Douglas Martin can’t complain about his sorrows as a jit.
There’s something to be said for retaining a modicum of consistency as a prolific artist, but a certain kind of excitement exists when you can track someone’s progression when they release a handful of releases in a short amount of time. Par for the course in this age — borne of the threat of getting your buzz buried in a graveyard of Soundcloud links — that a rapper would release four albums in 2018. The London and New York-raised MIKE, barely grown out of the “teenage rapper” tag he was saddled with, tracked his artistic development over the course of this increasingly commonplace amount of output, going from blurry pencil sketches of the sort of lyricism his hero turned peer and collaborator Earl Sweatshirt has long ago mastered to the chapbook of poetic memoir that was December’s stellar War in My Pen.
There is a clarity — an extremely relative clarity — on MIKE’s final release of 2018 compared to its immediate predecessor, Renaissance Man (the other great release of his 2018 run). The abstraction of the beats and wide open spaces he leaves in his words are replaced by immediacy and colored-in corners, augmented by the thick cloud of MIKE’s voice, sounding like he was rustled half-awake from a weed nap to hit the vocal booth. He searches for spiritual relief through the light fog of spliff smoke, carrying the millstone of ancestors, family, himself, people he doesn’t know whose fatigue he sees in their eyes.
“Rottweiler” finds the young MC drowsily kissing off haters (“I hope prayer really fix your luck”), passing over toasts (“Don’t be sippin’ bubbly, just be hittin’ bud”), and revealing a sly cleverness while addressing his practically ungooglable rap alias (“You can tell just by my name that I don’t give a — / This shit is really fucked”). The weight of his heart is almost too much for him to carry, out of the corner of his eye he sees how quickly people change allegiances, and he lights up reefer to calm his screaming thoughts about how he observes the world.
The song’s video (directed by Matter Research, shot in London by REEL FAKE) tracks the concrete bricks on the sidewalk right up to a black cab carrying MIKE across steady moving traffic, eventually dropping him off at a spot where he can light a spliff and watch the world go by — as the greyscale frame slowly adjusts to color. It’s not the full bloom normally depicted in music videos which adopt this approach, but something closer to what would it would be like if such a thing happened in real life; the green of the grass is the most striking change in transition. The colors of the world evoke a slight change, but the sky is still grey.