Currently a Birmingham City University student, Mike Ray moved to Coventry (UK) from Lubartów (Poland) at a very early age. His mom being a singer, and his dad a pianist, Mike was exposed to music from an early age, drawing his personal influences from the suburban areas where he grew up. This inevitably led to the hip-hop and rap genres where TI, Lil Wayne and Kanye West made an impression on him, but wasn’t until he heard Big Sean record ‘Memories’ that he was inspired to create his own music. Hence at 17 he formed a collaboration with school friends Lecs Blvck and IamTerrier, eventually releasing the track “ßOUNC£” which gained attention in various parts of the country and made its way to the radio stations. Live performances soon followed and the collaboration morphed into a group called RIOS MOB. They have since continued to record and release music which has now led to Mike Ray’s recent debut album “WHXTE”.
“WHXTE” is one of those albums you can play in front a group of both fans of rap or R&B and they’ll all enjoy it equally. It’s a beautiful mix of confident lyrics, soft vocals, and hip-hop style beats. Mike Ray brings all the love laced poetic flows that interest a woman, while keeping it authentic to the new wave of Trap and Soul inspired R&B popular today.
He has spacey production and experimental tenor vocals to make the formula work. Aside from the typical flossing Mike has a genuine sex vibe from a swaggy perspective. While some of these songs cater to the woman, the seductive lyrics embrace the intricacies of relationships from Mike’s point of view.
To an extent, Mike Ray forges a similar R&B zeitgeist used by Drake, Tiller, and Lanez among others. All sing in a breathy, conversational style. Neither attempts to soar; instead their voices glide nicely. In their songwriting, the artists make lusty and romantic relationships sound like permanent litigation.
Sometimes Mike imbues his most endearing songwriting with the grandeur of a tyrant, while at others he is able to scale his sense of conflict down to the most intimate, sensitive level possible. The result is that Mike Ray’s songs sound like epic cinematic confrontations. From the production to his smooth vocals and dope lyrics, I can’t even begin to explain to you how smooth his transitions are.
We get a taste of this from the album’s opening song, “No More”. The entire first half of “WHXTE” is easily successful in drawing the listener in, with Mike Ray sounding confident and in his own skin over booming melodic shards of production.
The multi-syllabic, marble-mouthed elastic rhyme schemes and flows come tumbling in quick succession on “Bethany”, “WYN” and “Escort”. Mike also holds his own on “Devil In Disguise”, by walking the rap-singing bridge effortlessly: speeding up and slowing down his chalky crooning lilt to compliment the track nicely.
The production shines with “Mozart” and “Hypnotize”, giving listeners two more gems before Mike launches himself into the vocally interesting “Feeling It – Interlude”. On the melodic “Shade” manages to establish a lane of his own, with a sound and vocal that differs from his peers.
The vibe is incredible throughout the project, and while the standout tracks on this album are easy to pick out, all the songs maintain an exceptionally high quality of performance and production. And it does so right until the end with the superb album closers, “Cruise” and “Out Of Town” ft. Lecs Blvck, B-Kxne and Xander. “WHXTE” is exactly what it promises, as the album contributes to closing the ever shrinking gap between Hip-hop, R&B and Soul, in its own unique way.