“Disco!”, the latest album from NYC-based rapper/producer MIKE opens with “Evil Eye,” a track which flips a slick soul sample to create a joyous musical backdrop. But the lyrics tell another story: “It’s for my momma when I make raps, dummy/ When I pray, because I know she gonna pray back for me.” The song is less a traditional narrative than it is a space for emotion, attitude, and spirit, and with its allusions to aging, depression, and loss, it sets the tone for the album as a whole. As an MC, MIKE is blessed with the gift of introspection, able to write clever turns of phrase that illuminate great emotional truths. That lyric, which MIKE repeats at the end of the song, speaks to the ways loss can ignite a greater sense of purpose.
It’s an idea that carries throughout the album. “Big Love” is built on a slow, pitched-down beat, its sampled voices cut up and repositioned. They sing back to MIKE, who delivers heartbreaking lines like, “It’s hard to take love as it is or love as it was/ When it was, it was sick/ When it wasn’t it was tough.” “Aww Zaza” is built on a loop of shuffling drums and a twinkling electric piano motif, and MIKE’s delivery is loose and playful as he juggles call-and-response lyrics about persevering through life’s challenges: “Stuck in the midst of it all/ Struggling? Mmmmm naw/ But I’m recovering.” The album concludes with “Spiral/Disco (Outro)“, a song that drives home MIKE’s ability to craft pure poetry of the heart. It’s a journey through joy, pain, and isolation that closes with a simple but poignant couplet that contains a world of hope: “I need to fly away/ I think rapping saved my life today.” With its detailed mapping of the darker parts of the emotional spectrum, Disco! Ultimately feels like a hard-fought victory. The songs don’t wallow in sadness—instead, they challenge us to accept it, and to move forward.