Originally from the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles, Microphone Mike – now Myka 9 – is one of those artists who has elevated rap to an art form, and has inspired his peers. Having released 5 projets in 2019 and 2 in 2020, for the length of his 30 year career he has relied on one instrument alone: his voice.
In 1981, hip hop was in its infancy and Myka 9 was experimenting with his first verses during the 6th grade. During his time at school, he met Aceyalone and Self Jupiter, his future partners in the Freestyle Fellowship group, founded in 1991.
With these guys, Myka 9 scoured the city’s open mic nights, establishing his reputation as an MC in places like Good Life Cafe. Since 1989, this Mecca of the LA underground hip hop scene has helped cultivate the city’s artistic buzz by organising open mic events. Just a few years before, N.W.A had exploded onto the scene and the labels were paying attention.
Alongside countless rappers at Good Life Cafe (Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Ice Cube, will.i.am, The Pharcyde, Dilated People, Dr. Dre, Jurassic 5...), Myka 9 is one of the city’s underground rap activists, taking part in Project Blowed – a label, collective and workshop that organises open mics with a cultural and social approach, trying to give disadvantaged youth an alternative to gangs. In 1999 – advocating for a musical revolution and empowerment through poetry – he founded the group Haïku d'Etat alongside the founders of Project Blowed, Aceyalone and Abstract Rude.
Though little-known in the eyes of the general public, Myka 9 enjoys a great reputation amongst his peers and was invited by The Wailers onto their remix of “My Friend”. With more than thirty projects under his belt, that often include conceptual solos where he experiments with new sounds, he’s remained true to his art. Blessed with a deeply sweet vocal timbre and impeccable diction, he rains down rhymes with ease and fluidity. Whether it’s jazz, rock, soul, reggae, or West Coast inspired instrumentals, he layers his voice over the melodies and creates new ones whilst varying his syllabic performance. Surprising and unpredictable, he manages to breathe a new rhythm into his songs. The virtuosity of Myka 9’s flow – both elusive and haunting – has been compared to that of many jazz artists. Able to go up to a treble, he even goes so far as to use his voice like a trumpet or a saxophone on “Free Energy”.
This playlist testifies to Myka 9’s overflowing creativity by providing an overview of a career that has inspired a number of artists from Busta Rhymes to Snoop Dogg, not to mention the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony who appear to have ‘borrowed’ his flow, as hinted at in the documentary This is Life which is devoted to the artistic frenzy that surrounded Good Life Cafe. Although he did try working with a record company for a short while, Myka 9 has remained fundamentally an underground artist, living for music in its purest form, passionate love. As he often likes to say, ‘It’s all love...’