On an almost weekly basis some rocking chair anthropologist or wise grey haired expert reassures our parents and our elders that no, it isn’t the economy nor society ills that have been at play to create our wanton apathy. Rather it is our inexplicable need to feel constant gratification, moral decay, and inability to hold viable long lasting careers at the root of this generation’s problems; quickly dispelling any notions of previous societal responsibility and any fear or doubts that so cleverly spellbound youth into inaction. Unfortunately, this has been the cross for every young group as they near adulthood, when the world is uncertain of their ability to properly maintain the systems that govern it.
Luckily, music has always been a means through which the anxieties of youth can be properly vocalized, thus becoming a soundtrack for an entire period. At this moment, thanks to the rise of Odd Future, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar the emotional vulnerability of this current age has been brought to the forefront of musical creation. This constant drive for success at the cost of personal relationships is imbued into the lyrics of Nothing Was the Same. Life in a hostile arena, where one’s safety is constantly threatened, while not succumbing to the negative pressures that are always present is the motivation behind Good Kid…M.a.a.d City. For a generation that has been lied to and on, the brutal honesty that it’s music delivers shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Enter Mickey Lightfoot.
A young man from Brockley, South London whose debut EP, To Kill A Flockin Bird, exhibits the continuation of the trends of his forbearers, while adding an intriguing twist on the hip hop genre. ML—his initials and nickname—puts together seven tracks, spanning a hair over fifteen minutes, which contain an intense emotional breadth hardly seen on many first projects. While there are only four songs on the EP, the relatability of the tunes will have you repeatedly slamming your replay button. Sonically, his far ranging influences create a soundscape that cannot easily be duplicated. Together, both of these qualities are utilized impressively to make something that speaks to both the inner-conscious of the artists and the zeitgeist of the youth.
All three of the skits work to smoothly transition between songs, and since they are made to sound like phone messages the tie nicely into his over arching theme of modern life. ML attempts to recreate the confusion and pace living in today’s cities. The intro is only a woman asking our protagonist why he is so lost, repeatedly. While on “Try Harder”, he puts a message from a friend right next to a one from a girl who he was seeing. He doesn’t waste any time deleting the former’s voicemail, but he lets the latter play out. An interesting representation of the amount of time that is demanded in relationships, which forces people into making choices on which ones to allocate the precious resource on.
The four songs are naturally the most important parts of the tape, and where his personality really shines. “L.O.S.T.” is a cool, brash way to describe the constant drive to attain money and fame. ML details the constant rush that comes with his ambition and need to survive, which ultimately causes him to lose himself in the chase—something a lot of ambitions youths could testify to feeling. “Pain and doubt is trying to make me drown,” is a line that shows both his insecurities and his willingness to fight them off to make it.
“Breath” is the last song, but not even in the same zip code as the least. It is a somber track that is reminiscent of Man on the Moon era Kid Cudi. Whereas Cudder’s styles were often laced with heavy marijuana use and therefore chill vibes, ML’s is left with only passionate crooning. His layered voice during the chorus gives off this illusion of a man fighting to survive in a storming ocean that is threatening to pull him under. The waves of agony and despair can be clearly heard as he wails for his lost love. It is as depressing as it is haunting and all around gorgeous. “Holding my breath, lord knows I’ll shoot down the moon and stars to guide you” paints a vivid image of how desperate he is to get the woman of his dreams back to him. This track could have fit well on NWTS.
It is hard to classify this EP under the typical hip hop definition. “What You Tryna” and “Tell Me Something” both feature heavy doses of singing and r&b sensibilities that are not usually thought of in this category. However, it is better to think of To Kill A Flockin Bird like a collage. While you can isolate individual pieces of newsprint or sounds and try to classify it that way, you will miss the beauty of the entire artwork when taken as a whole. The production has hints of boom bap or grime, but at other times it is smooth like a 90’s R&B track. Together they create something that is wholly unique, and give the listener an intimate insight into ML’s musical world.
To Kill A Flockin Bird is a great experience, one that will hopefully spawn many others. ML displays a raw honesty that will touch the ears and lives of many listeners in truly significant way. He clearly understands what is being felt by those who live around him right now, and if he can maintain this discernment, he is sure to continue making great music. You can stream the EP in its entirety on his soundcloud, listed below.