The Hip-Hop industry can be suffocating if you don't set the business aspect of this game as your number one priority. Chicago's multi-talented MC, Mikkey can vouch for that. Long before Kanye West was selling millions of records and winning Grammy's, Mikkey was one of his closest friends. The two were inseparable, making music together at Kanye's crib during the hot summers of their early years. Shortly after, Mikkeys talents landed him writing jobs that now include Baby, Queen Latifah, and others. The album was still on its way.
It seemed as if it was only a matter of time until the two MCs put platinum Chicago on the map. Unfortunately, it was only Kanye who succeed in opening the doors for the Windy City, as Mikkey got involved in a bitter battle with Baby and Cash Money over creative control of his music. After exhausting all of his options, Mikkey eventually left Cash Money and went back home to Chicago to hook up with producer NO I.D. The two formed a bond and decided to tackle the industry together. Now with Jermaine Dupri and Virgin Records, Mikkeys album, Nat Turners Revenge is approaching fast, as his storyline grows longer. AllHipHop.com has the pleasure of telling some of that story.
AllHipHop.com: Go back to the very beginning, tell us about the early days
Mikkey: It was rough growing up in Chicago over the years. I come from an area called Rag Town, which is the wild 100's section of the south side of Chicago. Back then, basketball and sports were seen as the only realistic way. So that was the way in which I tried to get out of the ghetto, which lead me to getting a college degree through a basketball scholarship. I pursued my basketball dreams up to a certain point, as I even got as far as making the USDL team. At that time, I was only messing around with Rap, freestyling and whatnot. It was actually my sister who was into it more, and she met Kanye West while I was away at college. My buddies and me had made some demos, which were just freestyles and us messing around, but I played it for Kanye and he was blown away. And at the time, I was trying to pursue basketball, but everybody was telling me I was nice on the mic and that I had a gift. But at the time, Chicago really only had Common and Twista, and they weren't looked at as making a viable living off Hip-Hop. And I was chasing the dreams of buying my mama a crib, and moving out of the ghetto, so Rap didn't seem that appealing. But Kanye was like, "Look, take these beats, see what you can do, and come back". So I took the beats home and came back to Kanye the next day with like three classic records.
AllHipHop.com: And it progressed from there?
Mikkey: I was actually the first artist singed to Konman Productions, the production company that Kanye started. He actually named me Vice President at the time, so that's really how my Rap career started. So when I was working with Kanye, we did about 16 songs together. Those songs eventually got in the hands of Baby from Cash Money. He flew both of us down to New Orleans, and wanted to offer everybody a deal. He loved my music a lot, so I eventually signed with Cash Money. So everything is back full circle with Kanye and NO I.D. working on my album.. Also, Mannie Fresh is going to be on the album as well. Those are the three main producers, and its a beautiful thing.
AllHipHop.com: And what's your sisters Rap name?
Mikkey: Miss Criss, she was just unsigned hype in The Source about two months ago.
AllHipHop.com: Have you ever ghost written for Kanye?
Mikkey: No, I wouldn't say I have ghost written for Kanye. We have always helped each other, that's how it goes. There was a whole circle of us back then, such as Kanye, Rhymefest, GLC, and me. We would all work on songs together, come up with patterns or lines, and help each other overall. Sometimes we'll call each other on the phone and we'll tell each other which lines we like, or if the chorus should be reworked, things like that.
AllHipHop.com: Let's go to the beginning of the Cash Money situation. When you first flew down there, what did you see in them that made you believe in them and want to sign with Cash Money?
Mikkey: The thing that made me want to believe and sign with them was the fact that Juvenile had just left, and Baby knew all of my records verbatim. It was a situation where he was begging me to come down there. He accepted all of the music that Kanye and me did and told me, "We got the album ready, so I want you to come out in like five months." I thought it was going to be a big moment for Chicago and me. But once I signed the paperwork, everything changed. Now Kanye can only get three beats, and there are bunch of other stipulations I have to follow. They told me I had to get a tattoo, dress a certain way, and things like that.
AllHipHop.com: They were forcing you to get a tattoo?
Mikkey: Yeah, they were like, "You need to get a tattoo on your neck. I still haven't been paid a dime for my work there. I have written on 15 or 16 records on album's that have all went gold or platinum. But I never received a royalty check or anything, as of today. I am back with the right people who understand my vision.
AllHipHop.com: Are you going to sue Baby for unpaid royalties?
Mikkey: I'm gonna let the lawyers handle all of that; I'm not even worried about that right now. In time, everybody is going to have to pay. And even though the diss record I did against Baby is doing really well right now and tearing the radio up, it happened by happenstance. The first place it really took of was in New Orleans. They are playing it back to back to back in his own hometown. And I didn't even give it to the radio; the track was so real that even his hometown embraced it. I don't even have any more hard feelings, because right now I'm focused on doing me, so I'll let bygones be bygones.
AllHipHop.com: I was going to ask you about that diss track, because you touch on so many issues. One of the lines on the track is, "How you gonna win the war when your general is a homo". Did you mean that literally?
Mikkey: I'll put it like this; the truth is always going to come out. I never saw him do nothing like that, so I can't say that. But I know his ways were of that. So its a metaphor for the way that he acts. A lot of people say that's a reality for him, now I don't know that to be literal. Nothing was ever brought to me like that, so I just really meant it in a figurative sense. I didn't mean it literally, but a lot of people take it literally because of some personal stuff that they may know. I don't know any of that personal stuff. But I also want to mention that I got nothing but love for Mannie Fresh and Lil Wayne - which I state in the beginning on the diss track. I love both of those guys to death, because they knew and respected my talent. We were going through the same struggle, dealing with a tyrant CEO. So I consider them slaves, the same way that I was a slave.
AllHipHop.com: You also say on the diss track, "You talk about Puffy, called Kanye wack, then ask the same cats for tracks - you so phony.
Mikkey: He did a song with Puff, but the whole time he was talking behind his back, calling him this and that. And every time Puff comes around, Baby is all smiles and hugs saying, "Oh yeah, this is my big brother". That is so phony to me!
AllHipHop.com: Ok, let's move on. After you're done with Cash Money, what happens next?
Mikkey: After I'm done with Cash Money, I come back to Chicago. Once I got back to Chicago, NO I.D. was the first person to really embrace me. So we started working together and I got back in the swing of things. Now he's back into it like he was when he was making Common's Resurrection. Our situation revived him as well, because he was doing R&B and only a little bit of Rap. He wasn't in full gear, and neither was I, but we came together and built each other back up to the point where we are an unstoppable force. We have made a classic album, and you will hear that soon, trust me.
AllHipHop.com: And Jermaine Dupri, he is running things up at Virgin?
Mikkey: Yeah, he has the same post that Jay-Z has at Def Jam. He is the President/CEO at Virgin Records. NO I.D. and him had a relationship, because he produced for a couple of JD's artists. And NO I.D. just produced Bow Wow's new single "Hold You Down. The history at Virgin is so unique, because they have the history of never being able to break a real rapper. They have no credibility, as far as the Hip-Hop game goes. But Jermaine has the vision, mind frame, and passion to try and change that. He has that risk taking ability and is going to take Virgin by the horns and change their whole persona, credibility, direction, and image of the company. And I would love to be the rapper that turned Virgin, urban.
AllHipHop.com: Why title your album, Nat Turner's Revenge. ?
Mikkey: Its just the whole mind frame that I am in. Nat Turner was a slave that ran away and led a revolt in Virginia. And basically, I feel like the industry has always had these master and slave relationships. But I'm finally breaking free of that relationship I had with Cash Money/Universal. Now I feel like I am leading a rebellion of all of these ex-slaves that were tied down in situations where people were not benefiting them. Its also paying homage to a great Black hero, by saying every time that aBblack man becomes successful, or makes something of themselves, its like Nat Turner is having his revenge. Nat Turner was hanged, murdered, and skinned alive, so its like he's getting his revenge silently, even though he is dead.
AllHipHop.com: Do you have anything else going on in the future?
Mikkey: We are working on a non-profit organization called UnCrowned City for Children. Its an organization that gives back to inner city children through scholarship funds and books. We are looking to immediately give back to the hood. I have already adopted one kid from the Chicago public schools, and I'm helping to put him through college as we speak. I'm really about education, helping my people, and giving back to the community.
AllHipHop.com: Wow, thats great that you're paying for his college education.
Mikkey: Yeah, its a beautiful thing. I have worked diligently with kids before, since I have a degree in Education from Xavier University [and played basketball]. Teaching has always been a passion of mine, and rapping is just another form of teaching for me.