In many ways, MIKE’s music exists as an extension of himself.
His words feel deeply personal, working in abstracts like love and loss, but there’s also an inescapable sense of ephemerality permeating the sonic environment they inhabit. These are songs filled with memories, experiences, and observations, with fleeting moments of vulnerability that feel profoundly blissful.
On his 2019 record Tears of Joy, the driving force behind MIKE’s music was the grief he felt from losing his mother, and it manifested into a hauntingly beautiful work. It was a marvelous exercise in purposefulness, where every sample plunged the listener deeper into his sorrows, and every word echoed with an inescapable longing for youthful innocence.
That poignant mixture of grief and immediacy animates MIKE’s latest record, Weight of the World, which serves as a companion to Tears of Joy while eclipsing it as a striking artistic statement in its own right. It is, in an already prolific career, a marvelous peak, filled with some of his sharpest lyrical and production work yet.
MIKE’s tangential, stream of consciousness writing style feels tailor-made for repeat listening, and not just because of the fragmented beatmaking that often melds with and obscures his monotone delivery. Listening to Weight of the World, we’re effectively placed in MIKE’s shoes as he works through his internal monologue, and it results in some of the most striking bars of his career.
“Delicate” reads like autobiography in miniature, a moving 2-minute self-portrait of a youth in poverty, carried by soulful, pitched-up samples. On “Alert*,” he waxes poetic on substance abuse and the nature of depression, gently vocalizing over a sparse beat that blips and hums. With a production assist from KeiyaA on “Trail of Tears,” MIKE’s delivery sounds positively heartbroken, his voice quivering as he promises his mother that he’ll always be near.
Like with Tears of Joy, MIKE’s late mother is central the spiritual core of Weight of the World, and her presence is felt throughout the record. On “222,” over another KeiyaA production with twinkling pianos, the way he describes his mother’s passing feels devastatingly poetic: “Walked her out the Earth, just me, a couple nurses.” Even more crushing is a line from “What’s Home 1/2″—”Still got hopes that I’ll sit in your arms”—delivered over a dreamy Elza Soares sample that’s filtered into oblivion.
MIKE’s production work, mainly done under his “dj blackpower” moniker, is as central to the album as the lyrics. With warm samples and tight percussion warped into something both off-kilter and delightful, Weight of the World is populated with some of his sharpest beats. The vocal sample on “Coat of Many Colors” feels positively ethereal, enveloping the entire song in gauzy, impenetrable layers of haze. The closest he gets to a conventional beat here is “No, No,” where the sample practically springs to life after his verse ends for one of the most euphoric moments here.
Another one of those moments arrives with “Weight of the Word*,” a glorious three-part exploration on loss and healing that feels poignant even as it drifts between vividly sorrow and teary-eyed grateful.
“I’m only diving when it’s deep,” he begins, reciting the phrase like a mission statement as he stumbles through the crushing weight of heartbreak, like a mantra to find peace and drown out the pain. It sounds like he’s rapping against the beat, fending off the vocal sample, practically burying MIKE’s voice with fanfare, until he has nowhere left to go. As he stands at the precipice, a voice seems to beckon to him: “you ready?”
Suddenly, the claustrophobic vocal chop bottoms out, giving way to a pitched-up Moraes Moreira sample that sounds jarringly tropical and unabashedly vibrant. It is maybe the most immediate, blissful moment on the album, and it serves as a segue into the song’s third and final act, a joyous moment of remembrance for his mother.
On a record like Weight of the World, where grief and sadness seemingly fill every crevice, there’s something remarkably touching in having a moment of such pure, earnest love and appreciation cast into sharp relief. Throughout the album, MIKE grapples with the thought of having to let go of his mother to truly move forward and heal. But, as he seems to realize in the final, blissful moments of the song, he doesn’t really need to let her go. All that matters is that her memory rests within him.
Score: 🌎🌎🌎🌎.5 / 5