My album collection has some pretty obscure pieces, but today’s post might take the crown. I’d be surprised if any of you have ever heard of Mike “E” Wright, who simply goes by Mike E. The Detroit born and bred musician grew up just blocks away from the legendary Motown label. The son of a Pentecostal Bishop, Mike got his break into the industry playing guitar for Gospel legends such as The Winans, BeBe & CeCe Winans and The Clark Sisters. He would go on to help found my favorite gospel group of all time, Commissioned, where both Marvin Sapp and Fred Hammond (yep, the guy you saw going up against Kirk Franklin on Verzuz this past Sunday) got their start. Eventually, Mike E would also pick up a mic and start rapping for Jesus as well. He signed to the Christian label, Reunion Records, where he would release his first two albums: Mike E & The G-Rap Crew and Good New For The Bad Timez, which would earn the holy hip-hopper back to back Dove Awards (which is the Christian music version of the Grammys). After Good News, Mike would leave Reunion and unite with Reggie White (rip), becoming the CEO/Co-Owner and first artist signed to the Hall of Fame defensive end’s independent label, Big Doggie Records, where he released his third album, Pass It On in, produced entirely by himself and Jet Penix.
I was introduced to Mike E by the lead single from Pass It On (“Back In The Day”) a few years after the album was released. This was during my soul searching period, when I was exclusively listening to Christian hip-hop. I thought the song was pretty fresh, so 10 years ago when I found a used copy of Pass It On for 99 cents at Pawn America, I spent my hard earned dollar and copped it.
So even if the rest of album is trash, I’ll still have gotten my money’s worth.
Take A Ride – After a short interlude that has Mike-E acting as a DJ for the faux radio station WGRAP (Get it? God Rap?), an empty cheesy sounding instrumental drops and Mike E goes into “old negro spiritual mode” with his hook. From his opening bars, you quickly hear that Mike E’s antiquated flow (even by ’95 standards) is limited. The choir singing on the hook was cool, though.
Pass It On – Over a somber backdrop, Mike-E vaguely shares he and his homie’s (Little Tommy) mistakes as kids, in hope that he can keep another kid from making the same mistakes (even though Mike never actually tells us what his mistakes were). Mike’s intentions are good, but his rhymes ring hollow. The instrumental is cool, though.
Ain’t Nothin But The Word – This was godawful. No pun intended.
Gotta Go – “You think ya heard it all yo, I got somethin’ for ya, if you don’t like what you’re hearing, here’s a dime, go call a lawyer”. This is an example of the superb level of lyricism you can expect to hear from Mike E on this song. The instrumental is decent, but with lines like “1 into the 2, into the 3, into the fo’, like Snoop the Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre I’m at the do'”, little Mikey’s performance is almost laughable.
Spread The Word – From the cheesy Casio keyboard sounding instrumental to Mike’s elementary sounding rhymes and hook, this song made me feel like I was eight years old again sitting in Sunday school.
Better Now Than Later – Mike E invites Iali to add adlibs and spit a view bars, as the duo express the importance of giving your life to Christ today instead of waiting for the unpromised tomorrow. Now that I think about it, Mike-E sounds like Arrested Development’s front man, Speech. Only less skilled. I like the jazzy laidback feel good instrumental, and the softness of Iali’s voice sounds nice flowing over it.
Back In The Day – This was the sole reason I spent my 99 cents on Pass It On. Mike and Jet laydown a breezy instrumental with some slick guitar chords, as our host reminisces about his childhood and gives props to the people in his life that helped him make it through. I still love this song’s sentiment and the instrumental.
Think About It – Mike takes an old soulful Pentecostal praise and worship song and turns it into a smooth hip-hop/r&b groove. I mentioned earlier that Mike E sounds a lot like Speech, but this song actually sounds like something Arrested Development would have done back in the day, and I enjoyed it.
Rap Jam – Mike E invites his Nashville (aka Da’ville) crew to take part in this holy cipher. Iali, Laish, Sigmund, DJ Majik, Bishop and Mike E each spit a verse showcasing their skills or lack thereof, over a jazzy jam session. No one spits anything worth quoting, but the instrumentation is solid.
Make A Move – Little Mikey loops up (or replays) James Brown’s “Popcorn With A Feeling” to share a spoken word poem as a plea to get the listeners to roll “with that kid from the manger”. Mike E sounds better as a spoken word artist than a rapper, and using this JB loop is kind of a cheat code, but you can’t deny its funkiness.
Credit Mix – Mike E loved the “Better Now Than Later” instrumental so much that he brought it back to give his shout outs over it.
Guitar ReMix – Our host also recycles the “Make A Move” instrumental, but substitutes the spoken word poem with some sick licks from his “1968 screamin’ guitar”. This was actually super dope.
On Pass It On, Mike E comes off as a good hearted well-intentioned guitarist impersonating a rapper. Kudos to our host for his clean language and positive messages, but his 1982 flow combined with his elementary rhymes, just aint it. Most of the instrumentation on Pass It On is decent with a few blatant missteps, but none of it is spectacular. Pass It On is mediocre at best and only worth a purchase if you can find it for a dollar at your local record store. And the church said: Amen.