Hailing from Alameda, California, Mike Baker The Bike Maker continues a long running tradition of fresh and innovative sounds from the Bay Area and along with his fellow Honor Roll crew members adds a much needed relaxed air to the current landscape with his breezy debut album Mike Plays It Cool – an album that achieves the rare feat of sounding distinctively familiar yet fresh all at once.
The album opens up with the Trackademicks-produced “Brand New”, and immediately sets the tone for the rest of the album with its lush keys, hazy vocals and some straightforward raps from Mike Baker. The lyrics don’t have much in the way of aim, but that doesn’t detract from the quality of the track. Next is “Legs”, featuring Honor Roll members 1-O.A.K. and Trackademicks – who also produced the track. The flirty lyrics mesh well with Trackademicks’ strong backing producing, as the MCs try their best at winning the physical affections of a woman.
“You Don’t Have To Say A Thing” features Trackademicks once more and the track continues to lover boy approach to great effect. The production is reminiscent of the synthesizer-heavy sound of the 80s and its quick pace certainly breaks up any listener fatigue immediately. “High Speed” is another fantastic track from Trackademicks but Mike Baker’s rhymes are slightly underwhelming though not exactly terrible. Next is “The Coast Is Clear” featuring Honor Roll member Josie Stingray and Trackademicks. Produced by the aforementioned 1.0.A.K., the track is slightly different in sound but it works in part due to the performance of the rappers over the consistent production.
Nikki Jean shows up on the excellent “L.I.F.E. (Living In Full Enjoyment)” and 1-O.A.K. dials in another great piece of production. Nikki Jean’s vocals are the true highlight here, but Mike Baker sounds like he rhymes with a grin on his face the entire time; this is a good thing. The album ends on a strong trio of songs in “Conviction”, “Brainstorm”, and “Up”. Of the three, “Brainstorm” stands out due to 1-O.A.K. slightly more aggressive track and strong features from Spank Pops and Josie Stingray.
Mike Baker The Bike Maker may not light the world on fire with his rhymes, as he goes for mood over vocal pyrotechnics but that shouldn’t be seen as a mark of criticism. Baker has a lane and hopefully improves upon what the sound he’s created with his debut album.
- D.L. Chandler