Concert Reviews Music

Concert Review: MIKE at Bar Le Ritz PDB

Underground hip hop champion MIKE played for his first Montreal audience at Bar Le Ritz on March 10, accompanied by Florida-based rappers 454 and Niontay

The crowd was small but dedicated outside of Parc Extension’s Bar Le Ritz PDB, where MIKE made his Montreal debut. Illuminated by the chandelier store opposite from the bar, the line slowly trickled through the door where they were met with a relatively small venue. 

With no DJ, Niontay was the first to play on stage. Hailing from Orlando, Florida, he’s been putting out singles for a few years and his first project, Dontay’s Inferno, releases April 7. His set sounded like The Black Eyed Peas mixed with 

Even though the crowd didn’t know him, that hardly stopped them from enjoying his performance. They quickly took his cues for when to shout and by the end there was enough energy to make him say his Montreal performance was more fun that his most recent show in Boston. 

454 was up next, and since he was born in Florida but lives in New York he acted as a sort of bridge between Niontay and MIKE. He’s been putting out projects since 2021 and it was clear that most of the people there had already heard of him, which makes sense considering his presence on Denzel Curry’s latest album. 

His music had some similarities to Niontay’s, but with more of a trap/drill influence, including gliding 808s and plug-esque video game sounds. His set was more energetic than the first, prompting even a few short mosh pits during the most well-known songs. He did a good job getting the audience warmed up and for a decent amount of MIKE’s set, he was dancing in the audience.

The venue had been crowded from the jump, but at this point it was fully packed and the sweat was pouring. Thankfully MIKE took the stage after a short wait, and after giving some daps to the front row he jumped into a set that was energetic, intimate, and memorable. The highlight was definitely when someone tossed a bag of weed on stage and he stopped the show. “Y’all are gonna see my first ever live zaza review,” he said, before performing his song “Aww (ZaZa).” This prompted a large portion of the crowd to light joints, adding a thick layer of smoke to the room. After trying a few spliffs from the audience, he announced a winner. 

Another highlight was when he acknowledged his mother as the source of his creativity, and a resounding applause was dedicated to her. Near the end of his set, his backing track started skipping, but because of the chopped up samples he typically uses and how rhythmic the skips were, it just sounded like alternate or remixed versions of the songs. 

Unsurprisingly, most of the set was dedicated to his newest album, Beware of the Monkey. This is his 10th studio album in just six years, and it strays more melodic and poppy than his previous efforts. That’s not to say it’s a completely new sound; the reverb-laden sample loops are still there, but now they feel more grounded, even simplified a bit. The result is an album that’s more accessible to a general audience, but also doesn’t alienate the people he already won over. 

Overall, he put on a great show which was only boosted by the small size of the venue. His energy was potent but concentrated, influencing a smaller number of people more deeply. If it had been a larger space, it might have felt more watered down, like it was favouring the quantity of people over the quality of the experience.


Underrated Albums of 2020, Vol. 3: MIKE – weight of the world

The Bronx-bred lyricist presents us with an extremely cerebral album dealing with depression, grief and the emotional aftermath of losing his mother.

Carrying the weight of the world on one’s shoulders can be a crushing burden, but since his teenage years, MIKE has been doing just that. Born Michael Jordan Bonema, the 22-year-old lyricist is a pioneer in the underground lo-fi hip hop scene, all the while delivering some of its most emotionally resonant, introspective and prolific works to date.

With weight of the world, MIKE delivers yet another extremely personal, transparent and cerebral experience that continues this trend. As always, the Bronx-born MC wears his heart on his sleeve, exploring his anxieties, depression and the emotional toll that the loss of his mother has taken on him.

It’s this emotional weight that MIKE carries with him that he masterfully conveys through his lyrics, crafting immensely impressive verses that are as intriguingly poetic and abstract as they are emotionally impactful. In just a few words, he’s able to effectively encapsulate some of his most visceral feelings and agonizing memories in ways so visual that it plays like a movie scene for the listener. This is exemplified on “222,” as MIKE rifles through his dealings with substance abuse and depression, his relationship with his brother and the moment that his mother died, “Walked her out the Earth, just me, a couple nurses.”

This lyrical prowess is perfectly complemented by the work that MIKE does behind the boards, handling the majority of the album’s production under his producer pseudonym, dj blackpower. In doing so, he creates a soundscape that’s as scattered and dense as the thoughts he’s put to paper in his verses. The murky lo-fi instrumentals, mostly comprised of chopped-up soul samples and irregular drum patterns, are deliberately messy enough to match the emotion within his lyrics while still creating a comfortable enough pocket for MIKE to sound his best in.

And while this isn’t his best project per se, as a writer and rapper, he is absolutely at his best. His writing is sharp, and his delivery is more confident than ever, even when he’s teetering on sounding monotone. From the exchanging verses with Earl Sweatshirt on the album’s closer “allstar,” to his personal reflections on songs like “no, no” and “trail of tears,” MIKE showcases that within his sadness and pain, his growth has been the light at the end of the tunnel.

On his 2019 magnum opus tears of joy (released shortly after his mother’s passing), we heard verses that played like the reflective diary entries of an emotionally distressed, grieving son. weight of the world sees that son, still sorrowful and grieving, finding solace in his music and further confidence in his abilities. It’s as hopeful as it is harrowing, a true testament to MIKE’s growth as a lyricist and producer, and one of the best and most unjustly overlooked albums of last year.


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