On the Record: Mike Braugher, OC ’14

After releasing his EP Dreamer last November, College junior, rapper and producer Mike Braugher dropped his new mixtape, We Are Only Human: Pt. I, on Tuesday. Braugher sat down with the Review to talk about musical influences, the evolution of the hip-hop scene and his take on the role of art in society.

Abby Hawkins

The Review: So We Are Only Human is a mixtape in two parts, and this is Part One. I’m wondering how this mixtape is a departure from what you’ve done in your past releases.

Mike Braugher: It’s a departure because in my last projects that I’ve put out the focus was me. Like, I was the subject matter of my mixtapes, but only one of these tracks is one of those look-at-me-I’m-the-shit songs. And there’s a huge departure in sound. The sound of my last projects was more boom-bap — the boom-bap style of production and ’90s flow — but I’m going for a more modern flow. So ’90s beats were usually from 80 to 100 beats per minute, and the new songs’ beats per minute are anywhere from 60 to 80. So it’s a departure in sound because the way that rap is going nowadays, it’s those style of backbeats, and I want to remain relevant while still spitting some of the more conscious elements that were present in ’90s music.

Lyrically, it’s a departure because these songs are not about me; they’re about issues I see throughout the world and that I want to address in a creative way and have people talk about. I think talking about hard things is often a crucial role that art plays — it allows people to talk about things that normally aren’t brought into the discussion because that medium of music just makes it easier for the person to digest rather than a conversation. I just think it’s a cushion for the messages that I’d like to spread.

TR: A little more specifically, what inspired you to make this mixtape? What is urgent about this — what’s inspiring you to put this out there?

MB: What inspired me to make this mixtape? Well, there are a number of reasons. People lose interest in you as an artist if you don’t consistently put out music nowadays, like with the Internet. … So that’s a major driving force — I want to give my fans a reason to stay my fans. Also, I’m a junior now, and it’s getting closer to the real world much quicker than I ever anticipated. I feel as though I need to start crafting a sound that would be commercially viable while staying true to my roots. This is more of an experiment, I guess, than something with a specific purpose. The purpose of music, in my experience, is to get as many people as possible to understand what’s going on in my head. That’s what all artists do, in a way, and how effective that piece of art is can be directly attributed to how many people understand what you’re trying to say.

TR: Who has been inspirational for you musically, both in general and on this album specifically?

MB: I listen to so many different styles of music, and a lot of the things that translate into my hip-hop music don’t necessarily come from hip-hop artists. The artists that still influence me today but who I used to be influenced by a lot were Common, standard Tupac, Biggie —

TR: The big guys.

MB: The guys who were big for a reason in the ’90s — because they were straight-up the most talented. But recently, I think Tech N9ne, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and the hip-hop producers that are kind of starting to run the game have really been influencing my sound because the role of the producer is slowly becoming so much more important than it ever was in the old school. So I’m trying to tailor my sound to not be commercial, but to have commercial elements that allow people to relate to my music but still go a little bit deeper than commercial topics. I would say Kendrick Lamar does an incredible job of doing that, and I’m pretty much trying to do the same thing but in my own way because I’m my own person.

TR: And you have different things to say.

MB: I have different things to say, but also, Kendrick Lamar has found a fantastic balance between being commercially relevant and the message behind his words. He’s probably the biggest influence I’ve had in making this mix tape, but it doesn’t sound anything like him at all — but I appreciate what he’s doing.

TR: So how can people find your mix tape?

MB: They just have to go to www.mikebraugher.com and click on the music tab, it’ll pop up to my music page, and they can download it for free. Free ninety-nine.