchalant overdubs, yet despite the at times jubilant instrumentals, he quickly reveals all that glitters isn’t gold: “I’m the mirror of my deep hatred, complacent as I seem,” he says over the lofi crunchy rhythms of ‘Eczema’.
A feeling of unhurriedness characterises MIKE’s attitude in both raps and rhythms: woozy strings are slurred across the lax and comfortable ‘Light (if u can’t see)’, while ‘What Do I Do?’ invokes slow nodding to its stoic beat as MIKE bides his time and watches the days go by. These sludgy vaporwave loops are offset by moments of uplifting brass, slick bass and jazzy piano, and even dancehall on ‘Stop Worry!’ with Jamaican star Sister Nancy, where MIKE reckons with growing up as a public figure to an infectious reggae tune.
With ten albums under his belt already, MIKE has made an unerasable stamp on modern hip hop, and he’s barely just gotten started.
- 1 nuthin i can do is wrng 1:58 Buy
- 2 As 4 Me 1:43 Buy
- 3 Eczema 1:52 Buy
- 4 Light (if u can’t see) 3:37 Buy
- 5 No Curse Lifted (rivers of love) 1:49 Buy
- 6 What Do I Do? 3:06 Buy
- 7 Ipari Park (feat. Klein) 2:41 Buy
- 8 Swoosh 23 2:35 Buy
- 9 Tapestry 1:37 Buy
- 10 Stop Worry! (feat. Sister Nancy) 2:29 Buy
- 11 WEARY LOVE 2:11 Buy
- 12 Concrète (feat. King Carter) 3:53 Buy
- 13 Closing Credits 3:54 Buy
- Niontay featuring Earl Sweatshirt, El Cousteau and MIKE
- Real hiphop
- Catalogue Number
- Release Date
- October 19, 2023