Treating Fans: Flagstaff rapper exudes honesty on new sound | Phoenix.org
Treating Fans: Flagstaff rapper exudes honesty on new sound

Treating Fans: Flagstaff rapper exudes honesty on new sound

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By Alex Gallagher | May 28, 2021

LiL MiK_e spent his childhood in Glendale listening to Blink-182 and admiring Tom DeLonge’s vocals.

In June, the NAU graduate, who earned a degree in music, will pay tribute to them with the single “Mikey182.”

“‘Mikey182’ is about me growing up on Blink-182,” he says. “Tom DeLonge was a huge influence on me and my sound. I hope this song reaches Travis Barker, as I would love to work with him one day. This is the most Mikey I’ve ever sounded.”

To support “Mikey182,” he plans to create an animated video with Art by Joseph, who has collaborated with Machine Gun Kelly, Modsun and Blackbear.

“Mikey182” will appear on LiL MiK_e’s forthcoming EP, “Sellout,” due in October. The longtime emo fan, who spent time in hardcore metal and pop-punk bands, has switched genres once again to pop.

“I started writing the album in July, and it is a good representation of my new sound and where I am pushing to go,” LiL MiK_e says. “I’m going more into more of a poppy tone.”

Case in point: “The Emotional Vampire Wins Again,” his latest single, which is not slated for “Sellout.” It begins with a poppy guitar lick then escalates into a heavy bass beat with emotionally charged lyrics.

LiL MiK_e plans to release five of the seven songs on “Sellout.” The EP will kick off with the title track, a song that has “an emo undertone then switches to a hyper and happy sound.” Also included on “Sellout” will be “Goodtime,” “Bad for Me” and “My Heart Hates Me.”

From there he plans to create an alternative/pop-punk song, which he has yet to title, before ending the collection with “Sellout Reprise.”

Creating ‘Memories’

LiL MiK_e began his music career playing with the hardcore band Hitokiri before creating the pop-punk bands Wasting Away and Overplay, for which he played guitar and sang.

His debut solo EP, 2018’s “Memories,” came with help from fellow members of the underground music scene. JJ Catalyst, the longtime audio technician for the South Phoenix underground hardcore club The Studio, produced the release.

“Memories” begins with “Issues,” the first song he took to Catalyst. The track is MiK_e’s most-streamed song.

“When I would go to The Studio, there would always be this dude in this mysterious backroom recording all the bands,” he says of Catalyst. “I went home and listened to the recordings and I always wanted to be recorded by this guy.”

Catalyst not only tightened his sound, but he created the eclectic spelling of his stage name. He thinks it’s cool that he’s one of the few rappers to use an underscore in his name.

From there, they conceptualized LiL MiK_e’s image. The two posted Polaroids of LiL MiK_e on social media. That led to his album cover concept on 2018’s “Memories.”

“When JJ started doing the Polaroids, it evolved into this concept of ‘Memories,’ which is basically a diary of my life,” LiL MiK_e says.

While the album offers a somber sound and heavy emotional lyrics, LiL MiK_e’s new sound ups the energy of his signature vocal sound.

Fans have compared him to fellow rappers like Lil Peep or pop artists like Blackbear. He feels most akin to someone else: Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, the solo rap project by Tigers Jaw’s Adam McIlwee.

“He had a similar upbringing in the music scene as me because he and I both went from hardcore metal to pop punk to solo,” LiL MiK_e says.

He opened for Wicca Phase Springs Eternal in April 2019 at The Rebel Lounge, and he picked McIlwee’s brain. The punk rocker told him to stay true to himself. One way he remains genuine is to play guitar, which he used to express himself long before he started singing.

“I started taking what I did in Wasting Away and Overplay and tried to bridge being commercial with honesty, which I feel my new stuff does pretty well,” LiL MiK_e says. “Overall, I’m just happier with my new sound.”

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