Truly great music washes over us like an ocean tidal wave. It doesn’t warn us that it’s coming. We’re already out there. We’re deep in the water waiting for something to come around. We’re expecting a reckoning to come our way. When this happens, critics like to pretend like it came out of total oblivion. I see it in my own workplace. Grunge broke in 1991 and everyone acted as if this couldn’t have possibly been foreseen by anyone, anywhere, as a possible player in the hostile takeover of 1990s pop music. That’s not exactly an accurate representation of reality though.
Fact is, when things are getting ready to change, you can feel it. We’re at a point with hip-hop right now where blurting out the C-word isn’t even a thing anymore; shock value is something that only cheap acts use to get a little bit of spotlight on their brand. If you want to be in the game long term, you’ve got to come up with something a little bit more statuesque in scale, a little more ambitious in production. In his single “Dogs,” Canada’s much-beloved singer/songwriter/rapper Mike Ra addresses this condition in his own way, using a style of accepting, welcoming lyricism to combat the most generic of themes that his contemporaries seem totally fine with reclining in.
If you manage to make it to the top in this business, it’s easy to forget what got you there and the value of the efforts that were in play. Fame and success tend to yield a certain amount of memory loss in artists who have a knack for exploding out of the gate with more tenacity than the rest of their class. But alongside his collaborators DJ Pain 1 and Drew Taylor, Mike Ra doesn’t sound like a dictating megalomaniac. On the contrary, he sounds like an artist whose selflessness leaves room for us to zero in on the smaller spinning wheels in his retrospective, inward-looking lyrics. It’s not all about stealing the show for himself, but more about letting us take from his art what we feel on our own.
I’m curious about what kind of a show Mike Ra could put on live and in person. As to my knowledge, he hasn’t made his debut on the American west coast yet, and something tells me that when he does, it’s going to make a pretty big impression on some of SoCal’s most influential figures in the hip-hop community. There’s an exotic, almost beachy nature to “Dogs” that makes it fit in with some of the choicest singles being put out in Cali right now, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the reaction to Mike Ra out of that scene more than any other. Based on their reception of Drake so many years ago, Mike shouldn’t have to difficult of a time finding some acceptance on the good ol’ golden coast, and if he does, then perhaps we need to do something to remedy the state of affairs for West Coast rap.
You can keep an eye on Mike Ra on:
-review by Trevor Grey