AAC Sound Series Mix #29: DJ BlackPower
For our 29th AAC Sound Series Mix, we’re bringing you a brand new mix from rapper, songwriter, and producer DJ BlackPower, AKA MIKE. Listen to the full mix when it goes live on January 7, and read our short interview with DJ BlackPower below.
Interview with DJ BlackPower
Firstly, tell us a little bit about what inspired the mix
A compilation of music I put together with some CD’s I had. Mostly rap and R&B. I just wanted to put together something that was easy to listen to and reflected the pace of my current life.
Who are you listening to lately?
I’ve been listening to a lot of different music as of late, but what’s really been in rotation is this DJ Assault’s song, We Cry Together, and Fela Kuti, Beasts of No Nation.
How has the music landscape in NYC changed due to the pandemic?
I think the pandemic is truly whooping us as residents and musicians of this city but it’s also forcing people to come together in unorthodox ways and create. I see this scene constantly destroying and rebuilding itself.
Where do you draw inspiration from when developing new music?
I try to draw inspiration from interactions with certain people, traveling or even movies sometimes. It all depends but I always just try to listen to what life could be trying to tell me. For me, it is kind of like building a mental infrastructure and like these experiences are the engineer.
What advice would you give to aspiring young artists who want to create music today?
My advice to young artists who want to create music, is always keep an open heart when it comes to your art. There’s nothing as pure as expression and you shouldn’t let any entity to get in-between that. Also trust yourself! Creating is the gift that keeps giving, so understand the power is always in your hands!
At twenty-three years old, MIKE‘s age can be deceiving. He is an integral figure in birthing a new sound and style of hip hop that has gained wide influence since it first broke in underground circles in 2017, and MIKE’s music itself carries the insight, pain, and fatigue that often comes with age and long life lived.
Born in New Jersey, MIKE moved to London with his mother before settling in The Bronx for the remainder of his later teenage years. Both regions have had an audible influence on the young rapper’s music – in England he was immersed in grime and the music of King Krule, and in the United States he was turned on to Earl Sweatshirt and MF DOOM. In New York, MIKE connected with several artists who had a similar ear and style, and formed a collective called [sLUms]. Consisting of Adé Hakim, Darryl Johnson, King Carter, Jazz Jodi, and DJ Mason, the group established a unique sound that created waves throughout underground hip hop circles across the country.
In 2017 MIKE released his mixtape May God Bless Your Hustle. The project perfectly captured a singular moment in a city where the only constant is change. With features from Standing on the Corner, Wiki, Mal Devisa, and more, as well as production from Ade Hakim, Tony Seltzer, and Austin Williamson of Onyx Collective, May God Bless Your Hustle was a snapshot of the sound of underground New York rap in 2017. It received a Best New Music review from Pitchfork as MIKE started to gain international attention outside of New York City.
At the end of 2018 MIKE released his album War In My Pen independently, and followed it up in mid 2019 with Tears of Joy, his second album to be selected for Pitchfork’s Best New Music. He released his most recent album, Weight of the World, in 2020. Nearly entirely self-produced, and only containing features from Jadasea and Earl Sweatshirt, it’s one of MIKE’s most introspective and sonically diverse releases to date. MIKE has opened tours for Blood Orange and Earl Sweatshirt, and performed at festivals such as MoMA PS1 Warm Up, Pitchfork Festival, and Capitol Hill Block Party.
Over the past year MIKE immersed himself in electronic and house music, listening to artists such as Steve Spacek and Park Hye Jin. He released two largely instrumental projects partially inspired by these new influences: BLP2020 “King of the Night” and BLP2021 “for ur own good.”
Disco! is the first MIKE release since Weight of the World, and sees MIKE combine his new style of production with his top tier songwriting and delivery. The project is at times more upbeat and catchy than his previous work, but still carries the emotional weight that is characteristic of MIKE’s music. The result is MIKE’s most engaging and interesting body of work to date, as he continues to evolve the style of rap that he pioneered.