MIKE created and worked this drowned sound that references both the intriguing looping styles of J Dilla, and the bar heavy lyricism of a modern-age artist like Earl Sweatshirt. The two are closer as shown on Sweatshirt’s newest project, Some Rap Songs which directly takes a mainline from MIKE’s blueprint. The idea of rhyming to himself in this mirror shows of inner reflections along the dazed, but still immaculate directions on War in My Pen. From the sleep deprived moments on tracks “Smoke” where MIKE appears to be practically falling asleep as he produces his words that flood like a mightier ink in a nearly defeated quill. “I been traveling away for bread, I’m missing home. I been battling with taking steps and getting grown, protect my precious dome” MIKE describes through the rainy-instrumental of clicking hi-hats and dings from a triangle that shapes this ominous feel that stands in front of a modulated and pitched-down vocal sample.
This sample blankets an overarching tone for most of War in My Pen where MIKE is simply prolific and eloquent through his word choice and set-up for these punchlines. More of a loose rambling that is set up over chords, MIKE has wisdom behind his words and chooses them carefully. With 13 tracks reaching into the 33-minute mark; time is precious and relies entirely on the methods that he can muster. Another message forms on the track “Prayers” which holds a feature from Brooklyn recording artist Medhane. “Hungry when I feel the air, never sitting on a thought because my mission shared. It the last one didn’t work, we’d try a different prayer…” both poets explain as the graceful instrumental of sampled church-esque choirs and shuffling percussion showers around them.
More grace than window-tinted rap, MIKE feels and acts as a performance within the boundless areas of hip-hop. Rather than the rough flexes, War in My Pen bends the rules but never breaks. It walks a thin line on becoming experimental art pieces and golden flows, making for one of the more influential and engaged closing gifts for 2018.