This album was released on June 21st this year. MIKE is an artist who I’ve been familiar with for about two years now. The first project I ever listened to from him was MAY GOD BLESS YOUR HUSTLE, which I thought was pretty good. After that he dropped BY THE WATER, which I thought was even better. This was followed by his Black Soap EP which I thought was pretty bad, so I stopped checking for his shit after that. However, after a while I noticed that his fanbase generally agrees that Black Soap is the worst thing he’s ever done, so it clearly wasn’t an indication of the path he was going down. It was just a one off dud. After I realized this, I went back and listened to his entire discography, even including everything he dropped before MAY GOD BLESS YOUR HUSTLE. Long story short, the dude turned out to be a far better rapper than I initially thought. My favorite projects from him actually came long before MGBYH even came out. Belgium Butter & crimson are still my favorite things that he’s ever done, which I guess is kinda interesting since those are his very first couple of releases. I think they’re amazing. They’re pretty different from his current stuff though. They ironically sound more polished. I still like MIKE’s newer stuff though. I’m pretty sure he’s only ever released two projects that I haven’t liked. As I said before, I thought Black Soap was bad. I also didn’t really care for Renaissance Man. It wasn’t bad. It was just okay to me. All his other stuff is dope though. Anyway, I was expecting this tears of joy project to be pretty good, but I definitely didn’t think it would be anywhere near as good as his better stuff. I saw a lot of people saying that this is just more of the same, so I was expecting this to be cool, but not anything super exciting.
I heard about the theme of the record before listening, which was actually really intriguing. The whole thing is basically him mourning the death of his mother. Just to get it out of the way, I think this shit is great. There isn’t a single track I don’t like, so I’m just gonna talk about it in order. I actually like this album slightly more than War in My Pen, which came out in December last year. I think the main reason I prefer this one is because of the theme. The content feels more focused. I also just liked a lot of the production more on this one. It starts off with scarred lungs, vol. 1 & 2. Part one has a solid beat, and the first verse is great. I was definitely more impressed by the second part of the song though, especially in terms of the production. It basically sounds like a chopped up Jazz instrumental. MIKE’s second verse was really nice too. It’s a dope song. NAH & Bluezy did a great job with the production. The following song, Whole Wide World, is probably my least favorite song on the album. I don’t know. I haven’t really decided yet. I think the song is good though. I like it. I just wasn’t crazy about the production from Ohbliv. It sounds like an old Metal Fingers beat. In other words, it sounds like a Hip Hop version of some muzak I would hear in a grocery store. The song is also very skeletal in terms of structure. I guess that could be said about most of MIKE’s work though. This track in particular is literally just a verse. The verse itself was dope, but I felt like the content of the lyrics didn’t really match the mood of the production. The song is still good though. I like it. goin’ truuu is one of my favorite songs on the album. I’m not familiar with that Rbchmbrs guy, but his production on this song is awesome to me. I love MIKE’s verse too. He raps with a less lethargic delivery than usual. His flow is great. It’s easily the best song up to this point in the album. It’s dope af. The following track, GR8FUL 2K19, is just an instrumental track, and I think it’s great. I love the muffled production, and when I first heard it I was relieved that MIKE didn’t try rapping over it. This is the kinda beat that I just don’t wanna hear anyone spit over. It’s better this way. The song is dope. TAKE CROWNS has more superb DJ Blackpower production, and his languid verse is really good. His sedated delivery kinda makes some of the lyrics hard to understand, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. memorial is pretty much just more of the same. It’s another dope verse over another dope beat. The next 8 or so minutes of this album are probably my favorite stretch on the whole project. It contains three of my favorite songs. The production on SUMMER 17 is fucking awesome. The first part of the song has a fantastic beat, and I love the hook. The verse was dope too. I actually feel like the second part of the song could’ve been separated into it’s own track. It doesn’t matter though. It don’t make me no difference. The second part of the song also has a spectacular beat, and another great verse from MIKE. It’s definitely one of the best produced songs on the project. Same goes for the following track, big smoke.
The beat on this track is boiling hot fiya. MIKE killed the verse too, and the hook is also great. I don’t think people appreciate how dense his rhyme schemes are, but there are internals throughout that whole song, and most of his songs, actually. Anyway, the following track, it’s like basketball, might actually have my favorite instrumental on the album.
Sporting Life did a great job with that beat. The vocal sample sounds gorgeous to me. The song is awesome. MIKE’s verse is really dope. I was honestly disappointed in the music video though. I was hoping it’d be more creative. It’s just another one of those generic rap videos with a dude smoking weed and rapping to the camera. There’s absolutely nothing memorable about it at all. It’s fine though. Clearly he wasn’t trying to win a VMA with this. Not that he’d ever be nominated for the VMAs, but you know what I mean. I’m pretty sure he knows the video is as generic as it gets. The song is dope af though. It’s followed by Ain’t no love, which is another “musical goodie.” The production is great. The mixing on MIKE’s vocals sounds like shit, but the verse itself is dope, and the outro was great. I don’t have much to say about most of the other tracks since they all follow the same formula for the most part. Most of the verses feel like they could all just be excerpts from one giant ass poem since almost none of them really have their own specific topic. Obviously the main theme is grief though. It’s not like he’s just spewing out a bunch of random bullshit that happens to rhyme like Logic does. My thoughts on the next couple of tracks, parkS & PLANET, are basically just “the production is dope and the rapping is dope.”
I really love Sixpress‘ production on PLANET though, and the music video is thankfully really cool. That’s more of what I was hoping to see from the first music video. Anyway, the next track is another DJ Blackpower instrumental featuring some Spoken Word by Duendita, who I’m not familiar with. I like the song a lot though. The beat is very pretty. I will say that the song probably lasts a little bit longer than it needs to. It gets old after a while since it’s just an instrumental and there’s not a lot going on. It’s dope though. The next track, right here next to you, baby, is another dope song. The beat was cool, and MIKE’s flow was really good. Something about his performance just felt really light and floaty for some reason. I’ll let y’all decide whether that’s a good or a bad thing. I feel the same way about the remainder of the album. Each track is usually just one verse over a dope beat. The next real standout song for me is track 18, suffocate. The production is really dope, and the verse is honestly just really beautifully written.
He ’bout to suffocate, smoke stay all on my lips
Not in my mother’s face; home, but she gone; got my sis’
She got my mother’s face; alone, put the chalk on my bliss
That’s another grave, bony fingers, rope in a twist
I couldn’t cut the pain, it only bring the moments I miss
Under the summer rain, my heart glows straight through the mist
The following song is really great too. I really loved the lyrics focusing more on his family. The final track is the third installment in his “stargazer” series. The first two stargazer songs were just DJ Blackpower instrumentals, but he actually raps on this newer one. It’s another one of my favorites on the album because the production is gorgeous, and MIKE’s verse is great. The outro is really just the cherry on top. Or the icing on the cake. Whatever the saying is. You know what I mean. He ends it with what sounds like a voicemail from his mother in which she tells him how much she loves him. It’s really touching stuff. The first time I heard it it immediately reminded me of the voicemail my mom left me when I was in the hospital earlier last year. I just know when my mom passes away I’m gonna listen to that track and cry like a bitch. I’m getting sad just thinking about it now. Goddamn. So yeah, the way this album ends is just super heartbreaking. It’s beautiful though. I love it.
This album is exceptional. Again, there’s not a single track I don’t like. If you’re already familiar with MIKE’s work, nothing about this project is gonna surprise you. The theme of grief was cool, but literally all of his projects have depressive themes, so it’s not really that different. It’s just super well done though. He’s not trying to fix something that isn’t broken. The production ranges from pretty good to fantastic. I personally prefer this over War in My Pen, but it’s not like this completely blows that album out of the water. They’re both great albums. As I said before, I just thought the production was a bit more enjoyable on this one personally. It’d be cool of MIKE to try something new with his next project, but obviously there’s a higher risk of him dropping another dud like Black Soap if he experiments with his sound too much. At this point it seems like he’s found his niche and he’s just gonna run that into the ground, for better or worse. I think I’ll be fine with that because it honestly hasn’t gotten old to me yet. I may feel differently in 5 years, but for now I’m still really digging this dude. This shit is dope.
Favorite Song: stargazer, pt. 3
Least Favorite Song: Whole Wide World
Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this album.