Mike Melinoe possesses a sense of deep reflection. His train of thought is fast-paced and ideas connect like a spider web, loosely connected by fine threads but still tying back to a central theme.
During our conversation, that central theme was happiness. Mike’s background -- black, raised by a single mom in Detroit, hungry to get to the top -- doesn’t lend itself to a fairytale definition of happiness. For Mike, happiness is about self-discovery and freedom, moving away from not only from the expectations of others, but also from his own fears.
“Lately I’ve been thinking, what do I really really want? Why do I work? How am I going to get it? Everything after that is all action. All the other shit is just irrelevant.”
Lately I’ve been thinking, what do I really really want? Why do I work? How am I going to get it? Everything after that is all action. All the other shit is just irrelevant.
Before Mike could focus on knowing himself, he had to let go of trying to please others. Growing up, his surroundings led him to live life with a chip on his shoulder, always trying to prove something to someone else. It was draining, and eventually he realized that he needed to tune out the noise and focus on what’s inside.
“I just took my energy and instead of complaining, I told myself to be more visual and concrete [about understanding myself]. If I had never gotten to that point of understanding who I am and that I'm growing every day, I'd revert back to trying to fuck shit up.”
Of course, finding out what you need to do and actually doing it are separate and different challenges. In the past, Mike intentionally avoided traditional routes like higher education or the military, and he continues to choose the unconventional route today.
Taking the path less traveled usually means relying more on yourself as opposed to other people’s precedents, a lesson Mike is now familiar with. Self-reliance comes with its own unique challenges.
“[My brother told me,] ‘I always know you gon' figure it out.' And that's the hardest thing right now. Everybody expects me to figure it out when in reality I'm just as human as everybody else. Trying to make everything make sense.”
In Mike’s case, “making everything makes sense” involves a lot of grinding, a lot of meditating, and the occasional sports metaphor.
“In sports, you work hard every day, you figure it out. In the realm of creating, it's not like you just gon' catch a ball and it's going to be thrown to you. What if you never get the ball thrown to you? Now you gotta to learn how to be the person throwing the ball to catch it.”
In the realm of creating, it's not like you just gon' catch a ball and it's going to be thrown to you. What if you never get the ball thrown to you?
The benefit of creating your own opportunities is that you get to dictate what you spend your time and energy on. You can lose so much of yourself – time, motivation, mental bandwidth – by pursuing what others think you "should" do, even if these opportunities don't align with what you want for yourself.
Mike’s in a position where he’s risking security to define not only what happiness looks like for him, but also what kind of artist and man he wants to be.
“I'm not trying to be the artist that's just known for being able to rap well. I want to be a writer, creative, all these different things. That takes time and understanding of yourself.”
I'm not trying to be the artist that's just typically known for being able to rap well. I want to be a writer, creative, all these different things. That takes time and understanding within yourself.
Right now, Mike is working on one of his most ambitious projects yet, “6.” The EP’s title alludes to an old apartment he lived in after his family got evicted and had to split up.
“This project is the next big thing for me. I'm putting everything into it. I'm being vulnerable. I feel like I'm peeling back the layers of what's more important.”
6 is set to drop in the next few months. You can stay up to date on Mike’s progress and support his creative journey on Instagram.