Mike Dreams on Soundset, Kurt Cobain, and humanity

Categories: CD Release
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Photo by Peter Jamus
Mike Hannah, aka Mike Dreams, is certainly mysterious as a young man who has lived many lives in his short years. The rapper/hip-hop artist has brought to fruition his dreams -- so to speak -- on his third album Millennial. The album is a collection of songs that hit you in the gut -- even when they create a fragile world of imagination -- then puncture straight through it.

The artist took some time to talk to Gimme Noise about the many people and places that went into the labor of love before his album release at the 7th Street Entry on Saturday.

Gimme Noise: Tell me about your fist exposure to hip-hop. What drew you to it, and why do you perform hip-hop?

Mike Dreams: My first exposure to hip-hop came very early on. It's hard to really pinpoint exactly where it was at, because it was simply part of the culture that surrounded me. I do distinctively remember songs like "Jump" by Kriss Kross and a lot of the West Coast rap that enveloped the mainstream way back in 1993 and 1994 when I was like 5 and 6 hanging over at my aunt and older cousin's house. My understanding of it became a little more developed around the time the Fugees dropped their The Score album in 1996, and when Mase, Puffy, B.I.G., and the whole Bad Boy, Shiny Suit Era hit the scene in 1997, that's when I really decided I wanted to be a rapper.

I didn't see it as a huge life decision then. It was just sort of formation of a childhood dream that just felt fun at the time. It became something that was a part of me, and over time, it's developed and evolved into the artist that I am today. It's part of my identity, and coincides with my desire to have a voice in this world and be heard. Music -- and more specifically hip-hop and rapping -- are the platforms for that.

Can you tell me more about your brother JB? How did he inspire you?

My brother's influence on me was another one of those things that you don't really realize its importance until later on. My brother was my dad's son, a child from his first family, and he was ten years older than me. He lived with us briefly when I was very young, but it wasn't until I was entering seventh grade that he came to live with us for a longer period of time. He served some prison time and was working on transitioning back into the regular world as a citizen in society. He lived in the basement of our house, and he'd play and show me his collection of rap music that mostly consisted of 2pac and the duo 8-Ball and MJG. Just being around that helped me to understand more about the music and the culture. He did some rapping as well, and I was able to hear some of his struggles through lyrics and began to understand how rappers could tell stories of themselves through song poetically. These things were embedded in me.

As I began getting more serious about making music during high school, he surfaced once again for a period of time, acknowledging the progression that I had made over the years and commenting on my evolution. I had only been recording actual songs in studios for about a year when he was tragically robbed and gunned down in South Minneapolis in April of '06. From there, I decided that the pursuit of really trying to be a successful artist was not only something I needed to do for myself, because I wanted to, but also to help carry on a dream of my brother's that he was never able to fulfill during his time on earth her, due to whatever circumstance, it was my obligation to keep this alive.

What was it like performing at Soundset in 2010? 

Soundset 2010 was an incredible experience. It was surreal in a sense, because I'd only been going to Soundset for about two years at that point. I wrote a song at Soundset 2008 that I was inspired to write after a very memorable performance of "This Way" by Dilated Peoples.

Two years later, I was able to take the stage as a performer at the festival and perform that song in front of a lot of people. It was also pretty cool because only months before that, I had just finished my first actual studio album. Lots of acts that were also on the bill that year had been putting out projects for years, so it was definitely a really cool experience that I hope to take part in again very soon. I feel that I am way more prepared as an artist and live performer now than I was then.

Do you feel that was the pinnacle for you, or are you always striving for more?

I absolutely hope it is not my pinnacle. I dream to do a lot more in my career -- leaps and bounds beyond anything I've done so far. Frankly, I feel all artists should be striving for this and not settling for anything less than everything they desire from their dream.

You work a lot in the community with youth and peace ceremonies. Why are these important causes for you?

I think working with youth is quite important simply because these kids are going to be the ones to run the world in a few years. Their influences and opinions are going to shape this earth that we live on, so my daily purpose as someone older than them, is to instill a positive foundation into their lives to base their thoughts off of as they get older and come of age to start making decisions for themselves.

I work with an organization called youthrive, and we are the Upper Midwest Affiliates of International PeaceJam. I find that work important because we live in a world full of a lot of negativity -- from the wars overseas to the wars and battles we face right here in America. When these festivals come together, we are working side by side with Nobel Peace laureates who have devoted their lives to making the world a better place. I'm all for that. I know I can't change the world single-handedly, but with everyone doing their part, collectively we can make a huge impact. Those festivals and ceremonies are powerful because it's so many people believing in the same goal of living in a peaceful and progressive world coming together. The positive and optimistic energy is an overly inspiring feeling.

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What was the story you wanted to tell with Millennial, and what's the meaning behind the name?

In recent years, I've been pretty obsessed with the idea of generations. As a kid, I used to think it was really cool reading about Generation X and that whole era. One figure I used to be frequently obsessed with was Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, and just how their music sort of became a trademark for that generation of teens growing up. As I got older, I learned about the generation that I was a part of -- referred to as the Generation Y -- but more formally as the Millennial Generation.

I stared studying more about our generation and started to understand a lot more about why people around my age are how we are. Things started to make sense. I learned that we are quite an interesting generation and one of the last of our kind. Delving into both worlds, we're technologically advanced and can probably run the entire world from our iPhones, but we still remember the days where UHF and VHF meant something; you had to tell someone to get off the phone, so you could use the internet. All of that was very fascinating to me, so in the album, my goal was simply to make music that could convey my life as a Millennial in this current generation and hopefully touch on topics that many Millennials could relate to. Things such as our heightened dependence on support from our parents compared to past generations, our dreamer ambitions and persistence to not sacrifice this dreams for security, our interesting obsession with fame and fortune, nostalgia for simpler times, the importance of creating memorable moments in life without regrets finding love and companionship, self-actualization, and optimistically looking towards what our futures hold.


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