MIKE, Wiki, & Alchemist’s Faith Is A Rock Is Exactly What You’d Expect — Mostly In A Good Way
For years, Wiki and MIKE have blazed their own unique paths as stalwarts of New York’s expansive rap underground. Wiki’s scrappy everyman lyricism catapulted him to the status of local favorite, while MIKE’s morose flows, drowsy production, and wounded optimism earned him descriptors like “wunderkind.” Among other things, both are masters of ornate melancholy. It’s an aesthetic they jointly explore on Faith Is A Rock, an Alchemist-produced LP that generally maximizes the strengths of everyone involved.
Faith is exactly what you’d expect if you saw the names Alchemist, MIKE, and Wiki posted onto a subreddit thread. The connection is totally symbiotic; the MCs’ dazed reflections seep into Alc’s dreary, yet stylish soundbeds in a way that feels more than organic. Foggy horns meet grim lamentations, and somber piano keys join pensive self-interrogation for tracks rich with colorful language, layered emotions and unpredictable rhyme patterns.
Folks got a preview of the album when the trio released One More, a late 2022 EP that crystallized the DNA of the partnership. A few songs from that effort made their way to the album, so the continuity is there. So, of course, are the bars. Here, MIKE and Wiki wield syllables, sensations, and observations like chisels, and they oscillate between practical, day-to-day images and crushing moments of introspection. In the hands of less skilled rappers, the results could be cumbersome, but with MIKE and Wiki, it’s a seamless dance.
On “Thug Anthem,” the two turn a languid beat into a quest for rap supremacy and financial stability. The subject matter is mundane stuff, but they fuse it with flashes of pathos and florid prose that make it all feel adventurous. MIKE’s rhyming “mukbang” with “corrupt land” is a miracle of dexterity, and the in-between bars depict an ephemeral escape from hidden trauma: “I’m just fishing through the bud bank … bud just give me what the hugs can’t.” Like the best MIKE bars, the couplets sandwich humanity into the mundane, with even moments of braggadocio being packaged with traces of sobering reality. Meanwhile, Wiki pulls up with a stanza that’s as passionate as it is acrobatic: “How you supposed to make something from nothing?/ It take more than discussion/ You want it? Run it/ The come up don’t come with instructions.”
Coasting over the orchestral beat of “Stargate,” Wiki and MIKE take turns contemplating their state of mind and how they arrived there. For his part, Wiki sifts through memories of anxiety, his New York upbringing and the measures he took to cope with it. Unspooling those thoughts through tidy rhyme schemes, he arrives at a poignant moment of lucidity you can only reach by staring into an empty 40 bottle. Using a staggered bar structure, MIKE slips in and out of pocket on the drumless beat, beginning a rhyme scheme only to catch up with it after a pause; it may or may not be purposeful, but it simulates the effect of intoxication, which is only enhanced by a beat that evokes isolation. “Where do pity belong and will the harm fade,” MIKE raps. “Product of them immigrant laws, infinite heartache.”
Operating at its best, Faith can be like watching a fast break in slow motion, with MIKE and Wiki connecting like a lofi Styles P and Jadakiss. It’s a chemistry that comes from honesty and finesse. On “Mayor’s A Cop,” a not-so-subtle dig at controversial Big Apple mayor Eric Adams, the divide five verses down the middle for thoughts on the state of NY and their own career purpose. Wiki kicks things off with cutting lyrics about the social consequences of too much Back the Blue Energy: “The mayor’s a cop, the blues quadrupled up/ The block is hot, shit, this how they chose to use the guap/ With this amount of human laws/ Could’ve been for schools or parks/ Coats in the winter and the summer something to cool ’em off.”
From that point on, each verse on the track jumps off from the last bar of the stanza, creating the feel of a casual conversation between two pals on an extended subway ride. It’s all tied together by Alc’s murky jazz, with Wiki and MIKE’s verses cutting through the smog like sunlight.
Faith Is A Rock scans as a dream-like meditation, and the Alchemist obviously played a massive role in curating the vibes. His beats are simultaneously rich, cinematic, and understated, an ideal combination for framing existential worry. Coming off albums with Roc Marciano, Larry June, and Earl Sweatshirt, you’d think he’d get tired, but apparently being busy only prevents him from falling off, as the production here remains a perfect canvas for piercing poetry. Here’s to hoping Alc never gets bored of this whole producer thing.
While Faith Is A Rock is a collaboration that works for everyone, it can get a bit monotonous, with the tempos generally being very slow, the sounds being invariably forlorn, and the cadences repetitive. This could have been offset by Wiki, who’s embedded his own solo work with animated vocal inflections and splashes of goofy humor that added layers of fun to otherwise serious stuff. As it is, by the end, it can begin to feel like you’re listening to different versions of the same song. The album is brief enough that it skews more toward “cohesive” than truly being all the same thing, but it could have reached another level with more levity and tonal variations from the spitters.
As it is, Faith Is A Rock stands as a strong showcase for MIKE and Wiki’s synergy. Blending emotional transparency with nuance and a knack for descriptive writing, the LP finds profound human truths in mundanities, with Alc’s production evoking solitary city nights and the emotions they leave you with. It’s as frank as it is poetic, with everyone involved being able to find delicate beauty amid existential fear. It’s defined by personality; of the beats and the folks rapping atop them. Wiki and MIKE find faith in themselves as they make their way to the other side of a hazy rainbow.