Mike Mictlan – Hand Over Fist

3 out of 5

Label: Doomtree

Produced by: Joe Mabbott (mixed and engineered by)

Plenty of MC and production skill meets in a middleground.

Mike Mictan’s flow is absolutely grabbing – it’s playful but intense, articulate but accessible. He’s not exactly Aesop Rockin’ the content – most of Hand Over Fist’s tracks are boast tracks, or “growin’ up is tough” semi-generics – but he’s certainly verbose in a good way, filling up the lyric sheet with slick variations on his themes. And I don’t want to sell this stuff wholly short, as there are definitely clever and deeper thoughts mixed in there, but Mictlan does cover a lot of it with poppy braggadoccio.

And Lazerbeak’s cluttered, digital-flecked beats are surely grabbing, setting things to a run with the opening title track, laying down a mantra and mindset for the album, before the torch is carried forward with the equally energized Suicide Jimmy Snuffa.

And the equally energized Clam Casino, and Shux, which sounds like one of Lazerbeak’s tracks for P.O.S. and there’s P.O.S. guesting on it, with both he and Mictlan hitting a similar pace and tone.

So that’s the thing about the album: while each individual track is ridiculously strong, it’s as though the two primary artists at work here – Mictlan and ‘Beak – found an exact space in which they work together really well, and then just hang there. It’s not that the beats are repetitive, or that Mictlan doesn’t deliver unique hooks, just that these elements exist in a very similar register and speed and mix throughout. It’s to both of these creators credits that that doesn’t equate to the album being boring, but it does prevent it from feeling like it has any standout moments.

…Excepting, of course, when they break from that trend. Fire on the Watermark has a long instrumental section leading the way, which is a good break in the middle of the disc, and the paired Head Full / Head Fuller tracks find Mictlan slowing down a bit, allowing things to feel a bit more defined late in the game, which leads to excellent closer Prizefighter – a track in which the search for an epic sound seems to push the duo to experiment a bit, and actually change things up intra-track. So just as we jump out with a splash, the album concludes notably as well.

Mictlan’s style is catchy and accessible over all, so the album does qualify for easy relistens, helping to bring out some more nuance on subsequent playthroughs. But maybe mixing up the production a bit, or pairing with a different beat-maker overall, might result in an ultimately more varied and exciting album.