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MIKE keeps the flame going with “BURNING DESIRE”

Jumaane Millette | The Ticker

Experimental rap champion MIKE continues to flesh out his abstract sound on “BURNING DESIRE,” released Oct. 13. 

The artist, born Michael Jordan Bonema, wrote and produced most of the album under the alias dj blackpower, with two tracks produced by GAWD and Laron.

British experimental artist Klein sets the album’s backdrop in the intro track. She reads a synopsis of a nonexistent West African cult slasher film, a self-reference to the cover art by Ghanaian poster illustrator Daniel Anum Jasper. Her narration reveals that the album’s title alludes to the Bronx rapper’s “fire so deeply rooted in revenge and devastation that was masked with an intricate beauty.”

The album tells a tale of newfound recognition, resentment and gratitude accompanied by extra-slow slow jams and heartfelt monologues from TAKA and Anuoluwapo “Sandra” Majekodunmi. 

“Snake Charm” implements a slightly chopped, hazily sunny 70s soul sample as a backdrop to Bonema’s monotone delivery as he muses on a worn-out love. “Fasho that rope getting thinner, I over extеnd/ On the coast of repenting, I almost could swim/ But I’m too focusеd on revenge and the covert again,” he raps. 

Bonema’s no longer willing to stretch himself thin to appease others. He wants to let go of the past’s wrongdoings but is intoxicated with vengeance and hellbent on surpassing the naysayers. 

He continues to comment on his contemporary clones on “plz don’t cut my wings.” The looping violin instrumental is sentimental as it is haunting and compliments the melancholic yet unpretentious bars about his lonesome journey to success.

At the same time, he calls out the wannabes and tells them to snap out of their desperation for recognition. “Ain’t no more staring through that peephole/ Please don’t jack my steez/Stop all that hoein’ for the repost,” he says directly. Fellow collaborator Earl Sweatshirt also appears and offers an equally matter-of-fact verse. 

“REAL LOVE” could easily serve as the soundtrack to the aforementioned horror flick with its uncanny production. Mary J. Blige’s song of the same name is reworked into a sedated and eerie vaporwave meets chopped and screwed ambiance that meshes with fashionspitta’s voice. She slowly recites a love poem as Blige’s distorted vocals warble on about “searching for a real love.” 

“BURNING DESIRE” isn’t all doom and gloom, though. It offers plenty of bursts of optimism and joy that ooze through the speakers.

The title track references the rapper’s Young World III festival held in Brooklyn in July. The daylong event was met with occasional rainfall, which led to organizers pausing the program until the weather improved. 

Despite the seemingly indefinite setback, fans and artists alike kept the flame burning. “Fogs and raining clouds/ Cluttered the way/It’s calm, I pray the route,” Bonema recalls. The incident is a metaphor for temporary hardships and trusting the process.

The rain motif pours through the succeeding track, “THEY DON’T STOP IN THE RAIN,” where TAKA reminisces on the concert and how the previously unreleased title track was the first song played after the sky cleared up.

The track’s outro features an infectiously fun interpolation of Lil Kim’s “Crush on You.” As Bonema sings the iconic chorus, Lil Kim’s vocals interject with the part where she yelps, “True!” It’s hard to listen to the exchange without bursting into an enormous grin.

“Mussel Beach” carries a playful attitude with effortlessly cool contributions from El Cousteau and Niontay. El Cousteau’s hypnotic and head-bobbing flow paired with the deep bass makes listeners want to leave the song on loop.

Simply put, “BURNING DESIRE” is another addicting and profound addition to the rapper’s ever-evolving discography. It’s perhaps MIKE’s most substantial work to date. The album’s hypnagogic production and easygoing flow are perfect for recollecting memories that have yet to occur.

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Mia Euceda
Mia Euceda, Arts & Culture Editor
Mia Euceda is the Arts and Culture Editor of The Ticker.
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