Rapper, Painter, & Model
Origin: Detroit, Michigan
We were lucky enough to have a conversation with the multifaceted artist, Mike Melinoe. Currently residing in Austin, Texas, the abstract conscious rapper and painter discussed his inspirations, background, and more. Read more about him below:
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm from Detroit, Michigan. I was raised by a single parent. She was super artsy so I guess I saw a lot of musicality and art in my life. My dad is also a pianist so I was influenced by music pretty much my whole life. I grew up playing the violin and I sang in the choir and in the church. I guess that was my first journey, around 6-8, where I was really trying to do stuff musically. Then I started writing at eight. Fast forward until the end of high school, I tried to play sports. I was super small so I didn't make the football team. So when I went to college, I thought to myself what did I really want to do. So I went to college, I graduated in 2010. And then I actually went to college for like that one year (2012) but in 2012, I changed my name to "Mike Melinoe", found myself and discovered I wanted to tell my story and just the balance of the good and evil. Melinoe means the Greek goddess bringer of nightmares and since I was young, my mom was always comforting me through nightmares and I still have some to this day. So that's how I got my name and then I left college, came home, and was doing a lot of bad stuff. My mom tried to get me into the army, I failed the test because I didn't want to do that. Then I started this musical journey and started traveling and then I moved to Austin, Texas in January 2016 as I was visiting my ex-girlfriend. She told me to stay. I did because it didn't matter where I stayed and I started painting, modeling, and that's how we got here now.
What's your favorite piece of artwork to date?
My favorite piece is probably my most recent one. They don't have a name, they are just a bunch of numbers. My newest one is 107th.
Do your paintings have any correlation to your music?
Pretty much, I started creating this style because I was a little depressed. My girl was like 'coming from Detroit, you have to break out of this mentally, being so aggressive, mad all day, stuck in a hoodie, and not trying to talk to people'. But that's just the way I grew up and coming to Austin, everybody is fucking nice and they greet you and it's super weird, which isn't a bad thing. It was just totally different. So I basically started painting randomly but I created this style from the concept of the baggage we carry in time. I believe that we all have these different types of emotions and experiences in life that we carry on with us. So if you and I were to talk today and you say "oh mike you're ugly as hell" and I felt horrified by that and that could either make me a better person or could break me down mentally. That's the baggage that we carry in time to become who we are today. That's pretty much imagery from my mom because I feel like she's this super amazing person but she carried this baggage from everybody else and it sometimes would make her the best person or it would get in her way. Basically, in a nutshell, this style came from her and had nothing to do with music, to be honest. I just randomly started and was like fuck it I will paint until I feel better.
Tell us a little about "Begonia" and the creative process of the video.
It was more of a collaborative effort. I've never actually worked with a lot of videographers. Coming out here in Austin, I never had videos, I couldn't afford them so I got some money in my belt and just talked to a good friend of mine and we just basically came upon a concept of trying to balance the psychedelic and mysterious realm that I try to narrate from. I don't really like to tell people too much about me like musically all the time. It's like I have great stories and if I tell you everything right now, when it's time for my album, it's like alright well I already told y'all everything. So I just look at everything as a process but that video was really just some dude coming up to me and I'm giving him an idea of like begonia, my little brother made the beat, it's really a flower and I look at myself as a blossoming flower to a degree. I would say 10 years ago I wouldn't be having this conversation with you or anybody else. I wasn't approachable and I was just stuck in my ways. I didn't really care about shit and now I feel like I've learned to, how my ex-girlfriend would say, "tap into my feminine side" and just understand that the concept of masculinity is just an illusion of art in itself. It's about balance and understanding like if you know who you are, there is no point in time realizing that you can change and that my artistry can define me but if you talk to me, it could be a totally different way. You literally could write your own book.
What about the "Phase Face Moonlight" video?
I was in Detroit at the time and one of my friends had told me that "Vice is coming in town so you gotta come here and make sure you come to this after-party and perform." At the time, I knew who Vice was but I was like bro I don't even have a ride. Long story short, I go to this place, I end up performing and Vice was just amazed by my performance so they were like omg let me get your number and everything. But basically they were shooting a documentary for Viceland and I had no idea. So they had our numbers and the next day they were like meet us here and they didn't tell us shit like I didn't know I was going to shoot a video, which is the crazy thing about it. I had no idea about no video. All I knew was to come to this location and they have a flamethrower and I was like okay and figured it's Vice, you never know what could happen. So I showed up and go up to this area where the artists were chilling, there was like seven artists there. It wasn't just me. I was just the only one who had the opportunity to be showcased on Viceland. The dude walks up and says "where is Mike Melinoe?" and I say "oh, right here." He's like "we're going to shoot your video first." And I played it like I already knew and was like "okay cool, let's get it." And then I meet the director and everything and we pretty much, in one area, shot the video. I tried to exhilarate my artistry by being as flexible in whatever they wanted to do at the time. To be quite honest, I had no idea what was going on but with this big production and Viceland people not telling us too much and knowing that Viceland was finally about to release and stuff, it was just a cool opportunity that I felt I should capitalize. It just pretty much developed "right place, right time."
Any artists that inspire you?
I look up to my mom first. That's my biggest inspiration ever but like musically, Andre 3000 is like everything I try to embody today. I guess trying to discover more about yourself while playing a part in living in existence because sometimes as a man we get so caught up in this is how we should be and a painted image and coming from Detroit, I was standing out as a child but Andre was so vulnerable and I've never seen a man that way and it still shocks me today. He taught me everything and he's always been a creative I look up to from a distance. I was never the type to literally study an artist because I was playing sports. I didn't care about music at that time but I always would listen and hear his voice and it was like a nurturing feel and an orthodox to everything else. And I guess to somebody a bit more like current like Anderson .Paak, who is literally my favorite artist now and I met him overseas which was crazy. He is so free-spirited. He's one of the greatest performers I've ever seen. I would say Andre 3000, Anderon .Paak, Kendrick Lamar, of course, and Big L is like one of my biggest inspirations as far as the lyrical ability and just being a bit more transparent with his content because he was like vague as fuck but also raw. As far as art, Basquiat, and Keith Haring.
What's next for you? Any exciting news you might want to spill to humanity.
I'm just focused on videos. It's very hard to put out a lot of visuals, which I feel like I've always been lacking. I'm trying to flush out more videos and get a bit more creative. I'm also focused on art shows too and more music, of course, but videos are my main thing right now. I just want to be able to show the world this visual perspective I have. Of course with me modeling, I can get a little more gorgeous on camera. Also, I want to showcase and document my art more in these times.
What are you currently listening to?
Fishdoll, Toro y Moi, King Krule, and Rakeem Miles, a pretty cool guy too. That's my boy and we got some good music out right now.
Photography by Emanual E. Williams.