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No Country for Old (Rap) Men: Mikey D – Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

A little lesson in one of rap's unsung heroes

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The story of Mikey D presents the two separate worlds that existed in the early eighties rap scene – the guys who made records and those who craved street fame above all else. It seems like an arcane concept now, but there’s a sense that rap wasn’t at the level where it seemed like a viable career unless you were Run-DMC or the Furious Five. Farmers Blvd. local Geechie Dan recounts:

“Mike was the number one guy back then. From ‘83 to ‘87, ‘88 – Mikey D was the man. Mikey Destruction, they labeled him as such. He was on a lotta underground tapes. His level of rhyming was right up there with LL. I met him in front of Pop & Kim’s, we drunk about six 40s that night. The more he was drinking, the better he rhymes! I’ve never come across an MC that gets better the more they drink! For this cat, drinking 40s was like drinking pop soda. Every single weekend, we’re passing 40s around like guys pass blunts around. By the time we finished, there would be like ten or eleven 40 bottles where we would be standing at! He would just walk up and battle cats on the spot – just wax ‘em! That’s how I got caught up. I wanted to do what LL did, I wanted to go straight into a professional record deal, but I didn’t do that. Hangin’ with Mikey I was feeling that love that you get from the streets when people want to hear you rhyme. Mikey was definitely stuck in that mode, and LL wasn’t.”

“I used to do parodies,’ recalls Mikey. ‘I took ‘It’s Yours’ words and flipped them, and came out with ‘Your Draws.’ I did the same thing with [Whodini’s] ‘Big Mouth.’ I had, ‘You gotta Big Head! Big Head!’ LL Cool J had ‘Rock the Bells’ and I had something called ‘Break the Bells.’ The people from Reality Records seen that I was nice at doing that, and that’s when they wanted me to do a parody of ‘The Show,’ so I did ‘No Show’ for the Symbolic Three.”

“I was a Mikey D fanatic, from the park,” enthuses Large Professor. “Mike was the illest nigga on the mic to me. He was crazy how he was flinging it! He had this Sanford and Son routine that was ill. He had so many ill routines, but it wasn’t from records. Those tapes would travel all over!  Mike is one of my mentors.”

Not to say that Mikey ignored the studio altogether, as he was rolling with the Heartbeat Brothers and writing for the Symbolic Three in the mid ’80s. By 1987, he began releasing singles as Mikey D & The LA Posse, a group consisting of Mike, DJ Johnny Quest and a young studio engineer/producer named Paul McKasty, who we now know as Paul C. The following year, the crew landed a deal with Sleeping Bag Records (then home to EPMD, Just-Ice, and Mantronix) and Mikey won the New Music Seminar ‘Battle For MC Supremacy’. Unfortunately for him, former title holder Melle Mel was none too pleased to see a cocky kid from Queens take home the coveted belt and challenged Mikey to an on-the-spot battle. After receiving a sound verbal thrashing, Melle grabbed Mike’s belt and stormed off before a stunned audience.

Misfortune continued to follow Mikey as his friend and producer Paul C was murdered just after they completed their debut album, resulting in the LP being shelved until 2006. Mike returned to the sanctuary of the corner until he was offered a gig replacing Large Professor as the lead vocalist for Main Source in late 1992. Two versions of the Fuck What You Think album were recorded (the original Canadian sessions deemed ‘too soft’ by Mike), and it notably featured the first official appearance from Jadakiss and Sheek Looch of The LOX, but only the ‘What You Need’ single would be released in 1993 before relations broke down between the group’s manager (and mother of the other two members) and the Wild Pitch label. As a result the album didn’t hit stores until 1998, by which time Mikey was already four years deep in what Large Pro likes to call a ‘ghetto vacation’.

This Halloween, Mikey D is releasing his first solo album after over 30 years in the game, Day of Destruction, joined by the likes of RA The Rugged Man, Chris Rivers, Craig G, Canibus, and Grandmaster Caz. I’ve had a quick preview of the album and I’m happy to report that it’s filled with CRC-approved beats rather than the misguided attempts that some older rappers make to sound ‘modern,’ while Mikey sounds as enthusiastic as ever. Despite having been dealt some harsh blows over the years, it’s a testament to Mikey D’s dedication to his craft that he’s still out here doing his thing on his own terms. Salute this man.

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