On April 2, MIKE, a 22-year-old rapper based out of New York City, performed for the Horn Gallery’s virtual Horn @ Home concert series.
He rose to relevance in 2017, with the release of his first full-length album, May God Bless Your Hustle. Since then, he has been prolific, having released four full-length albums since 2018. He is a frequent collaborator with popular rapper Earl Sweatshirt, and is one of the lead members of the underground rap collective [sLUms].
MIKE is unlike most rappers you might hear on the radio. Rapping over chopped, luscious soul samples, he delivers his lyrics at such a fast and methodical pace that it renders his speech almost indecipherable.
“We really enjoy MIKE’s body of work and saw the work he had been doing with live-streaming over quarantine and thought he would be a great fit for the site,” Horn Gallery Co-manager Francis Ohe ’23, who booked MIKE, wrote in a message to the Collegian. “We were super excited to have MIKE come aboard for Horn at Home.”
During the performance, MIKE performed a smattering of songs from his discography — many from his recent albums Tears of Joy and weight of the world, as well as some unreleased tracks that can only be heard by watching reruns of hours-long livestreams on his YouTube channel.
The setting of the concert was intimate; throughout the show, MIKE sauntered around a small, sparse living room with a jovial energy, often swaying back and forth, his delivery animated and spry. His producer sat behind him on a tan couch, controlling the beats and volume, his head bobbing along to the chords.
However, the 37-minute performance was a sort of visual contradiction. While MIKE appeared energized and carefree, the lyrics in his music he performed are anything but upbeat. Much of the music in MIKE’s discography centers on his own personal grief, most notably his frequent battles with depression and the death of his mother in 2019.
Such is evident in the song, “no, no,” which MIKE performed near the end of his set. In this song, his grief is on full display. The lyric, “Gettin’ faded in the madness just to cure the pain,” addresses the lengths in which he goes to minimize his depression. Later in the song, MIKE muses about the death of his mother by rapping, “Took my lady to a casket off the pearly gates.”
Other songs in the set — such as “God’s With Me,” “Weight of the Word” and “Numbered Dayz” — were equally somber and moving. MIKE’s Horn @ Home concert was an intimate and captivating performance from a rapper who is on the precipice of stardom. As a concert-goer, even in a virtual format, there’s almost nothing more you can ask for.
MIKE’s concert can be accessed on hornathome.com.