I’ve long referred to Grind Time battle rapper turned feature assassin Mic Phenom as my favorite rapper without an album. His 2011 mixtape and a plethora of monster features aside, the Seattle rapper (originally from Battle Creek, Michigan) had yet to put out an original project and I always felt this was a crime in itself. Till Christmas Eve that is, when Mic gave us the gift of hip-hop.
The 7-track EP, The 6th Man, successfully demonstrates Mic’s raw rap talent while standing as a testament to his growth as a person. His last mixtape, plainly titled, What I’ve Been Doing, was widely received and served as a rough introduction to Mic as a recording artist during an interesting slice of his life, which is best explained in an interview with Tacoma’s D-Money as The Adventures of Mic Phenom Drunk And Babysitting. The latest project seems to find him in a better place. Walk with me as I stroll through the album track by track.
INTRO (Produced by Intylekt)
The 6th Man wastes no time showing Mic as a grownup, accepting his position in the music scene and plotting a forward path in a hook free intro that showcases the rapper’s uncanny penchant for syllable chops and combo rhymes over soundtrack-styled production.
All I Feel ft. Ill Chris & Cam The Mac (Produced by Epik)
Seattle swag artists Ill Chris and Cam The Mac help power this whiney head-knocker, which quickly takes the vibe from rappy to chill. The trio raps confidently on their trillness while co-signing each other between a hypnotic screwed hook.
F.Y.F. (Produced by Stewart Villain)
Stewart’s production serves a such a stark contrast to the previous track that I almost failed to notice that both have screwed hooks. F.Y.F. (F*** Yo’ Feelings) provides the right energy at the right time. Danceable and anthem worthy, Mic uses the chance to get back to rapping alone, explaining how he’s done worrying about what others think of him.
No More ft. King Leez & Dice (Produced by Rising Son)
The theme of leaving foolishness behind continues into the album’s midpoint with No More. If you don’t know about Dice… The Seattle native stays out in ATL now but blessed us with a gorgeous hook here. King Leez starts the track masterfully, and Mic closes it powerfully over the immaculate beat from highly acclaimed Rising Son.
Must Be Dreamin’ ft. Toya (Produced by Rising Son)
Mic almost had me on this one with the neo-pop intro. I thought he was about to make the common faux paux of trying to force a commercial record into the middle of a soul record, when in reality he was changing the theme from looking back to moving forward. He also faked me out by yelling out “Parker Joe!” (the rapper in the The Flavr Blue) who does not appear on the song. (As it turns out, the song was recorded in Parker’s studio.) Foolishness aside, Must Be Dreamin’ may very well be the jewel of the album; the complexity of the arrangements fused with inspired verses made me think of Scarface’s The Fix. It seems ThisIs50.com picked the single up earlier this month as well.
Yellow Brick Road ft. XV & Toya (Produced by Veli the Kid Read)
Just when I start thinking this can’t get much better, Mic threw in his 2014 certified hit. I’m still not sure it’s better than track 5, but damn, it’s such a clean and hypnotic banger. It also has the distinction of hitting #1 on DJBooth that one time and features Mic’s star brother XV – who expertly describes my young adult life in the seemingly flame-thrown second verse. A song about achieving goals against all odds, YBR should ring a bell with just about everyone.
Final Four ft. Language Arts, Zaye Lace & Fatal Lucciauno (Produced by Intylekt)
If I were like 22, this would be my favorite track on the record. Mic goes back to his battle roots, recruiting some of Seattle most respected wordsmiths on a Four Horsemen styled, all-bar affair over a dark battle loop in which Fatal cheats and rhymes for like 40 bars… but nobody complains as usual.
All in all, The 6th Man was better than I expected and just what I’d hoped for. Mic’s growth is apparent. Marked improvements in story telling, song structure and – perhaps most notably – beat selection didn’t take away from the lyricist’s core talent a bit, and I think we have to stop talking about Mic as a rapper with “potential” now. Hopefully he won’t take another 5 years to give us another project, but until then, he might just be my favorite rapper without a full length album out.
Don’t make me wait too long, Mic.