WRVU gets an exclusive opportunity to cover press for the Nashville iteration of MIKE’s 2021 tour, Small World Big Love on October 19, 2021.
by Damian Ho and Samuel Hyland
The MIKE and Liv.e show at Third Man Records felt like it could have been put on in your living room–– and that’s a good thing.
The intimate venue coupled with the at-ease performances from MIKE, Liv.e, and various other featured artists created for an atmosphere that evoked memories of smoke-filled, stressless hangout sessions with friends. Something that made it feel all the more homey was the fact that, even though this was a hip-hop concert on a school night, some youthful revelers were even accompanied by their parents. As the artists played beats off their sticker-laden laptops and engaged in extended conversations with the crowd while tracks grooved on behind them, MIKE and Liv.e effortlessly broke down the barrier between performer and audience, wasting little time in turning a room full of strangers into a family reunion.
Soulful R&B singer, Liv.e, was a master at bringing said intimacy into the performance. As if to reflect her Dallas roots, LA artist Liv.e had more to offer than just her music for her Nashville performance. As she sauntered onto stage, the very first thing she did was light an arrangement of candles that sat atop the desk before her. If you’ve heard her music before, you couldn’t have imagined a more appropriate atmosphere. Liv.e’s songs are sultry and mysterious, with frequent beat changes and abrupt starts and stops that keep listeners in a perpetual search for solid ground. Tonight, the audience ultimately found this reassurance in Liv.e’s ethereal, breathy, neo-soul-inspired vocals. This too, however, was hardly consistent, as the artist often broke out into spoken-word-esque raps and chants. Liv.e’s unceasing drive to defy musical conventions made for one of the more spunky performances we have seen.
MIKE, a New York City-based rapper and producer, is defined by his laid-back flow over a prominent mixture of lo-fi soul, jazz, and Motown samples. His latest LP, Disco! (released June 21, 2021), makes extended use of such samplage, which really shined through in his performance. He frequently allowed the hypnotic loops of purposefully-sloppy drum tracks (in a similar style to that of J-Dilla) and psychedelically-processed keyboard rhythms to play out and repeat for longer than one would expect. As audience members, this gave us a chance to notice the music more–– almost as a primer before the lyrics even begin.
MIKE’s flow is distinctive with its verbose, monotone, and full-mouth style, reminiscent of longtime collaborators such as Earl Sweatshirt. Even in songs like “Aww (Zaza)”, where he adopts an upbeat triplet flow that is nearly omnipresent in modern day hip-hop, he still manages to maintain his own unique vocal identity. This is a constant in what made the Small World Big Love tour’s Nashville stop a memorable one: these artists aren’t trying to build reputations–– they’re trying to build community. And the best communities are the ones where everyone has something different to bring to the table.