Detroit-born, Austin-based renaissance rapper/artist Mike Melinoe paints outside the lines of all aspects that you could anticipate from Austin's small hip-hop scene. Melinoe produces refreshing pundit tracks that combine avant-garde synth beats with biting verses and flow.
Rube: Alright, we're here with Mike Melinoe and DJ Fritz. We just checked out their Local Live set and now we get to hang out, chat, and find out more about the people behind the music. How y'all doing?
Mike Melinoe: Wonderful another day. Another day,
Cool. It's nice to meet you. Glad to have you here. You're based in Austin right now, right?
Yes. most definitely.
But you're from Detroit, right?
Mike and DJ Fritz take on the Local Live stage drenched in red. Photo by Erin Eubanks.
So my question is, what brought you to Austin opposed to a city like Atlanta, where much of today's rappers are coming out of?
Basically, I was visiting my girlfriend and I missed the flight going back. Basically came out here with $8. I know I'd come here a couple of times for like SXSW, right? Coming out here, I knew it was way more opportunities versus Detroit, so yeah, I knew I wasn't gonna be in a bad situation. I just had to find a job quick. But yeah, just literally was visiting my girlfriend in state mandate.
How long ago was that?
About to be three years in January. 2016.
Well it seems like it's worked out well.
Honestly, yes. A lot of stuff going on. Yeah, I start. I'm painting now. That's all.
Mike performing, through the lens. Photo by Luisa Pineda.
You've been really busy, especially this past month. You're on your "Ugly, but Ascending" tour now. Why the name?
Honestly? My manager. We were just having a conversation, a few names popped up and I just was like, forget it. We just always called ourselves ugly. That's just the most generic thing. I know I'm gorgeous, but I mean, yeah, "Ugly but Ascending" tour.
You've been around Texas touring. College Station last night, and you're ending in Atlanta for a hip-hop and rap festival, A3C. So tell me about the tour. How's that been traveling around Texas?
Honestly, it's been going wonderfully. It came fast. We've been manifesting a lot of great things this whole year and honestly things just happened very quick. The tour really came at a perfect time right before A3C. We allowed A3C to be a part of it in a way, joint venture and we went to all these different places.
A lot of places are very different. Last night in College Station was probably the best. Austin of course is always going to be cool, but (College Station) kinda hit a spot last night. I've never been there.
It's been going wonderfully, learning lessons, you know. DJ Fritz is getting better every night, I'm getting better every night. We're just trying to grow honestly. That's the whole thing.
DJ Fritz. Photo by Erin Eubanks.
I got to ask. What about College Station made it so great?
Besides for Fuego, that's probably the highlight of the night. But just, just the people, you know. Oh, and his parents were at the show. That was like a huge highlight.
Fritz: First time (they ever saw me actually DJ. I always talk about it over the phone to my parents on FaceTime and stuff like that. My mom saw my DJ equipment when I first got it. She was like, 'there's no record.' So I was like, 'mom, it's all digital now.' So when she actually saw me perform for the first time, she was like, oh, okay, and it finally clicked with her. So it was real monumental to see that.
Mike: Honestly it was a lot. But mainly it was just the reception and seeing his people for the first time and I don't know. The overall night was great and I appreciated the energy. I sold some merch too, that's always great. But the people who've never seen me before, and I've never seen them before, and for a lot of people when you hear dope music the first time you're just kinda psyched out about it. Like 'dang, why is this so dope and I've never heard of it?' That's what they were kind of like telling us. And I'm like, we know, but thank you because that's what we work hard for.
Exactly it's like you said, its what you're working for.
It's either this or McDonald's that's hiring.
So AC3 is next. Is that your first time there?
I was there probably around three years ago and I wasn't an official artist. This time I'm an official artist.
This whole setup happened because it was a poll, and we didn't even make the poll to get on the stage, but they've been following us on Instagram and literally just hit my manager up like, 'yo, we really want to invite you guys, because you're dope.' So yeah, it wouldn't be my first time in Atlanta, but through this perspective it will be. And of course I'm bringing a whole different team and just a different energy behind it all.
Mike performing. Photo by Erin Eubanks.
It sounds like you're making a lot of moves right now. You're just coming off what was a year hiatus, right? What prompts you to take a break and what would you say that break has done for you as a person and as an artist?
So last year I dropped a project around last spring and I did it through PR, it didn't go too well. Long story short, I started painting and in the process of painting, I created a style. Honestly, it was more like therapy for me. I have over like 200 pieces now, but it's more so therapeutic to the point where like I feel like I've been meditating for a year, getting my mind right.
I met a wonderful group of people that ascended my whole perspective creatively and business-wise. I believe in how things work accordingly to the universe.
But how this occurred, I feel like I'm not here to be honest. It's like an out of body experience and it was cool and I'm grateful for (the hiatus) because I needed it. So now it's like, 'okay, what do I do?' I started painting so much and my life just changed from that point on. So it was needed and I'm thankful for that time.
What's your creative process? Lyrics, production, how does it work?
At this point it seems like it's second nature. It really seems like this is what I'm supposed to be doing. I make the beats, and I also got a great producer Eli. He makes my productions also, sending me so many beats. We work fast but some days it can be I make a song in 15 minutes. And then some days I'll be like, no, I want to wait on that song, take a couple of days, just find my life a bit more, travel a bit, you touch hands, kiss babies, come back, and create a song . So, I'm producing more than ever now. Pretty much a lot of what I'm performing tonight is a lot of new stuff.
If you look up your name online, you find the collective Gold Ain't Cheap. Can you elaborate on that?
Gold Aint Cheap is my umbrella. It's just the bigger picture. I really have a plan to have that as like a creative agency, collective music production, artists development bit. We've been a collective for less than a year now, but we're actually pushing it now because I'm kind of getting my footing.
So we have Ryan Zuniga, a talented young dude, 17. Then of course we got the young god over here, DJ Fritz, but he's like an entrepreneur.
Everything is just coming together so perfectly, this is literally my family. Without Gold Ain't Cheap, I don't think I'd be in the position that I'm in. But the whole inspiration for it, it's the concept of that obviously gold isn't cheap. You strive for everything and do everything in your power to get to that level. Gold is just whatever you desire. If you want to work at McDonald's or be a trash man, that could be your gold. You're striving everyday to make sure you get to that, you know.
It takes a lot of hard nights, but, you know, we're just pushing forward trying to make sure everything is as planned, but growing daily. I really see it as probably one of the biggest entities possible. But I mean, we got to work today.
Behind the scenes. Photo by Luisa Pineda.
So a group of your friends, like minded individuals?
Man... it's creatives, videographers, photographers, artists, actors, like literally creative. On a whole 'nother level, it's creating, creating, creating. Either this or McDonald's.
You also have a project you're trying to release this fall, correct?
Come on man, I'm gonna ask for details. Is there a name for the piece?
Yeah, the name of the my beautiful product is Entitled Six. That's just a play off of my next project, 15666. It's pretty much supposed to be an EP with six songs but now it turned to hopeful album. That's supposed to drop November - very, very soon November. Honestly, the single drops on Halloween. Just to just throw that out there.
Mike. Photo by Luisa Pineda.
Nice nice, looking forward to that. We're about done on time. Is there anything that I didn't ask you that you wish I did or anything you'd like to elaborate on?
To be honest, just how was my day?
How's your day?
You asked that obviously before, but yeah, that's all I care about. I always ask. That's like the main thing I really, really feel people should just dive into a bit more. Just "how's your day?" With everyone, literally everybody. How is everybody today? Because, say I just got fired, or say something dramatic happened like my parents died and I'm just out here just like doing my job, but it's like going back home and I'm just like super miserable, you know? Technically you did ask me earlier, but that's like the main thing that I feel everybody should have.
Fritz: Most definitely. I feel like we're all so busy in our own individual lives. We never sit back to actually ask someone else. How are they doing beyond the surface level? You know, people always give you this cliche answer: "I'm good." Like are you really good? Like, what happened today? You know, really communicate on a deeper level
Mike: Because we all humans. I don't care how talented I am. I might die tomorrow, so I just want the moment to be what it is. My grandma just turned 81, like that's crazy. But at the same token, one of my friend's parents or grandparents just passed. Life! It's real life happening, so I just always want the moment to be deeper than what it is. I care about you. If I see you outside after this, I'm pretty sure I will ask just 'what's up? You good? how was your day?' and then go on because I've got a life too. You know what I mean? Yeah man, just how was you my day.
You guys are a real down to earth artist. I really appreciate y'all. Thank you.
No, I appreciate you. Thanks for having me.