At the rate of the speed of light that music seems to come out anymore, it's easy to overlook tons of great albums and mixtapes in a year, especially DIY ones hyped up only by the artist himself. Such is the case with one of my favorite mixtapes of 2014 If He Dies He Dies 2 by the 21-year-old rapper Apache Prophet, real name Mikahil White.
Back in 2013 when I started following Prophet on twitter I didn't pay too much attention to him, but I did notice his intelligence and the way he talked about his music with passion. I see a lot of people on social media hyping up their music and talking about the struggles of being an artist everyday, but something about this dude seemed different. For one, he was very eloquent with words when he wanted to be, even if he cracked jokes about rap, sports and video games most of the time. He also seemed like he had a story to tell.
It wasn't until I heard the first If He Dies He Dies back in January that I realized how right I was. That first tape made me an instant fan. Over 17 excellent beats, I was brought into the world of Prophet--a world of real life loss, struggle, pain, ambition, drugs, alcohol, and yes, Naruto. The most notable thing about his music is that there are no party tracks, just music that deals with real life drama. Emotions are not held back and replaced with braggadocio. That being said, these tracks still bang, and, most importantly, he can rap his ass off.
Now that the introduction is out of the way, let me get into the subject at hand: the excellent If He Dies He Dies 2. Here's when we really get to hear the story that Mikahil has to tell. And it's not an easy one. (From this point forward I will refer to this mixtape as an album because that's a better description anyway, and I will refer to Prophet as Mikahil because this is his real life story. The following quotes are excerpts from an email interview I did with him.)
The album was made for the purpose of being played at the eulogy of one of Mikahil's closest friends, Annalisa Frei. She lost her life to gang violence two years back and it's taken her parents until this year to have the service. Mikahil was not only there that night, but he held her as she died. Not only this, but Mikahil, being once gang-affiliated, expels a tremendous amount of guilt on the album over her death because it resulted as an altercation between old friends of his.
After Annalisa's death, Mikahil and his three brothers quit their gang-ties. Sadly, more tragedy followed as his older brother Ricky lost his life due to his decision to break ties. "Things were different back then. Loyalty was taken very seriously," Mikahil told me. As anyone would, Mikahil struggled tremendously with these sudden losses, and turned to alcoholism and other reckless habits which he references in the album. "I dealt with things how I dealt with them. Not too proud of it and I still have a few issues dealing with it I guess."
If He Dies He Dies 2 is a journey from beginning to end, each song playing a crucial role in the telling of this powerful story. Throughout the course of the album, we see Mikahil at his lowest and darkest moments dealing with the tragic cards life has dealt him and eventually coming to terms with his past and finding happiness again. It's an epic tale of love lost and gained--love of a brother, a mother, a family, a friend, and finding that true love connection with your Queen even while you are haunted by the ghost of someone else. In the end, Mikahil discovers that sometimes we need someone to save us, even while we are the fearless guardians of our family and friends. A ninja can take many paths, but in the end, the right one will present itself and we can look back with no regrets. (You'll understand the Naruto references once you've listened to the whole album.)
Along the way, Mikahil uses his experiences in a positive way to shine much needed light on the darkest of subjects like gang violence, drug dealing, and police brutality that still destroy african-american lives and communities all over America. And on the track "Who Are You?" especially, Mikahil, with some nice help from a young man billed only as "Justin The Joyful", illuminates the bigger picture of the system that is steering african-americans, our entire human family, and the earth itself in the wrong direction.
I know this article is late, but your 2014 music consciousness will not be complete without hearing this album. So happy holidays! This is my gift to you my fellow music lovers. Listen below and download the album at any price you choose (including $0). Peace.
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