Dogs (single) by Mike Ra
A bit of fuzz and feedback. It’s almost like we’re changing stations on the radio, cruising down a busy downtown boulevard. Mike Ra’s sending out a dedication to the great white north’s Queen City. There’s a certain anticipation that the breaking white noise of the introduction to “Dog$” provides us that you could almost cut with a knife if it lasted long enough to find one. And then, that bass kicks in. We’re moving. It’s still the same boulevard, but the speed is maximized. None of that matters because we’re in the cabin with Mike, and he’s describing the circumstances of his life and friends to us like we’re stationary in this moment. How we’re existing in such feverish motion is a mystery to us, but again, there isn’t enough time to decipher our current situation. We’re still moving faster than we can think, and it doesn’t look like we’re going to be slowing down anytime soon.
Mike tells us we can trust his dogs. We can rely on his crew like we rely on our own instincts to act as a lantern for us in the darkest of scenarios. His sincerity is punctuated by the percussion’s allusion to danger that could be lurking just beyond the horizon of our perception. It’s exciting and fearfully anxious at the same time, but any way that you dice what’s being thrown at us, we’re on an adrenaline-filled line that can only lead us into sure ecstasy if we keep up with the pursuit.
There’s a catharsis at the end of this rainbow, and what that catharsis entails is just as much an enigma as our Sherpa on this rocky path through mountainous basslines and vicious realism. Will Mike Ra be there when we reach the summit, or is all of his scoping only to help us get to where we need to be? There are multiple occasions during the whole of “Dog$” where it feels like Mike is not being himself completely, but being the alter ego that he lets us conjure up through his vivid illustration of personified swagger. It isn’t even that he’s won’t be genuine with us, it’s that his concept of genuine is a completely different strain of hypermodernity than what we’re used to as casual music listeners that it can be difficult to digest all in one sitting. Nevertheless, his point is clearly made and asserted over and over through his melancholic drawl, and it becomes completely evident that even when Mike Ra has to play a character to get through to us, he’s going to play it with more heart than anyone else in his medium can muster.
In totality, I can’t determine whether or not “Dog$” is the dreamlike sort of indie rap that 2018 has been waiting for, but I can completely attest to its infectiously catchy construction that makes repeat listening an almost mandatory affair. I can also confirm that not only is Mike Ra doing an excellent job of representing his native Toronto scene with a wholehearted commitment that is inspiring to all indie artists, but that he’s in a great position to influence a new generation of hip-hop performers to do the same, and that’s something that really deserves to be recognized.