According to his Twitter bio, Mikkey Halsted bills himself as “the common denominator between Common and Chief Keef” — a highly unusual comparison between artists from polar ends of the spectrum. Yet, in listening to Halsted’s impressively solid body of work, it’s evident that connection isn’t unfounded. Having been in the Chicago rap game a while, he has been signed to major labels, including Cash Money, and worked with some of the city’s biggest names, including Kanye and Common himself. But, at the same time, Halsted is somewhat of a forerunner for Chicago’s current wave of the raw, brazen hip-hop championed by artists like Keef and King Louie. Known for his blunt, introspective lyrics on the epidemic of poverty and violence, Halsted raps about the vehement struggles of the harsh Chicago streets.
Take, for example, “Momma in My Ear”, a track off his impressively solid mixtape, Castro. In it, he waxes poetic about a grainy street life, pulsing rhythmically along a somber piano backdrop. While the content is abrasive, it’s clear his prose is keenly chosen and testifies a level of consciousness akin to Common’s own material. In tandem with his lyrical awareness, Halsted also patrons the simple synth beats popularized by artists like Keef. So, indeed, positioning himself as a bridge between the two is an appropriate juxtaposition. For now, the South Chicago native is at work on his long-anticipated album, Bulletproof Dreams, which we’re eagerly awaiting — and undoubtedly will catapult the introspective artist to the heights of his Chicago predecessors. –Christina Salgado