MIC RIGHTEOUS'DREAMLAND' ALBUM REVIEW
Mic Righteous is an MC that has been on everyone’s radar ever since he uttered the now infamous words “Free Palestine” (which ended up being censored by the BBC) during his first Fire in The Booth. But for the die hard fans amongst us, Mic has been making plenty of noise outside of the 1xtra studio. He has released two hugely impressive mixtapes (Yob Culture and Kam-Pain), which for many fans defined him as an artist, and this passionate introspective lyricism has become what they expect from him.
These clamouring and expectant fans have been a gift and a curse for Mic Righteous as they are some of the most loyal, but on the flip side, some of the harshest critics. Fans can be a fickle bunch, and should Mic dare stray from what these die hards expect from him, there will be a slew of tweets and YouTube comments chastising Mic for “selling out”. That’s the great thing about Mic as an artist; he has always carved out his own path, snubbing the well traveled routes.
Whispers of the long awaited debut album have been heard as far back as last year, when Mic dropped the incendiary track “Gone”, which saw him air out plenty of dirty laundry. However, when Mic announced that he had “no publisher, no PR and no management” many fans feared the worst and wondered whether this fabled debut album would ever see the light of day.
Making Dreamland a reality has not been without strife, and is truly a combination of hard work and passion, two of the things that clearly define Mic as a person as well as a lyricist. With the current state of the scene, Mic is going to have a difficult balancing act to pull off with the album. To have a successful album he's going to need to produce something that attracts new listeners, but at the same time appeases his hordes of loyal supporters.
Mic kicks off proceedings with the track that got everyone gassed for the album over a year ago now. The instrumental, produced by long time collaborator Harry Pirate (formerly Preston Play), is simple but so damn effective. The string arrangement and drum pattern really compliment Mic’s passionate lyrical explosion. An MC like him doesn’t need to hide behind overproduced garbage.
Lyrically, Mic is in his comfort zone on this one, speaking candidly on topics he feels strongly about. When the track first came out he even did an AMA on his Twitter in order to let fans know exactly who he was talking about on the tune. Turns out Naughty Boy and underground rappers Prose were the unfortunate targets for Mic’s lyrical crosshairs.
Mic’s still guiding us through familiar territory with the next track. Mic has enlisted the help of incredible but little known vocalist Tone. Surely he will have people queuing up to get him on a hook after his appearances on Dreamland and I ain't even heard all of them yet! Tone just sounds so different from all the generic vocalists that you find doing hooks these days. As always with a Righteous track it’s awash with the quintessential personal honest lyricism.
Another one of the bangers that Mic has treated us to in the run up to the release of Dreamland. The piano score sets the mood of the tune straight away. As soon as you hear the instrumental you already know the content is going to be something deep and solemn. Although Mic loves sharing personal stories this is one we’ve never really heard before, how he actually started MC’ing. He painstakingly breaks down the trials and tribulations he had to go through in order to showcase his ability; the dedication to the art was clearly there from the get-go!
We’re four tracks deep now and Mic is absolutely killing me by withholding all the new shit! This next track is basically an extension of “2005”, which Mic first performed on Charlie Sloth’s Rap Up as a spoken word piece after his live performance of “2005”. The track actually includes a little skit at the end in which he gets caught being in the studio he wasn’t supposed to be in, it just shows the lengths Mic has gone to get where he is now, none of this silver spoon shit. Everyone loves a zero to hero story and Mic has that in abundance.
"I Turn Up"
On the fifth track, Mic has finally treated me to some shit I ain’t heard before (at the time of writing). As much as I love Mic’s introspective lyricism, this straight away sounds like it’s going to be something a little more hype and will break up the seriousness thus far.
The strings coupled with the hard hitting bass is certainly going to induce some serious head bopping, oh and Mic’s adlibing with his trademark bark sounds so hard. Mic needs to combine his introspective stuff with a little braggadocio like this if he hopes to achieve the balance I spoke about in the intro and this track is definitely a welcome change of pace.
Ok, now we’re definitely in uncharted territory. The slow piano score means Mic might be taking us back to what we know and love him for. Again it looks like Mic is taking us on a journey he hasn’t yet taken us on, talking about his baby mum and his son. Although, unlike Eminem, Mic seems to be complimenting the things shes done and acknowledging his own shortcomings.
This right here is why people love Mic, he’s capable of looking at himself and recognizing his own flaws. Most rappers put themselves on a pedestal and it’s refreshing to have Mic do the complete opposite. He humanizes himself, bringing him closer to his fans. How many of us can really relate to popping bottles every other weekend? Not only that aren't we tired of listening
to these same old cliches?
OIIIIIII! This beat sounds nuts! It feels like it’s been pulled straight off of a Spaghetti Western soundtrack. Mic wastes no time jumping aboard the hype train on this one, as he raps emphatically about his ascent and how it finally seems that lady luck is on his side.
Mic’s outbursts of bravado on these tracks are always stamped with the passionate delivery that has really defined him as an MC, and separated him from his peers. This middle segment of the album has been arranged really well Mic has offset the seriousness heart felt shit with straight bars.
"All Dressed Up"
Sticking with the arrangement, this one slows the tempo back down again, as Mic blesses the sombre piano score with the skippiest of flows (he seems to have a thing for piano scores!). Mic again seems to be broaching a topic he hasn’t dealt with too much in his music thus far, as he gets problems with his ex off his chest in the only way he knows how. This is another phenomenal choice of vocalist, Tom Prior, who’s been working with a lot of UK MC’s recently. He really adds something different to the track with his indie-esque vocals.
"4 Lines Deep"
Wow. Don’t really know what to say about this one. Mic’s ex sounds mad scary! This skit sounds like a voicemail left on his phone of his ex hurling bare abuse at him. The reason seems to be that she’s angry that hes been linking another chick or something? Anyway, all I know is, never piss off Mic’s baby mum!
Mic certainly has a penchant for these piano scores! It’s made a return on the next track, although the beat really does have an orchestral feel to it, like it was done with live instruments.
Tone’s vocals have also made a welcome comeback. He’s doing more than a hook this time though, providing us with some mad harmonies. This guy is a real talent and I can’t wait to hear some solo offerings from him.
Mic has switched it up on this one as well opting for a more slow measured delivery, as opposed to his traditional high octane barrages. This is probably the closest we’re going to get to Mic singing on record, definitely showing his versatility.
An eerie vocal sample starts this one off. I think I also hear Mic’s voice somewhere in the background. The strings and drums come in and tie this all together. Ahhh this track's mad! As soon as the “penny” drops (see what I did there?) it’s clear where Mic’s going.
He’s really showcasing his storytelling on this one. “Penny”, unlike my first thoughts, isn’t actually about a girl; it’s a real clever extended metaphor in which Mic personifies money and all its dangerous alluring qualities through a fictional female character, rather aptly named Penny.
I mean we’ve seen these sorts of personifications before from legends like Nas and Tupac on “I Gave You Power” and “Me & My Girlfriend”, but it’s great to see our very own Mic Righteous doing his own thing with the idea.
Another skit. Ahh, I recognize this it’s from his "collaboration" with Vivienne Westwood and he’s just left us with the Vivienne Westwood sample talking about the problems we’re facing today in our world. She talks about climate change, austerity and government mistrust. When you think about it, its so mad that someone like Mic Righteous has worked with such an influential figure like her, at least he still has love for one Westwood!
After a break from archetypal Mic tunes, this joint sounds like a return to the Mic Righteous the die hards wanna hear. Mic’s directing some of his passionate venom at the scene as he raps, “I used to love the UK, I was so proud/ But we sold out/ There’s a few that I fuck with, the rest are just fuck wits." Like the title suggests, Mic is declaring that he is adamant that he has faith in what he’s doing and how he’s doing it.
15 tracks deep, we’re down to the last three tracks and Mic has yet to share MC duties with anyone. I was hoping for a cheeky Lowkey feature or something, but don’t get me wrong, it’s a credit to Mic that he can hold down an 18 track album with no features, aside from three vocalists. This one sounds deep, each verse seems to be about a different thing that has “Headf#cked” Mic over the years, whether it’s the music game itself or even going back to his old ends. This is a reflective banger, which sees Mic let us even deeper into his thoughts.
"Heart With No Beat"
What a great song title. I’m so gassed to hear what it could possibly be about. The tried and tested piano score is back, but it sounds a little different from the others, almost as if it’s coming from a music box or something. Some absolutely insane strings accompany the piano score. They sound so familiar though, I’ve got a hunch that they might be sampled from “Arms Open Wide” by Shystie. Either way, the string arrangement is heavy and it creates a great soundscape for Mic to do his thing with. He again provides us with some seriously good storytelling. “Heart With No Beat” seems to describe the heart that doesn’t follow its desires and what it loves, and thus having nothing to keep it beating. No one quite does stories like this in the UK.
"Tempo Of The Dance"
The penultimate song of the album! Man, Mic really has taken me on a fucking journey and this is a perfect way of bringing the whole story to a close. We all heard this track over the summer, when Mic’s dear friend Charlie Sloth played it as an exclusive first listen on his show. Mic gives us a reflective look back at his turbulent, yet hugely impressive career. Listening to the bars and watching the video, you really begin to realise the sheer grit and determination that Mic has shown to get this far, this is certainly a candidate for best track on the album.
The final track. What a great debut album. I really think that this might actually blow. Mic clearly didn’t want to end it on a downer, so he’s leaving us with the hype track that he dropped at the beginning of the month. This track is Mic’s staking his claim on the game, declaring that none of the other MC’s out here can compete with him lyrically. Mic as ever is always quick to give us a healthy dose of reality; “It's 2016, every rapper is a roadman and every roadman wanna rap/ Really though fam?"
I honestly think this album will exceed most people expectations. I really think that Mic has managed to find that Promised Land I mentioned in the introduction. He really has struck an incredible balance on his debut. It’s got all the ingredients we expect from a Mic album and it’s also got plenty of diversity to keep things interesting and attract some new listeners.
Dreamland, which is of coursed named after the theme park in Margate of the same name, is transformed to Mic’s own theme park on the album, as he takes us on a ride through his life. The album, rather poetically, resembles a roller-coaster filled with plenty of ups and downs and will certainly have you gripped right till the end. The only criticism I’d have, is that I feel that it would of been cool for Mic to have a couple of MC’s featuring on the album, but hey there’s always the second album! Now I’m gonna go zone out and listen to it all over again!