Mike Ra – Dogs

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If you’ve been following hip-hop in Toronto lately, there’s not much doubt in my mind that you’re probably familiar with Mike Ra and DXB Studios. DXB is a somewhat fresh face in the game, but it isn’t taking very long for the brand to become a much buzzed over company behind Mike Ra’s enthralling new music, particularly his new single “Dogs.” Featuring a breakneck beat that could easily contend with the hottest tracks on the Billboard Hot 100 today, “Dogs” is just the latest slice of rhythm from Ra, who has over 16 years of songwriting experience under his belt and previously went under the moniker Devaine. I had the great pleasure of listening to the song ahead of its release and was very pleased to hear such a committed yet confident delivery from an artist who is under a lot of pressure right now to live up to the expectations that critics and listeners are putting on him.

Mike Ra’s style comes from combining soul, R&B and old school hip-hop influences, but he doesn’t shy away from incorporating some of the more psychedelic-tinged aspects of funk, either. I’m not talking about overdriven basslines that melt under the heat of a tube amplifier; there’s a cerebral existentialism to his lyrical approach that is surreal and more along the lines of postmodern artists like Pink Floyd than it is 2Pac or Biggie. But the beauty of it is, Ra goes so far out of his way to intricately weave his lyrics into his beats that it almost makes the music a little intoxicated in the process. It’s a magnificently clever way to record music, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he develops a legion of followers once “Dogs” gets into regular rotation on the radio.

“Dogs” is primed and packaged for primetime, but I don’t think it’s going to break the music industry. While Mike Ra may eventually be ready to take over the hip-hop world, he’s showing incredible foresight and maturity in taking this grassroots approach to doing so. So many artists make the terrible mistake of thinking that they can come in and blow up the world all at once just because they’ve got talent or a track that has everyone shaking and moving. Even if you’re literally destroying the scene that spawned you with your work, it doesn’t matter until you develop and capture your own audience, thus defining your market. Fools will tell you that it’s all about overtaking pre-existing markets and that’s just about the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. If you’re going to be pop music royalty, you don’t grab at someone else’s meager slice of aging pie; you carve out your own fat and fresh slice.

In what has been a slightly predictable year for music thus far, Mike Ra’s definitely adding a splash of much needed color to the airwaves with his song “Dogs,” and if the buzz around him continues to grow at the same pace that it has been in the last year, I anticipate this is the first of many tracks of his that we’ll be discussing in the near future.

Michael Rand

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