It was his second time performing at SXSW, but this year, he needed not to travel far to attend. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Mike Melinoe is a 25 year old hip hop artist that now resides in Austin, Texas, the city that hosts the ten-day-long music and arts festival. Despite performing there five times this year, Mike cites seeing Gucci Mane as the highlight of SXSW: “It was a dream come true.”
Mike grew up in a household of musicians and music lovers. His dad played piano, and the family was frequent church-goers enjoying the beauty of a gospel choir. He began writing at the early age of 9, and music fulfilled an aspect that was largely missing in his relationship with his father.
It was kind of that connection that I believe I wanted from my dad but I never had it, so I was fiending for that idea of music.
However, the rapper adamantly insists that hip hop is but a fraction of his tastes. In fact, rap was the last genre that he became interested in. Jazz was actually his first love; vocalism was another. It was actually the rise of rap music with Lil Wayne, Andre 3000, and MF DOOM that inspired Mike to tap into his rhythmic lyricism. Quite frankly, Weezy is the reason why Mike raps today. But of course, he also pays tribute to fellow Detroit rappers Danny Brown, and Eminem, the latter of whom Mike is a “very very very very very big fan of.” Thus, Mike’s calling, he asks himself, is “What more can I do for this city?”
And Mike carries this essence of Detroit with him everywhere. Much like music coming from the Motor City, Mike Melinoe is difficult to describe with just a few words. He creates elements of boom bap, especially in his older releases. He plays around with psychedelic vocals. He displays a Houston Trill influence from time to time. His spectrum is vast, and he celebrates his own musical diversity:
I don’t like to sound like other people; that’s my thing. I will go out of my way to make sure my stuff sounds different.
One important idea the emcee stressed was his uncanny ability to channel emotions and let them flow through him as a conduit to his listeners. Mike is not one to hide or be ashamed of how he feels. He believes one hundred percent that capturing these feelings realistically remains fundamental to his craft. Which is why the artist, who day-one listeners can remember, deleted his first couple projects (Day N. A. Daze and Last Voyage: Tales of Heartbreak), because he never intended to limit himself to solely rapping. “I don’t want to put people in this bubble anymore…I can rap my ass off, but that shit gets boring.” Although Mike appreciates these projects, he doesn’t want to relive the thought process of his life back then. It was a depressing time. So, he concluded to “let that shit go.”
The end of one thing was the beginning of another.
Mike’s 2016 EP Caveman was about starting over, with a blank canvas. The self-proclaimed “shy and sheltered” guy wants people to truly discover who Mike Melinoe is, and Caveman is just that. Combining noise rap, chopped ‘n screwed psychedelia, and a dash of his old school flow, the seven track project unapologetically represents the idea of him as an artist.
Many also recognize Mike as cofounder of the hip hop crew Organic Geniuses. Interestingly enough, he came up with the name when he was working at Panera, because they felt as a whole, they were all, organically genius. The group members all derived from different areas and met completely through the internet. Their mission: “to focus on their individual brands while slowly building the clique together, so it’s not just one guy blowing up,” as one can accurately describe some hip hop groups nowadays. Their discography currently consists of two projects, The Tribe Chronicles and the highly underrated Tribe of Mass Killas. As of now, they are waiting for the right time to drop their next collab. “It is coming, eventually though. ”It’s in the works. I’ll say that.”
Beyond collaborating with his fellow Organic Geniuses, Mike strives to one day perform with the backing of a live band. He picked this idea up after moving to Austin, where the live band action thrives. So many “greats” do it. It marks the character of one willing to sacrifice their time in the limelight to portray diverse and dope talent.
Another act of selflessness, the Detroit native aspires to succeed in his craft so he can give back to his community. He has a number of plans to do so, including producing cartoons, building recreational centers, portraying art galleries, starting a charity, and much more. To him, it is all about experiencing life, growing stronger, and spreading that positivity. He carries a certain levity about it, as well: -“[I’m about] allowing people from where I’m from to understand it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to wear whatever the fuck you want. A lot of hood people are starting to wear satchels, but I’ve been low key wearing a fanny pack all my life…fanny pack or satchel, you got that? You poppin’!”
Despite his humor, Mike is all business. He, along with his girlfriend and publicist, embrace the indie artist lifestyle. That’s not to say he is against signing to a major label: “I would do it, but it would have to make sense.” Respectfully so.
Fortunately, Mike has been grinding for his fans. Expect a new Mike Melinoe project within the next two months. It will be a collaboration with Blue Alley Records, and he recently released a single from it, “Neighborhood GOAT.”
This will be a growth process and not overnight success.