Your debut album Focused is finally out. How does that feel?
Oh, man, it’s the proudest feeling! To me, it feels like it’s my first kid. I’m just watching it being out and people are coming up to me and telling me what they like or they come up to me and spit lyrics that I was just chilling and writing in my head. When people show you love off of that, it’s the greatest feeling, man. To me, it feels better than sex. That’s what I tell my girl!
I bet she doesn’t like hearing that.
Nah, she doesn’t like hearing that. But I got a really good girl and she’s been by my side throughout everything and she knows that I’m real serious about my music and I don’t hold back at all. She understands.
Were you able to make the debut album that you wanted to make?
Yes. That’s one thing that really made me stick with this label, 3sixty5 Records. All I did was make a bunch of songs. All the music I make, I pretty much go off of what I like. I feel like I got good taste in music so people are going to like my music. I take my time and I write. That’s the type of artist I am. I can’t just come off the top of my head. I take my time and write and they really let me have all my creative control. They let me know if they don’t like something and if I should go in a different direction and I go do that. But from top to bottom, everything was approved by me and I’m proud of it.
You’re from New York and now you’re out in the Bay. How did the sounds of both places come together on Focused?
It came together a lot. I’m actually living in San Diego right now. I’m international! I grew up most of my life in New York and in the Bay Area. That had a big influence on me. A lot of people out here on the West Coast like my style because I sound like a West Coast rapper with a little bit of East Coast mixed in. They like that because I sound different. A lot of people out here are sounding the same. I don’t know. I just do my thing, man. (laughs)
The album has a varied yet cohesive, updated boom-bap sound. How important was that to you?
It was important to me that I didn’t sound like everybody else because I feel like I’m a unique individual. The people that I was getting beats from, I was getting unique beats. I was getting stuff that a lot of people aren’t hearing right now. I was just staying in my lane, basically. It was important for me to do that because I’m an individual. I don’t want to be a part of the crowd. I’m by myself. When I do shows, I’m by myself. I do my own thing. It was real important for me to make it sound different from a lot of things that are out right now.
How much harder is it doing it by yourself?
It’s real hard, man, to be honest with you. It’s real hard. But people like me, I’m not in it for the money. I’m in it for the love. Of course I like to make money off of it, but this is what I’ve been doing since 1989. That’s when I spit my first verse. I grew up looking at people like Run-DMC. My parents went to school with Russell. I grew up looking at these people. Hip-hop is my life. It’s real hard by yourself, but in the end, the money that you make is much more worth it because you know you worked that much harder for it.
“Mikey Mo’s Theme” is a standout track on Focused. How did that song come about?
Remember the movie I’m Gonna Git You Sucka!? Remember how the pimp would walk and he had his theme music play behind him? Ever since I saw that, I was like, ‘I have to have my own theme song!’ When I first heard that beat and the horns and the dude was singing in the beginning, I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s my theme song!’ I just took it from there.
Does someone follow you with a boombox playing “Mikey Mo’s Theme”?
I want that to happen! (laughs) I’m trying to get to that level! That’s the level I’m trying to get on. I’m going to hire somebody specifically to follow behind me with my theme music playing. When I walk into the room, everybody will know what’s up. I like to have fun, man, you know. You only live one time.
It’s not often an MC cracks two jokes in an interview.
Yeah. I’m all about having a good time. I’ve seen too much foul stuff in my life to not want to have a good time. Life is about being happy, so that’s what I try to be. I try to be happy, make my music and do my thing.
You have a song called “Letter to my Father’s Spirit” and you mention your father in “Hustlin’, Strugglin’”. How hard was it for you to write “Letter to my Father’s Spirit”?
Oh, man, it was real hard. I cried several times writing that song. It was straight from the heart. My pops committed suicide in 1996 and it was real hard on my family. People still haven’t recovered in my family and that happened in 1996. It was a hard thing to write but it was something that I had in me that I had to get out. And once I did get it out on paper and got it recorded, it felt so good. And that’s another thing why I’m glad I got my creative freedom at 3sixty5 because they’re letting me do songs like that. Not everybody can make a sad song like that. That song, it’s not no upbeat song. People can feel my emotions on that song. Not everyone will let you put out something like that.
What kind of an effect did your father’s suicide have on you?
It had a big effect on me, man. My pops, he wasn’t like my hero or nothing. Growing up, my pops used to dog my moms. I’m originally from Jamaica, Queens. In ’85, my moms bounced and left me with my pops. My pops was big-time in Queens at that time. I used to see a lot of stuff growing up. Then my mom came and took me away. That kind of messed up my relationship with my dad because I didn’t see him all the time. Then when I got older, our relationship started getting better. Then when I turned 16, that happened. That took a lot out of my heart. That took a whole lot out of my heart. You’re 16 and you’re growing up and you hear your friends talking about doing stuff with your father and all I had was my moms and she was struggling. It’s hard, but everybody goes through things.
How much do your past experiences keep you focused on succeeding in the music industry?
It definitely does. The way I feel about it, I feel, honestly, I feel like my father set this stuff up for me. This rapping, man, it really just fell into place for me, man. Everything fell into place and ever since it did, I just took it as seriously as possible. I moved to the Bay Area at the end of 2005. I didn’t really do nothing. When I was in the military, I was in the military from ’98 to 2002. I used to freestyle with a bunch of down South dudes. That’s all I really did. I never thought about being a rapper. I used to just get drunk and freestyle. Then I got to the Bay. The weedman’s house had some producers over there. I was over there freestyling with them. They saw that I could do the freestyle thing. I met those producers and everything and they liked my stuff. That was when I met Koncept’s brother. Everything just happened from there. After I made that first song, they liked me and they let me be a part of their group and then after that, I got signed to 3sixty5 and it’s been a wrap ever since. We did the West Bound album and the tour and we’ve done a lot of successful stuff as a label.
Are you happy with how things are moving at 3sixty5 Records so far?
Yeah, I’m happy. I’m just waiting. I’m just glad that I got product out now and I have something that I can actually make a profit off of. I’m trying to get to the point where I don’t have to work a 9-5. I can just rap and survive. That’s the point where I’m trying to get to.
You just mentioned the West Bound album, which dropped about a year ago. Will you release another project with West Bound?
We’re not really a group. The way that came together was that each of us are artists on 3sixty5 records and the tour was called the West Bound Tour. While we were on tour, we were writing verses and making music. We realized that we may as well drop an album as a group. The only way that we would probably do another West Bound album is probably if we do another West Bound tour and there will probably be more people on the CD than just us three who were originally on it. But I don’t want to be a group. I’m a solo rapper. I get up there and I rock the show by myself like Kanye does.
What are your goals for Focused?
I just want to be known. I just want everybody to hear my first album and know that I’m spitting some stuff. I’m not saying I’m the most lyrical person or anything like that, but I got songs on there about growing up in a single-parent home and respecting single parents. I got a song on there about growing up in the ghetto and still doing the right thing. I got songs on there about girls. I have to shout out the girls. That’s a given! I got good songs on there on topics that a lot of people aren’t doing songs about. A lot of people are copying formats to get money and it’s all sounding the same, but not me. I’m not sacrificing anything. I’m just making music from the heart that I know people are going to feel and my goal is for people to hear that. My goal is to get it out to the hip-hop community and to let them know that there are still real rappers out there. That’s really my goal, and to sell about 10,000 at least!
What’s the next move for Mikey Mo?
The next move for me right now is that I’m about to get ready to start recording for Hunger Painz 3. That’s my mixtape series. I just dropped Hunger Painz 2 in July. I got Hunger Painz 3 coming up. I’m already starting to get beats for my next album. My next album is probably going to come out August 19 of 2008. That’s the 12 year anniversary of my pops passing away. I’m really trying to drop another album at that time. I know that it’s coming pretty soon, but I got a lot of music. I’ve been just stockpiling music since 2003 and I’m just ready to blow up on everybody and show them that there are still real rappers out there. There aren’t just gimmicks. There are some real people out there representing.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Man, I just want to tell people that I really appreciate them checking me out and checking out my music. I’m a fan more than anything. I still get star-struck when I see people like Ghostface. Just run up on me if you see me because that’s what I do. I got love for everybody and just check out my music. Focused is a classic. I know that it’s a classic because I’m a big fan of hip-hop. Everybody, if you see me, approach me. I’m approachable and I’ve never been Hollywood. When you see me, run up on me. We can smoke a blunt or something. That’s how I get down.