Melodic rapper KB Mike holds nothing back in songs about love and loss
by Ashlyn Robinette
Photos by Rommel Findley
Rappers often get a bad rap. Despite hip hop’s popularity and cultural significance, naysayers subscribe to stereotypes that the music genre is always explicit, glorifies violence, degrades women, or includes other inappropriate content. Up-and-coming rapper KB Mike is on track to proving these critics wrong and changing the mainstream discourse surrounding hip hop.
Although the 21-year-old rapper grew up in sections of inner-city Chicago where he lost loved ones to the streets and drugs, Mike isn’t ashamed of where he’s from or what he’s been through. Instead, he uses melodic hip hop to share his trauma in hopes of relating to others and reminding them that everything will be OK.
“It’s OK,” says the Republic Records artist. “Whether you’ve been in relationships, whether you’ve lost somebody ... whatever it is you’re going to be OK. My favorite thing is that you’ve got people who relate to you and have been in your situation, and who are OK.”
During his house arrest in 2018, Mike explored music “to heal” from the pain he endured living in Chicago’s notorious South Side. To cope with his loss and heartache, he tried his hand at rap and writing music.
“Music took away a lot of the pain,” he says. “I put my pain into my music.”
Two years later, Mike went public with his music on social media by posting snippets of himself rapping on Facebook. Though he was originally nervous to release his music, Mike says he was met with “nothing but love” as his fan base continues to grow daily, especially on TikTok where he has more than 550,000 followers.
“When I started doing music, I never expected to be at where I am now ... I was just writing music for the fun of it. I never saw this coming,” he says.
A contributor of Mike’s rapid success is his inability to hold back emotions. By laying it all out, he’s been able to raise awareness of many issues while touching the hearts of many.
His 2021 single “Deserve Better” addresses domestic violence head on as its lyrics encourage listeners to leave abusive relationships while simultaneously spreading awareness about the brutal realities of domestic violence. Another single from last year, “Drug Scars,” alludes to drug-related losses within Mike’s circle and spreads substance abuse awareness.
Besides navigating through the struggles he faced in the Windy City, Mike uses his strong, soulful voice over smooth beats to touch on themes of love and heartbreak.
“Honestly, I feel like a lot of males in Chicago are scared to express their feelings and emotions on relationships, and I’m not scared,” he says.
It’s no surprise that Cancers like Mike are emotional. What is shocking is how raw emotion like Mike’s isn’t normally shared among men in the city.
“I want to make it well known that I’m not ashamed of speaking on relationships and pain, or being a male who speaks on pain, relationships and heartbreak,” he says. “My sound means everything to me. I like standing out, especially from Chicago. Me speaking out on relationships, you don’t hear a lot about that from Chicago.”
Past tracks such as “Sorry Love,” “Deep In Love,” “Revenge,” “Deserve Better,” and “L.O.V.E.” contain heartfelt lyrics about toxic relationships. Mike’s emotive voice glides over guitar instrumentals to showcase his dynamic range.
These sensitive explorations of heartbreak demonstrate wisdom gained and lessons learned far beyond the rapper’s years.
Mike’s latest release, “Thru Worse N Thru Better,” is another song with prominent acoustics that demonstrates his vulnerability while he raps. In just over three minutes, Mike reminisces on past relationships. Even if he’s not as close with certain people as he used to be, he wants them to know that he will still be there for them no matter what.
It’s hard not to see similarities between “Thru Worse N Thru Better” and Mike’s 2021 breakout anthem, “Used To.” In this track, Mike raps nostalgically over strains of soft piano about an old relationship, with regrets of past mistakes juxtaposing with hopes of a new beginning.
“Used To” contains Mike’s favorite lyrics he’s ever written: “Even though we don’t talk like we used to / I still watch your page, just so I can check on you.”
“I say that because, like, I fell out with a lot of people,” Mike explains. “Whether it’s a relationship or a homie or anyone I fell out with, sometimes I still check on them just to make sure they’re good. I’m still watching out for them.”
Mike is inspired by rappers Polo G and NoCap because there are messages behind their work. “You have to really listen to what they’re saying,” he says.
Mike is following in their footsteps in a way by becoming another artist whose words prompt change.
Other singles from Mike this year, including “What We Had” and “Members,” indicate that he will continue delivering art from the world he lives and knows.
In late April, Mike joined Marzz as support on the “Love Letterz” tour, which concludes June 17. Get tickets to remaining “Love Letterz” shows at Live Nation.