The basement of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia was crowded on Thursday, April 13 as the rapper MIKE took the stage. Born Michael Jordan Bonema in South Livingston, NJ, the 24-year-old artist/producer was welcomed back to Philly by his fans and many family members who were in attendance.
This show was the penultimate stop of MIKE’s Ipari Park Tour, which wrapped in Brooklyn, NY on April 14. The tour shares its name with the seventh track off of MIKE’s 2022 album “Beware of the Monkey,” although very little is known about Ipari Park. Searches for the term lead to this tour and song, along with places in Hungary. The word “ipari” means “industrial” or “technical” in Hungarian, so the title could be referencing the city landscape that MIKE has spent most of his life in.
The sidewalk surrounding the church was crowded and fragrant on the night of the show; there was a calm sense of community in the laid-back nature of the venue. Besides the music, the 79-degree evening weather was far more appealing than the hot basement.
Upon entering, I anxiously made my way to the merch table to pick up a tour-exclusive CD copy of “Beware of the Monkey” that MIKE had teased on his Instagram in March. Tragically, the CDs had been sold out since the April 4 show in Austin, according to the merch vendor. He explained that they had made 500 CDs for the tour, but also assured me that there would be more physical copies of this album in future.
Around 8:45 p.m. the music began. This stop featured support from CRUZIN, Sideshow and Slauson Malone 1. The former two artists had similar music to MIKE, but with a bit less sample focus. Their casual stage presence and performance style was fitting for the less professional venue setup. The stage was shallow and barebones, and the room looked like it could have been an old school lunchroom.
Slauson Malone 1’s performance stood out from the entire bill. Consisting of Jasper Marsalis as a vocalist, guitarist and producer plus Nicholas John on cello, the act was extremely experimental. Their compositions were long, drawn out and dynamic, taking unpredictable turns into sections that sounded improvised. Marsalis would often scream distortedly through many effects, even entering the crowd at one point to create his own mosh pit.
At 10:05 p.m. MIKE took the stage, accompanied by a girl we would come to find out was his niece Skylar. He danced around the stage to the song “Water No Get Enemy” by Fela Kuti, building anticipation as the instrumental grew. MIKE also introduced many of his family members who were there including his “pops,” who he lived with in Philadelphia during his early teenage years, according to Pitchfork.
MIKE kicked off his setlist with “As 4 Me” from his newest album, which is currently the most popular track from the project on Spotify. His chorus line “Thank God I’m living” radiated emotion with the context of the moment; he was closing out his tour with his family and friends on stage. He told the crowd that they had been on the road for thirty days as his friends brought out beers.
“*storm & the calm,” “Aww (Zaza)” and “Evil Eye.” It was especially impressive to witness MIKE not only spitting his wordy verses from memory, but also doing so without any backing vocals as most modern rappers do live. Recent single “Stop Worry!” was played next, and the crowd sang along to Sister Nancy’s iconic outro.
The setlist features many of the songs from “Beware of the Monkey,” such as “Swoosh 23,” “What Do I Do?,” “Closing Credits,” “No Curse Lifted (rivers of love)” and the eponymous track “Ipari Park.” During fan favorite “nuthing i can do is wrng,” someone must have stepped on an important cable, and the instrumental dropped out. The DJ along with MIKE’s other friends scrambled to fix the audio as MIKE said to the crowd “I’ll run it back if it turn back on.” Thankfully, it turned back on.
At one point, MIKE gave an emotional speech regarding his mother and passionately performed a few songs that appeared unrecognizable. These songs featured the lyrics “Save my heart when they cut me into pieces” and “I woke up in the name of god this time.” It is possible that these tracks were from older projects, unreleased or even freestyled.
MIKE also performed the song “no, no” from his 2020 album “weight of the world,” and ended his set with the 2019 single “Numbered Dayz.” His friends joined him on stage as he dedicated the song “Over” by Drake to their homie Ian. Throughout the entire show, love was given and received by MIKE, the audience and his family.
The night wrapped up around 11 p.m., and it was still 71 degrees outside. Despite missing out on the coveted CDs, MIKE’s Philadelphia concert did not disappoint. The lineup of artists was diverse, and MIKE proved yet again to be one of the most talented rising artists in hip-hop. “Beware of the Monkey” is my favorite rap album of the 2020s so far, and it is going to be difficult to top.
As 4 Me
World Market (Mo Money)
*storm & the calm
“Save my heart when they cut me into pieces”
“I woke up in the name of god this time”
What Do I Do?
nothin I can do it wrng
No Curse Lifted (rivers of love)