Mike Ra “Dogs”

The art form of protest music shouldn’t be relegated to strictly coffee house acoustic acts and raucous punk rock units who have no regard for the non-abrasive sensibilities of the current generation of music enthusiasts. When you think about it, music doesn’t even have to challenge the autocratic notion of established order in its lyrics to inspire a rebellion that will change the landscape of pop forever. We’ve seen countless soft rock acts leave an imprint on music that was just as insubordinate in its foundation as some of the raunchiest, most extreme of transmissions from the underground. And yet we still uphold this falsehood, this flat out fallacy, that to affect significant change in your scene, you have to be the loudest voice, the most noticeable explosion in a series of chaotic disasters to really get anyone’s attention enough to make a difference. That’s not only a completely irrelevant and fake news-influenced theory, but it’s dangerous to the development of independent music in the 21st century. “Dogs” the latest output from Canadian rhythmist Mike Ra, doesn’t wear a political motivation on its sleeve, but the overwhelming message in its lyrics is one of individuality and independence that has become synonymous with the current movement of indie rap artists both north and south of the U.S.-Canadian border.

In the opening of “Dogs,” Mike Ra establishes to listeners that he’s here to represent his hometown of Toronto, and if you’re expecting a Drake-inspired track to drop in the bars that follow, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Sure, he’s got the relaxed vibe of the Canadian rap king, but there’s so much less pretentiousness in Mike Ra’s game. That’s the real allure here; we’re listening to an artist who isn’t full of himself, he’s just pleased to be where he’s out, and that humble vibe is enough to carry this track straight to the top if it hits the American radio market at the right moment this summer.

I’m not into calling anything a throwback these days, because when you juxtapose current music with tracks of the past, it’s not much of fair comparison considering the amount of weapons that producers have at their disposal in 2018. But “Dogs” has the same kind of easy listening capacity that late 90’s R&B slash hip-hop crossover jams had, and that doesn’t make this is a recreation or an attempt at reviving a style that doesn’t have any life left in it. What this is, at its center, is a track that continues to carry out the same motivations that those classic tracks had; to penetrate our souls with a consciousness that we don’t live with on a day to day basis without fine art to intervene and provoke deeper thought in our souls. Mike Ra isn’t just writing music to sell records and become a wealthy superstar; he’s trying to act as a shaman for a lost and weary audience desperately in need of a little bit of direction. And frankly, I don’t think we could have asked for more.

Troy Johnson

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