Mike Mictlan performing with Doomtree at Lollapalooza.
Photo by Erik Hess
Without much preamble, Mike Mictlan released his first solo project in four years, fittingly titled SNAXXX!, on the Doomtree Bandcamp page as a free download. It's a grimy affair, largely produced by the dirty beats guru 2% Muck, and it's a promising glimpse of the dark alleys down which Mictlan is taking his complex microphone skills.
Gimme Noise talked with Doomtree's resident creeper about his new project and how he began to move in a more playful direction.
Gimme Noise: It's been four years since your last project, Hand Over Fist with Lazerbeak. Has SNAXXX! been in the works since then, or is this something that kind of came out suddenly?
Mike Mictlan: It came out suddenly. That's totally intentional. I wanted it to be kind of mysterious. That's always been the Doomtree thing, we've always been able to thrive on focusing our brand and being able to present in a way that's fun and appealing, and not normal or overbearing. We intentionally held the date and the album cover from everyone until the day it came out. My core audience already knows what it's all about and they're into it. I don't have to shove it in their face, like "Pick this up." I'm working on a full-length record [HELLAFRREAL] that we wanna put out beginning of next year, so it's just kind of an in-the-meantime type of thing, plus I'm going on tour with P.O.S., so I wanted to take something on the road. I did a whole merch thing for it so that it was interesting, but this was just like some quick snacks to chew on while [people are] waiting for something else.
GN: SNAXXX! seems to be a stylistic shift of sorts, it's a lot more loose.
MM:SNAXXX! specifically is it's own thing, its kind of me reintroducing myself to people, kind of where I'm at right now. It's called SNAXXX! with three Xs, it's unhealthy snacks for the big kids. I'm talking about lewd women on there, I'm talking about drugs, I'm talking about being gross, I'm talking about anarchy and shit... The other side of being like a weirdo outlaw, as I see myself. I'm not trying to sell myself in another light. I couldn't. It's kind of jokey, like "Spicy Peen" was just a joke I made one day and was like, "Oh, this could be a chorus!" I was riding around talking shit about my penis and being Mexican, and I'm like alright, I'm gonna roll with it. SNAXXX! is loaded with inside jokes for me and my friends. HELLAFRREAL is gonna be kinda mean, more straight-up rapping even harder. I want shit to just be kind of tough. That's kind of my lane right now as far as this Doomtree shit. It's kind of like what excessive touring and being a full time rapper have done to me and my life since Hand Over Fist.
GN: The rhyme patterns are on a similar level to stuff you've done but the tone you're hitting is a lot less emotional...
MM: It's a lot less personal. After Hand Over Fist, I had a lot of personal issues in my life. I had broken up with my kid's mom, it was really messy, it got really bad, I got really depressed, I was on drugs for a little while, got clean on drugs... So I'm on [the Wings and Teeth] tour, trying to get clean on drugs and playing songs to people, and there's a night where I was fucking crying on stage and shit. Every time it wasn't my turn to rap, I would go behind the DJ table and cry, and had to then shake it off and go back to rapping.
And "Prizefight", which is a really personal song, and like my biggest song at the time, one of the few songs that anybody even fucking knew and people connected with... I'm playing that song every night, and one night, I remember specifically, in North Carolina, I'm playing, and I had a lump in my throat the whole time, because I'm going through all this personal shit on tour, and we'd been playing for like two months straight. And I got so pissed at the crowd because they weren't connecting to my song, and I couldn't perform it, and I wanted to kick everybody in the front row. At that moment, I didn't want to share my personal song with anyone, but I had to because I'm playing a show. So [SNAXXX! is not me] really trying to be hard, or trying to be offensive; I'm trying to make different music so that I don't have to always give a piece of myself every night.
I'm a touring musician, that's how I make my money, that's how I feed my kid, that's how I live my life. In reality, I'm almost like a filter for 18- to 25-year-olds in college, when their parents aren't there and they're out in the world, and I'm the one that has to see them when they're drunk or whatever. I felt like I wanted to make more music that didn't mean so much to me so I didn't have to always connect with it. And it's not that these tracks don't mean a lot to me; I put a lot into it, there's still a lot of poetry in there about personal things. It's cryptic and other people aren't really gonna get it, but I know it's out there. It's just less personal and it's more fun, more abrasive.
I really enjoy the fact of rap music being offensive, and it doesn't have to be baselessly offensive to still be offensive and weird people out. I don't want to be the only one stripping myself bare, being vulnerable onstage every night. It's way more fun to be the bad-guy wrestler. To some people it might come as a shock or whatever, some people that have only heard the No Kings stuff and have only heard Doomtree for the first time from that; they might check out my stuff, and it might seem different, but we've always been about unapologetically doing what we wanna do.
GN: What's the difference in working with 2% Muck doing beats rather than Doomtree production?
MM: His stuff is more stripped down, more bare. In know for him personally, he thinks simpler is always better. As word-heavy as it is on SNAXXX!, that's as dumbed-down as I can get [laughs]. It's embellishing on the simpleness of it. It's fun. I didn't want to be the one-trick pony in my crew, especially having a fast delivery, being the one that can rap fast or whatever. I show that a lot on this record, the pocket. I really enjoy it, that's the shit that geeks me out. I have a lot of things where I pick a flow and a pattern and a rhyme scheme and a topic, and I stick to it, and it's almost like a perfect circle. Doomtree's always just fucking awkward. Our interpretation of rap just comes off weird to people. To us, we're making traditional rap music, but to everybody else, they're like, "Oh, this is really weird,". As dumb or as simple or as club as I could ever get, I know it's going to come out weird and awkward and Doomtree, because that's what I am.
GN: What's it like working solo versus working with the other Doomtree MCs?
MM: It's fucking harder working by myself, always. It's always tougher working on solo stuff. There's so many factors that go into it. Not only the list of distractions I have in my life, but sitting there working by yourself, it can be fucking circular as fuck. You don't get anything done. When you work with other people, not only do you have the factor of competitiveness, but when you actually get together and you're gonna make some music officially, you can't walk away without finishing. It hurts your heart. It's just a lot easier and funner to make shit with other people. That didn't used to be that way for me.
This last Doomtree record was the first time we actually collaboratively made a record together, and that helped me a lot. Around that time I was writing with Spyder [Baybie Raw Dog] a lot, he had moved down the street from where I used to live in Minneapolis and we started hanging out a lot more. That guy is just constantly writing rap music. He'll stick his hand in his fucking backpack and pull out pages of looseleaf notebooks and put 'em together and it'll be a flow, he just has lyrics all the time. At that time, I was getting more used to working with other people, but it's a lot easier and funner.
GN: You've been doing a lot of collaborative work lately, from working with Doomtree to working with Spyder, Muck, Lizzo and La Manchita as Tha Clerb, as well as with Marijuana Death Squads and Gayngs...
MM: The crew of friends I hang out with musically and socially, that's just the vibe we're on right now. People that I've known for years, like Ryan Olson of Gayngs, back in the days when he was with Mel Gibson and the Pants and Digitata, we've always worked together. It's just really cool for other people to start recognizing all the shit that we do and were already doing. [Marijuana] Deathsquads is something that has changed my whole perception of making music in general. Me and P.O.S. went to L.A. at the beginning of 2011, he went to go start making We Don't Even Live Here with Andrew Dawson.
Deathsquads also had a residency, and we all stayed at my friend's house at an old marijuana dispensary around this club where we played the residency every week, and we were making music in between the week. I wrote "Creeper Status" out there and a couple other things that ended up being on SNAXXX!. In the process of doing that, we started working on other projects. Being in Deathsquads and making music with all those guys has been a huge influence, and I think that's kind of where everyone is going, this collaborative sense. This whole non-wave type shit, just doing music. The Deathsquads shit, there's tracks where there's like 20 different rappers, and everybody's either drunk or on drugs or stoned or something, in fucking Ryan Olson's bedroom freestyling, He just sticks a mic in everyone's face and puts a beat on. It's almost like this just pure consciousness of musical art that somehow came out to be rap, or something, or whatever. To me, it's just this natural progression of things. This shit's been bubbling up for a long time.
GN: Tell me about your upcoming tour with P.O.S.
MM: It's gonna be fucking fun, man. I get to host the whole night, I get to play songs in between all the acts, and I get to back up [P.O.S.] the whole night. I'm gonna be the best fucking back-up dude ever. We're gonna have a fucking blast. I'm really excited for his record. SNAXXX! is tight, and I'm really excited for my next shit, but my main focus right now is carrying the P.O.S. name. We're brothers; I've known him since I was 15. This is his best shit to date, and I really feel that his message and what he's giving the people is awesome, man. That's a dude who really makes sure that he's walking the talk. I can't wait to get on the road and purport that whole idea and the whole challenge.