Im Honest Download
Keep It Raw Download
from AIWA (As I Was Always) (2006, Mikial Music)
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On the streets of Oakland, home to fast cars and fast living, he is known as the sharp witted lyricist “Mik Diesel”. Fueled by theology and intellect, Mikial has surpassed most on the raceways of lyrical improvisation, better known as the fine art of freestyling. He has been blessed with the opportunity to work with Muslim artists like ElevenFiftyNine, Kumasi and M-Team, but also reached beyond our horizons to make music with Rza, Busta Rhymes, Battlecat, RassKass, and Cali Agents. A truly accomplished underground emcee, Mikial describes his own music as “thought provoking” juxtaposed with “grimy hip hop”. It’s no wonder how he managed to work with some of the best, even so early in his career. And without a doubt, Mikial has intentions on making his music a life-long ambition.
Music, however, seems to run in the family genes and Mikial isn’t the only prodigy. His mother was a Gospel singer, which Mikial feels influenced personal decisions to fully represent Belief and Worship in his own music. Likewise, his uncle produced Bay Area legends Digital Underground, who originally promoted Tupac Shakur, another one of Mikial’s artistic influences. When I asked Mikial who his favorites were, he answered, “Tupac. His story alone seemed so amazing aside from his music.”
And Tupac’s tales of triumph aren’t his alone; Mikial has endured similar struggles that are passionately presented in his songs. “My music represents my lifestyle and that’s an everyday struggle,” he stated during our interview. He was born in a small town in Michigan, later moving to California in the eighties where it all began for his life as a musician. Indeed, the eighties were formative years for Hip Hop altogether, as a universal culture. All through that time artists were still using the most basic skill an emcee had to possess- the ability to freestyle and rap “off the dome” as Mikial frequently puts it. “I think its my personal gift to make music…and it’s sad that politics have affected hip hop where emcees are afraid to freely express themselves without some type of benefit other than creating beautiful music,” Mikial commented. The benefit he is referring to is a financial one, which seems to be the motivation for most “rappers” today. The desire to make a statement, while demonstrating skills, has been replaced with the desire to become a notably wealthy icon in pop culture.
Mikial’s most recent album Halal 2.1 was produced by and released through ill Product, a local label ran by Dominic Agatep. When relating Mikial’s ambition, Dominic said, “Mik is a beast. This guy would be in the booth recording every day and every hour if his schedule allowed it. If he’s not recording with me, he’s making songs with someone else…he’s a “natural”. Even though he has an amazing talent, he remains humble.” Halal 2.1 was completely and miraculously unrehearsed, “I was given the opportunity to release halal rap, which means pure, lawful and clean…what’s amazing about this album is that I freestyled the whole EP, with the exception of one song.”
I also asked Mikial if this album would serve as a comeback for the art of improvisation and questioned as to whether or not he feels that freestyling is an abandoned convention, “No, I think that freestyling is still relevant to real heads. What Halal 2.1 will do is raise the bar for creativity in freestyle records, because people (do) freestyle songs, but I’m the only one to freestyle a whole record.”
When some of Mikial’s fellow Remarkable Current artists were asked to comment on his abilities, Ensahbanor of Mujahideen Team and Kumasi gladly responded. Ensahbanor explained that Mikial’s style is “lyrically deadly” and elaborated that, “The art of delivering a freestyle is part of the culture, many people are not really involved or care about the culture. Most people are in the game today simply for the money.” Ensahbanor has been afforded the opportunity to record with Mikial too, on the cut ‘100 Bullets’ featuring Mikial, Ishaaq Nur, and Kumasi, describing it as a “powerful combination”.
Southern California’s Kumasi has a slightly different take on the art itself, affirming that any such gift comes only from Allah (God). “This is something that is a gift from our Lord. Freestyling, for some, is allowing ALLAH to flow through you…this is not about rap, it is about servitude and obedience.” And Kumasi is most certainly correct in proclaiming the realities of God given talents, which both he and Mik Diesel possess. (Yahsmin M.B. BoBo)