Chi-Town State of Mind
Mikkey Halsted, one of the Windy City’s finest MC’s, sits down with SLAMonline to talk about music, life and basketball… From a Chicago perspective.
MH: That video feels so Chicago, don’t it man.
SLAM: Yeah. That’s like everyday life. I grew up on 66th and Marshfield and we have a store right there on 66th and Ashland. I used to see and experience that same stuff everyday on that very corner.
MH: Exactly. I wanted to paint that picture so outsiders can come into our world, you know what I’m saying. And that video feels like Chicago, period.
SLAM: Word. It doesn’t get anymore Chicago than that… So let’s talk about your album, The Dark Room. What was the concept behind it? What space were you in when you made that album?
MH: The Darkroom is the prequel to the album that I’m working on now called The Photo Album. Back in the day, before Photoshop and all of that, when you took a picture you had to get it developed in a dark room. So I call myself an artist, a rap artist, so I paint pictures with words. When I was writing the album, I wanted to keep it real. We chose not to go with a label because I didn’t need any label pressure on what kind of songs I needed to make or the kinds of songs I couldn’t do. What I could say, what I couldn’t say, stuff like that. This album is just me in my rawest form. It’s raw lyrics, raw story telling, raw picture painting. So if you really appreciate lyricism, real lyricism, then I feel like you’re gonna appreciate The Darkroom. I’m not happy with the state of hip-hop right now, but I’m not hating either. A lot of the people that’s selling records and perceived as successful, the music is fluff rap. Miscellaneous rap about nothing. It ain’t talking about nothing. On my album, each song has a purpose, a concept and a visual behind it. If you close your eyes, you can see what the video should be for that song. So that’s where I wanted to take it with The Darkroom and thank God the critics and the people have really been showing it love and it’s surpassed all my expectations. It’s done better than I thought it was gonna do and the people have been receiving it well.
SLAM: You know, it seems like the music industry and basketball are kind of flowing along the same path. I remember when you had to really be good to make it to the League. I remember that in order to go platinum in the rap game, you really had to know how to spit. These days, everything goes off of potential.
MH: Exactly! You can average 7 points in college and go to the NBA now. It’s like, come on man! I can’t believe that. And like, when you look at rap, it’s so bad for the shorty’s to see wack people making it. Because what it does… Imagine if you translate it to the NBA. Say if you looked at the All-Star Game and all you saw was people who couldn’t dribble with their left hand, people who couldn’t shoot a jumper, and people who couldn’t dunk because they was all 5-7. That’s what the All-Star Game in hip-hop is now, a bunch of 5-7 dudes that can’t dunk, shoot or dribble with their left hand, you know what I’m saying. And what that does is, it tells that shorty’s that they don’t really have to work on their game. They can just go out there like a goofy and do a couple of And 1 moves, smile on the court, jump up and down and as long as they shoes is fresh and they uniform looks like right and they got the right swag on the court, they can make it to the League. But at least in basketball, it weeds you out level after level. That’s the one good thing about basketball even though it’s watered down like you said. Everybody grows up wanting to be in the NBA. But then some people don’t make the 8th grade team and they stop there. Then you have people that go to high school and they play as a freshman, but don’t make varsity. They figure out down the line that basketball is not for them. And guess what? Off the varsity team, 2 or 3 might make it and get scholarships to a big time college. So the rest of the people, they figure out that basketball isn’t for them and they decide to pursue other avenues in life. And then for those that go to play ball in college, they find out that only so many people can get drafted and it’s only so many spots in the NBA and out of all the people that play college basketball, when you think about it, it’s only about 100 to 200 jobs out there, maybe. And so everybody has to go to Plan B. But in the rap game — I’m not going to name no names — you see Rapper A out there and he got money, but he’s saying raps that a 3rd grader could say. So as a shorty or as a person seeing that, you feel like there is nobody that can tell you that you can’t make it in rap because look at dude! They’re thinking to themselves, ‘I can rap that good!’ In basketball it’s like look, man, you’re only 5-10, you can’t jump and you can’t even dribble. You ain’t gonna make it. Look at all the people in the NBA, they can do all those things really good. So you can look at TV and say to yourself, ‘I can’t be like Derrick Rose. I’m not like Derrick Rose. I can go out on Sunday and try to do what I do, but I see a big difference between me and Derrick Rose’. But if you’re look at some of these rappers… Look, if somebody come up to you and kick a rap and it’s garbage, Bryan, how you gonna tell them they can’t make it? They gonna tell you to turn on BET and say that they can rap as good as about half of the people on there, at least. So that’s the thing with the rap game, man. It’s a lot of 5-7 guys that can’t go left.