He’s Mike Lo if you didn’t know.
Underground rapper Mike Lo sings with the swagger of Eminem and smirks like one of the Beastie Boys. He lives in two worlds — the one he needs to make ends meet and the one he creates for himself. His day job consists of tending tables in the Chicago suburbs, where he is known for being exceptionally polite and considerate. But even when he’s tending tables, he has one foot in the world he built — full of swagger, drinking, and raw sexuality. While at work, he frequently uses his cell phone like an artist’s palette, recording snatches of dialogue and building lyrics into the songs he raps at bars and parties.
Those songs become videos — where he parties with his own posse (“Rack City”), lands in jail after drinking and driving (“Bars After Bars”), and laughs like could care less.
His recently released 17-track mixtape, Fully Lo Did, reveals a sound that is at times aggressive (“Fully Lo Did”) and reflective (“Up All Night”) — but it’s always moving fast, with catchy beats (check out the beginning of “This Is Wack” or “Floatin”) and cocky bravado. His songs remind me of what Dr. Dre once said about his own songs — music made for adult ears.
And, yeah, his word play is clever and smooth, whether he’s celebrating the joys of partying or smoking, similar to rapper Wiz Khalifa, whose Tumblr site features fan-uploaded videos including Mike Lo’s. (“Bars After Bars” was featured on Viewhiphop.com as well.)
I asked Mike Lo to describe his songs to me and explain how he constructs them. As it turns out, he lives by the beat. The beats talk to him and fuel his words, giving him energy that he processes and throws back at you through his songs. He lives off energy of the audiences where he performs, whether he’s at a party or a bar. As he says, “I feed off all energy. I even feed off negativity. It keeps me going.”
How did you get started in music?
I come from a very diverse family. My mom is white/Puerto Rican and my father is white/black. I am from Elgin, Illinois, born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. Music has always been around me. Riding in the car, I grew up listening to my dad playing songs on the radio in the car, and I sang along with everything I heard, whether from Snoop Dogg or NWA. As I got older and started really getting into music, I listened to Eminem and 50 Cent.
I have always been into rapping. I have been writing lyrics since I was in sixth grade, and I’ve never stopped. Back in sixth grade, I played on the boys basketball team, and during road games on the back of the bus, you could find me writing and rapping. I didn’t know I wanted to pursue music as a career until I was about 21. Whenever I heard a rap song, I would wonder, “Damn, why can’t I do this?” So I went out and tried it.
How did your diverse background affect you growing up?
I believe growing up with such a diverse family had a major effect on my life. I never really knew how to label myself, or knew which friends would accept me because I’m a certain color. Everyone was always asking me what my race was, and I simply respond “mixed.” Even if I had labeled “white,” people knew I wasn’t just white. It wasn’t until I was older that understood more clearly. My background encourages me to show people no matter where you come from or what your background may be, you can do whatever you want if you do it with passion and work hard at it daily.