MIKEL LOL: Photographed and Interviewed by David-Simon Dayan
DSD: Let’s begin by introducing you, Mikel LOL, sensational singer, rapper, queer being, all around ray of sunshine with a zest for life. How are you?
ML: Well shit! Hi, cheers to hoping I live up to that introduction entirely! I’m actually the happiest I have ever been artistically/emotionally as of late.
DSD: So happy to hear that. Mikel, where do you come from? Where do you call home?
ML: He’s a west coast rapper, L.A is my home, but NYC has been a place I frequent for guttural inspiration to bring back with me to the studio.
DSD: What drew you to rapping? To create poetry on your feet the way you do is such an extraordinary talent. It’s a craft that requires so much wit, speed, work, and flow. Where did it begin?
ML: You know, I have always been a theater queen. I grew up always fantasizing about being on Broadway. It was my escape from being bullied and taunted for my personality and instead of allowing others the power, I started turning it into a strength. I was a shitty student, not afraid to admit it. I was a class clown and always gave more weight to laughing than learning… except when it came to rehearsal. At rehearsal for a show, I had my highlighter and a motive to be stronger/better. Rapping, however, came later in life, although hip hop and rap were a staple in car rides with my mom or at grandmas house. My inspirations have always been theatrical rappers who painted pictures with their bars and had incredibly clean delivery. Missy Elliot, JAY, N.W.A, BIGGIE SMALLS, SNOOP…. and the power house vocalists of the 90s ( EN VOGUE, WHITNEY…)
DSD: The regularity of people being bullied and needing to seek escape is beyond heartbreaking. Having personal experience with being bullied myself, though, I realize the exact quality being picked on manifests into something that makes us shine later in life. It’s just fear; fear of love, further, of greatness, that even kids can spot, and unfortunately try to diminish it with hateful actions and words. But what can we do except use it to feed us and attempt to better the future?
ML: Exactly, look at us now, using our perceived weaknesses as strengths, and to inform; that’s so beautiful to me.
DSD: You write all your own songs as well—how did that begin?
ML: With a breakup. Kind-of cliche; I was heartbroken after losing someone I thought was going to be mine forever. We were doomed from day one. We dated here in LA for about eight months, and we were long distance for the better part of a year or so after him in Italy, me in LA….so to make the time go by with less reliance on Skype. I would make him funny videos, or sing songs to him…. Now and then I would throw in a rap, ha ha. Once our relationship dissolved, I was left feeling alone and unmotivated… which I never feel, like, ever… But when you think you lost the biggest gift in life, LOVE….it’s hard to snap out of it. I knew I had to return to my first love… Music/Theater. I bought a one-way ticket to NYC….. and right before I flew out of LA, he texted me saying…. “You know, you’re pretty good at this stuff, why don’t you take it more seriously?”…. that’s all I needed. I started writing on the plane, and haven’t stopped since. So thank you, you know who you are. HELLO FROM THE MOTHER FUCKING OTHER SIDE BITCH HAHAHA.
DSD: Honestly, as much as it sucks to get your heartbroken; by life, by lovers, and so on and so forth, I am always so grateful when it occurs. There’s a voice in the back of my mind whispering, “Oh, this is good, this is going to be great.” Then my skin molts before I prepare for my next victim. And it usually begins with writing; unquestionably a cleansing act in and of itself.
Singing, rapping, writing—are there any other crafts that attract you in expressing yourself?
ML: YES! I love to dance! I’m shooting several videos over this next year to bring out all the color that lead me to the “paint” in my first EP. I’m a visual story teller, and I want those that come across me to feel that. Movies and T.V would be great to explore in my adulthood, but there’s a power that comes with creating your own music. I write everything I record. I am hands on with everything from start to finish. You don’t really have on a studio lot where your love interest number #1 or gangbanger NCIS #22.. the one w the tank… I think I’ll stick to the studio for now…it’s bringing me ALL the JOY.
DSD: You are so much more than gangbanger #22, my love, you are a quadruple threat, and that’s solely based on what I’ve encountered thus far. Every time I’ve seen you, whether in performance or socially, you always seem to be in a well thought out look, and your hair is, without exception, a fresh color. Why is that?
ML: HENNI THE HAUS NEEDS PAINT THAT’S WHY!!!! You and my mother ask the same question, haha, well I guess being introduced to nightlife at an early age, me and my friends D.J/Producer Edward Vigiletti, and jewelry designer, Mishka Piaf, and our LA crew were always throwing on accessories and wigs to show UP. After actually turning 21, (sorry mom) I started working more with what I had. Through the help of my colorist Omar Alvizo, I found out that I have a very resilient head of hair. So I switch up the hair all the time because the shit keeps growing back. I am obsessed with hair. I love all kinds, all textures. If I can get away with trying it all, I will… that’s for damn sure.
DSD: The body as canvas for self-expression…
ML: Yes! Recently I have been working hard on my live stage show. I collaborate with local LA talents to remind myself that it’s not all about me; it’s about the audience experience. I met an artist collective while working on a fashion film directed by my friend (which we just performed/premiered at the HBO OUTFEST film festival) and while initially helping with choreography, I started to realize I had a lot of love in my heart to give. Beyond my own intentions and aspirations for myself, I find greater joy in being a loving human being. The world needs loving energy right now, so I use that as my driving focus to express myself.
DSD: It does. And you’re so full of heart; it’ll never run out. Like souplantation. Are you working on any projects currently that you can tell us about?
ML: Yes, I am wrapping up the details and visuals for my very first EP entitled ‘DREAMS.’ It’s a collection of fantasies that all tie into the dreams I’ve had growing up, of the entertainer I wanted to be. Naturally, it’s character driven, so there are a few sides to me as an artist that you will get to know as my first impression. It’ll be streamable across all platforms by the end of August, when I release the “wet dream” entitled “Where Ya Wanna”… my first music video off the EP…..a little theatrically dirty but it’s intentional. I want to set the stage on SEX because for so many years I gave my body without attaching a worth to it. I allowed people to fetishize my mixed heritage, and in a way, I’m taking my power back, and it’s on MY TERMS. It’s also a good starting point to embrace the other dreams brought to life in the rest of the project, which bring both the HOOD & the R&B side to my writing and vocals. I have also been cooking up some new fire tracks in the studio with my best friend, Edward Vigiletti that will be released through his label VIGIHAUS.
DSD: I cannot wait to experience your wet dream. I’ll be the one in the poncho front and center of the splash zone. Speaking of wet dreams, what excites you?
ML: HAHAHA YESSSSS SPLASH ZONE!!!! Music, dance, finishing something I start, fierce 90’s En VOGUE power vocals, fried chicken, pressed edges and weaves of all colors, and the beautiful people I surround myself with.
DSD: How do you, as a queer artist, feel you can and will affect change for the LGBTQ+ community?
ML: This is my favorite question I think. My aim, as an artist, is to set and embody the example that you can embrace both your feminine and masculine energy at the same fucking time. For years, while I was writing, people would say you should be more femme, more masculine, more this, more that, be commercial….FUCK that. I’M EVERY WOMAN ALA WHITNEY. I feel it is imperative that we spread love and break up the social construction of gender and the roles we have learned to accept within them. I was raised by a very strong woman, and I have a lot of respect for women. I am not a woman, I am a man, but to deny the truth that I have been heavily influenced by women my whole life is only a disservice to anyone wishing to know me, and myself as an entertainer. I have primal masculine tendencies and primal feminine ones, and that’s more than okay with me; I choose to celebrate it. I will NOT internalize fear of homophobia. I am beautiful, and so are you.
DSD: You can be any and every woman you want to be. This makes me think of an interview Grace Jones gave a while back that I really admired. She discusses her balance between masculine and feminine energy and deciding when to focus on which. The reporter is attempting to undercut her by projecting these limiting terms, and she meets every question with poise. She asks “what is being masculine? I just act the way I feel.” It goes right over his head. So many magnificent men I have the pleasure of knowing were raised by wonderful women, women by men, human by human. This human experience is so much more than what any kind of binary encourages, and being a part of and surrounded by the queer community is a real honor.
I recently got the chance to speak with the amazing Anthony of Gypsy Sport, who makes a point of the brand’s active involvement in charitable goals for the community. I’m curious how your relationship began?
ML: GYPSY SPORT IS EVERYTHING! They have attended several of the events SLATHER FACTORY has thrown in LA at the Ace & Standard Hotels, which I have performed at. In fact, our last show at the Standard was a room full of industry QUEENS. I didn’t even know until I recently went to support my amazing friends at one of her shows at an open installation where I met the owners and partners at Gypsy Sport. They dressed her, and she looked incredible. She told me who they were; then I saw the collection they had with them, gagged… and they said that any time I had a show that was coming up, they would love to dress me. It was one of those moments in life where you’re like “who, me?!” I had that show coming up for NYC pride, and they referred me to their showroom. Funny story: I get to the showroom, and I’m already in love with the collections they carry. I get shown the Gypsy Sport rack, it’s everything, and my eyes go straight to this gorgeous black jersey with pearls, crystals, and feathers, and before I could snatch it the stylist helping me was like….. It’s gorgeous I know, but you can take anything except that piece…. It’s custom for Missy Elliott. I screamed. I was so happy that I was being denied because of MISSY ELLIOTT, my first real music inspiration! Of course, I picked the same jersey in green to perform that weekend and ended up shooting the rest of the looks with you. They also dressed Cardi B for a dope performance recently, I’m obsessed with them and hope to continue shooting and rocking their line.
DSD: Maybe one day you can open for Missy and tell her all about how she snatched your spotlight haha. I just have a couple more questions for you; If you could give one piece of advice to young artists, what would it be?
ML: Lets put that energy out there; It would be a LIFE CHANGER for sure! Missy, I’m HERE! On the advice side for young artists; try EVERYTHING…not drugs, try every fucking idea that comes to mind when approaching your art. If it doesn’t feel good, scrap it, If it feels good, embrace it and take it further. Try everything, twice. And queer youth specifically? Embrace your masculine energy. Embrace your feminine energy. Embrace LOVE, and accept your POWER in your unique life experience. You are in control and you are LOVED.