Three years ago, when Chance the Rapper‘s career went into hyperdrive after the release of Acid Rap, music sites had a field day pillaging the Internet for public traces of his history. It became almost a sport to “unearth” videos and mixtapes that featured Chance performing under a different name (he sometimes goes by “Chano”) or with his old band, Instrumentality. Of course, as so often happens during media feeding frenzies (which prize speed and quantity over nuance), sometimes the history surrounding those recordings would get distorted or lost.
Consequence of Sound wrote about two videos in August 2013 that feature a 16-year-old Chance freestyling, and in one he goes toe-to-toe with Chicago rapper Monster Mike: “I don’t want to talk about Mike, ’cause he’s my real friend / But his rap career might have a real end.” When the Daily Swarm repurposed the story of those videos, though, it was pretty glib and sloppy about it: “Check Consequence of Sound for a bonus video of Chano going in on some kid named Monster Mike.”
The Swarm clearly didn’t hear Chance talking about Monster Mike’s career. Mike has been recording for years, and he’s been part of two local hip-hop movements (most rappers stick to one). He’s been in Stain Gang, previously known as Outsiders, alongside great local rapper Lucki (formerly Lucki Ecks). Mike was also a core member of the Village, a crew that included Kembe X, Alex Wiley, and Jean Deaux—according to Wiley, the Village broke up in March, but its alumni are gaining footholds on their own.
Monster Mike is proving himself on his own too. Last week he dropped a full-length mixtape called Welcome to HDUB, and it showcases his playfulness right from the start. On opener “Intro (Stupid)” he oscillates between a half-growl and a woozy, elastic flow, so that his bitten-off lines sometimes complement the melting video-game synths and sometimes click with the crackling percussion; the song lights up like a string of firecrackers as he swerves from cheerful to sinister. I’ve also gotten stuck on the minimal, bubbling R&B of “Yu Part 3” and the icy sheen of “Out of Here.” In 2009 Chance playfully suggested that Monster Mike’s career was dead, and in 2013 the Daily Swarm considered him merely part of the scenery—but in 2016 he’s proving that he’s got plenty more to show us.