Mike Dreams Jumps “In the Mix” [DJBooth Interview Exclusive]
The fulfillment of a big dream, musical or otherwise, comes only after a head-to-head battle with harsh reality. Of course, I don't need to tell that to Minne-ap native Mike Dreams, who's been chronicling his labors, struggles, sorrows and triumphs for an increasingly enthusiastic Booth fanbase since way back in 2007. Coming on the heels of February's Dreamer's Poetry. (downloadable here!), the freestyle series alum's latest dispatch from the grind finds him Just Waking Up from his figurative slumbers, but that doesn't mean he's pushed aside his grand ambitions – on the contrary, the FLüD Watches/DJBooth.net-sponsored set finds Dreams alert, driven, and ready to splash cold water on hip-hop heads who've been sleeping on him. Featuring reader-approved leaks “Wave to Em,” “So Long” and “Any Day Now,” the project is available for free streaming and download right here in the Booth.
In this exclusive, five-question interview below, Mike Dreams discusses what he's “woken up” to since the release of Dreamer's Poetry, the dizzying array of styles he's tapped into for his latest set, and why the haters just can't seem to leave him alone.
Just Waking Up begins with the words: “The moment when you first wake up in the morning is the most wonderful of the 24 hours.” Personally, I have to pound back several cups of coffee before I feel anything resembling “wonderful.” Are you able to roll out of bed and hit the ground running feeling fresh and rejuvenated, or do you need to go through a morning routine before your batteries are fully charged?
Well, that opening sequence of words really stemmed from those moments where I got a good amount of sleep and woke up well before I needed to actually GET UP to start the day. I usually have soothing music playing all night, so I would wake up to that and get to bask in that moment of sereneness. They are definitely mornings where that is NOT how it pans out though…lol.
The title of your sophomore set is, of course, a logical follow-up to that of your debut, Dreamer's Poetry, but it can also be read as implying a shift from idealism to a more realistic perspective. What truths, pleasant or otherwise, have you “ woken up to” since the release of your debut earlier this year?
There’s definitely been some growing up that has occurred; and I’ve grasped the world a little bit better. The song “Bigger Than This” on the album really explores the “Just Waking Up” idea, in the sense of becoming more attentive to the world and having a realistic perspective the most. My moniker is Mike DREAMS. I’ll always have dreams. My life motto is that if you wake up one morning and no longer have dreams (Ambitions and goals to do something more), then why’d you wake up at all? But now I’m just becoming more in tune with what it will take to reach those desired places.
Just Waking Up finds you departing from the synths and occasional soul samples of your debut set to rhyme over a more diverse array of instrumentals, from the electro-operatic sound of “ Any Day Now,” to the reggae vibes of “ No More Trouble” to a shamisen (I think?)-based groove on “ So Long.” Did you make a conscious effort to branch out on this release, or did the eclectic mix of styles emerge organically?
I think it was both. In general, I’m just a person who likes all different styles of music, and I simply want the music I make to reflect that. I also recall someone saying I never moved away from the soul-sample sound, so I definitely wanted to prove them wrong and exhibit my versatility. Plus, I just desire to tap into as much of the world and people’s diverse tastes as I can. I’m a studier of culture and human psychology; what makes people tick, what evokes certain emotions, based on musical and entertainment preferences, etc. I think that’s the brand of music you’ll receive from me for here on out. It will be as ADHD as the person making the songs…lol.
On “ No More Trouble,” you spit “Welcome to my city, where people suffer from delusions, they conjure up these illusions and it seems to draw confusion / Get comfortable in their box, think they're really doin' something, really ain't doin' nothing, really these dudes frontin...” No need to name names (unless you want to), but can you expand on who or what's caused your disillusionment with the Minneapolis scene?
It’s just the bare truth. I love my city, but I certainly become frustrated with a lot of the bull and nonsense that occurs here. There are way too many rappers who don’t have enough progressive thinking going on. They get trapped into this “local fame” syndrome, and believe that because their inner circle thinks they’re the greatest, that they have arrived. My city is probably one of the biggest reasons that I speak about “making it” so much, that has occasionally been criticized for becoming redundant, is because I’m surrounded by falseness like some of the people here who have “made it” in their minds…but are sadly mistaken. But some people just love and need that I guess. They want a chance to stunt and live it up; for the moment. It’s like the dudes who go cash their check on a Friday, and blow it all on a VIP booth and making it rain in the club; and then are struggling, broke for the next two weeks until they get paid again. It’s stupid. I just want to see someone actually do something LEGIT on a grand scale in the music industry like some of the greats from our city back in the day. I’m not saying it has to be me. I’d like it to be. But I just want to see someone do it. With that being said, shoutout to Auburn over at Beluga Heights.
Though most find your commitment to positivity to be a breath of fresh air, there are always one or two critics who think that your Christian themes and lack of cursing will be obstacles on your road to mainstream success. Do you feel that there's any truth to this argument? Assuming you don't agree entirely, why do you think this criticism has followed you so persistently?
It sucks man. It sucks that people can’t simply take music for what it’s worth. It’s actually something that really pisses me off; and it shouldn’t, because I should ignore it. But it bothers me that some people who come AGAINST me [for] being ME. I don’t try to be positive just to be positive. Frankly, a lot of the music on this album was just about my life in general, and I clearly explored the ups and the downs. I read a comment where someone said I try too hard to be this positive artist and it comes off artificial, and it baffled me, because they obviously didn’t listen to the music; or they’d see the content is well-rounded. It talks about my dreams and ambitions, but also my stresses and struggles, battles with myself mentally and spiritually, etc. Religion shouldn’t have anything to do with it. I feel I don’t shove my faith in people’s faces, but I don’t deny it either. That would be phony and fake of me. It seems like this is only a major problem in hip-hop. In other genres, acts like Paramore, The Fray and Creed all proclaim themselves to be Christians, and their music was “clean”, and still universally received by the masses. That’s basically the lane I am trying to take. I’m just trying to make life music. There shouldn’t be a formula I have to [follow] in order for you to call it “hip-hop” or for me to have mainstream success. Some people just don’t want to see a person prosper while actually standing for something. When they know what it feels like to pursue something like this and still try to stay true to yourself, then they can talk to me…
Now that you've officially “ woken up,” what's next on the agenda (besides breakfast)?
What’s next is to continue promoting this album heavily, and doing a lot more live performances. I’m also trying to work with a bunch of artists from the state here on some music and I’ve already began writing for a new project. The grind never stops…
Final thoughts? Confessions? Shout-outs?
Shoutout to everyone who was involved on the creation and promotion of the new album Just Waking Up. I’d appreciate it if everyone check it out!