Mike G is probably the least publicised member of Odd Future, and is treated almost as a novelty by critics and by the group themselves. It’s true he lacks the manic energy of Tyler or Hodgy, the pure flow and skill of Earl, the (now) impressive spitting skills of Domo and the actual singing talent of Syd; his style is nothing groundbreaking; and he’s hardly the most charismatic guy. But when you look at his work in isolation, rather than wrapped in the overwhelming personalities of the rest of the group, a hugely talented and impressive guy emerges.
I’ve liked Mike G since I saw him at Odd Future’s first Sydney show in July 2011. I’d never bothered to look into the guy before, but in a show mainly comprised of screaming into microphones, stage dives, climving of amp stacks and an almost palpable energy, Mike G’s laidback smooth flow was a huge highlight. However, in this concert (as well as their latest Sydney Big Day Out show, and subsequent mixtapes) G is used largely as a space-filler, an intermission, a guy who contributes the occasional smooth and relaxed track to give Tyler a chance to take a puff on his asthma inhaler and Left Brain a minute to smoke up a blunt; his appearances on the OF mixtapes follow a similar pattern, his contributions used to break up the intensity of the others’ material. After downloading his largely overlooked tape ‘Ali,’ I was pretty blown away. Sure, it doesn’t have a ‘Yonkers’ or ’64’ or ‘Earl,’ but as a cohesive work, it was brilliant. So silky, so lazy, so restrained; instrumentation somewhere between jazz and soul and dreamy r’n’b, with Mike’s raspy, smooth voice. His appearances on the ‘Radical’ tape were highlights for me, and even though he gets just one spot on the ‘OF Tape Vol 2’ with ‘Forest Green,’ I’d argue that it’s the strongest track on the entire goddamn album.
It’s a contrast to his previous material. The beat is more lurching and distorted and crunchy, his flow is faster, more complex and more direct. He shows off an impressive dexterity; “this ain’t as easy as it looks, I just make it look good” he proclaims, hitting out at the critics who bag him for his laidback style. ‘Forest Green’ is the most immediate and vital thing he’s ever put his name to, the Left Brain-produced track having one of the more interesting beats on the whole tape; a subtle dubstep-style wobble-bass plays behind a click, crunchy beat and brass horn style melody, understated enough to not drown out Mike’s vocal style (still, obviously, nowhere near the intensity or immediacy of Tyler or Hodgy) but prominent enough to make a listener sit up and take attention.
Mike G is a victim of Odd Future’s own success. While his more intense comrades grab the headlines, in their midst sits a hugely talented guy who would be making massive waves of his own if he wasn’t forever lumped in as the guy who comes in during concerts to give the others time to catch their breath.