A transitional year in the world of hip hop, 1998 straddled the change from the gangster rap of the mid 90s to the epidemic of suburban white boy rappers in the early ’00s. There were many notable releases to drop that year (Jay-Z, Lauryn Hill, OutKast, DMX), but nothing that gripped the nation quite like their predecessors’ efforts years before or their heirs’ creations to come. Yet, regardless of what occurred in the mainstream hip hop world during those 365 days, 1998 still remains the very year this week’s HHH featured artist Mick Lawrence took up a hobby that would eventually turn into his lifelong passion.
A product of a lesser known Jacksonville ( in North Carolina, not Florida), Mick’s mission is to conquer the fake one hit wonders plaguing hip hop today with the realness his lyricism brings to the table. Ambitious yes, but if there’s a particularly advantageous place to begin that battle it’s with a piece like Eulogy, a song about as real as they come. Opening with a bleak synth triad loop that sets the tone for the grim speech that follows, Mr. Lawrence proceeds to lecture on the unwritten rules of the streets through a non-chronological narrative about a casualty of the game named Marcus. Part urban legend, part hauntingly realistic, Mick tells his story with the wisdom of an old ghetto mystic who’s seen it all, further lending the credit of authenticity (and in this case, fright) to his work, as the chorus warns I hear them say patience is a virtue/ it’s easy to lie but a lie might hurt you/ careful who you talk to in your circle/ it’d be the last man that you think might murk you.
The dark clouds part in Brainstorming as Mick sheds light on the brighter patches of his history. His adoration for hip hop shines through in lines like I’d rather die doin’ what I love then to die without tryin’ sayin’ ˜aw because’, as does a slim portion of his philosophy and current state of mind: Life is short/ I’m just trying to hold down the fort/ hopin’ this last shot I make it in from half court/ hopin’ that light burnin’ over there’s a flame torch/ guiding me like a ship/ out the ocean to the port. A down home anthem at its core, Lawrence uses Brainstorming as a vehicle to make localized shout outs to everyone from corner bootleggers to area BBQ joints and expresses remorse over the divisions money has wedged in friendships, all the while vowing to right them and beat the system together as a team. The backing soundtrack is of course warm and fuzzy, as a fat bass interplays with chirping, soulful strings, contributing to the overall mood of nostalgia and optimism for the future.
Parallel to his growth as an artist has been his development as a businessman, a journey that now sees him sitting atop the label he’s created, Black Page Entertainment. As his music will express, success hasn’t always come easy, but his vision is more focused now than ever before and will likely see him continue on his upward path until it peaks. He’s already accomplished such feats as landing a Top 10 award for this summer’s Drake “Thank Me Later” competition, so listen to his material and let us know how far you think he’ll go in the comments!