While working as a songwriter in-house at a reputable record label, Mike “Mike Two” Peterson wasn’t overly eager to get his own music out there until it was the right time to do so. With a mindset of why rush what you want to make last forever, Mike Two fully trusted his time would come, working daily to dream it into existence.
His debut album, Thoughts Of A Beautiful Dream, dropped yesterday [February 2nd] via J57’s imprint, Five Seven Music, intentionally set free on the second day of the second month of the year, playing off of the duality of his name, representing his role as someone who both raps and has a hand in producing records.
Growing up in Staten Island, Mike’s athletic background gave him a competitive spirit while also introducing him to the music that opened his eyes to what could be possible. Working as a songwriter gave him the experiences he needed to improve the strength of his pen and fine-tune his ear, as well as further solidified that the path of an artist was the one he was destined to take.
Traveling over two hours each week for over a year to get his time in at Brooklyn-based producer Optiks’ studio, Mike Two’s personal sacrifices helped craft a collection of music with a genuine display of heart, covering tremendous ground lyrically, with the intention to inspire, motivate and lead by the example of doing and dreaming.
Thoughts Of A Beautiful Dream is an ambitious and sincere display of who he is as an artist. As he introduces himself to the world that inspires him, he’s not holding back throughout the album’s lush, diverse collection of 15 tracks. Much like the entirety of the Five Seven Music roster, the strength behind each artist lies within the collaborative effort and Mike Two is no different, identifying more as a musician than a rapper and working exclusively with Optiks and J57. The album features guest appearances from Nichelle, who acts as an intriguing narrator throughout the album helping tie its themes together, as well as Koncept, Mean Joe Scheme, Jemyle Jones, Akie Bermiss, Terrance Keller and Matt Stamm, with guest production from Mike Swoop and Seandammit.
Dubbing his own brand of music as “luxury rap,” Mike Two makes music he’d like to hear playing throughout the opulent rooms and hallways of the Louvre. With rich production and enchanting vocals, he truly does take it there. It’s as lavish as it is simple, as whimsical as it is real. Working towards achieving his dream life through his music, there is plenty of room on the trip for the true believers to tag along on a trip to Paris, or whatever the goal may be.
On the brink of Mike Two’s debut release, we got up in the very studio the album was created in to get to know more about how Thoughts Of A Beautiful Dream went from just ‘a crazy idea’ to a beautifully executed album and how it promises to be the first of many.
What are you looking to accomplish with your music?
I want someone to listen to it, and say, ‘I don’t know anything about rap, I don’t listen to it, but this sounds cool.’ I want to make dope sh*t. At the end of the day, that’s the most Kanye answer, but it’s true. I want to get my music to a place where I can be the guy who can have a rap record out and then on the other chart, I wrote Beyoncé‘s or Rihanna‘s single. That’s the goal.
What made you want to wait until the right time to release your first album, especially while working in the industry?
I’ve written music for years, but I never felt like I was in a situation to put anything out because I didn’t want to be the guy who put music out just to have eleven people hear it. I think you’re only as good as your team is, and before, I didn’t feel like my team was right. I didn’t have people like J57 or Optiks, the people who sit in your corner, where they all have responsibilities that I can delegate to, musically how things work and how things sound, when working on these records together. Me and Op can do that.
What did you learn working as a songwriter? Tell us a little bit more about that experience.
Working as a songwriter, I didn’t get any placements but I spent every day learning something new. Learning how to control sessions and how to produce records, I can look at it now and say, it was the greatest experience that nothing ever came out of. Had I gotten a placement with Trey Songz or something, I probably would have been locked into a contract and I would have stayed working there, and I would’ve gotten comfortable and it would have hindered a lot, like maybe this album would have never happened. It was like the greatest college prep course ever. Today, I feel comfortable. Today, I could sit in the studio with Beyoncé and write a record.
Did working as a songwriter make you want to write for yourself again?
When you’re in that space as a songwriter, I learned to approach it as, what I’m working on, it’s not for me. If I’m in the studio today, I’m listening to a beat and thinking who can sound great on this one. In the beginning, that was the hardest thing to differentiate.
When I started working as a songwriter, the feedback was dope, but it was like, so you like the records, and you want me to make more records, but you don’t want them coming from me. I think I took it personally, and had to learn how to not take it personal. They said the same sh*t to Kanye. They said the same thing to Jay-Z. It’s not really an insult because it’s happened to the best of them. It’s just paying dues. It took me awhile being in sessions with people and having to embrace this role. Looking back now, knowing this record is out today, all of that was all necessary. I almost forgot what I was doing for myself; that this was what I wanted to do.
How has your background growing up in the projects in Staten Island helped influence you?
I think with being what hip hop is, there’s no rules. It’s self expression, you say how you feel. So personally, I don’t give a sh*t if I’m a Black kid growing up in Staten Island from the hood, who lived in the projects, and I’m supposed to rap this way. Or I’m supposed to talk about that sh*t. I don’t feel that. I’m going to make what I’m going to make because I know who I am. I’m comfortable with who I am. Where I’m from is where I’m from, and it can’t be changed, so you can’t tell me different.
Tell us a little bit about your creative process and how the album came to fruition.
I don’t like to pre-write records. I don’t like to go home and write something to work on it later. I don’t physically write songs down, so everything that I make comes from a real place. I can tell you where every song came from, why it was made and what perspective was given. I learned that when I’m working and I don’t have the ability to record, that emotion is gone if I try to lay it down two days later. This is as organic as it gets. We’d come in here with no ideas and talk until we came up with something. I think because I don’t write, I build songs like train tracks. I go in the booth, like I got a line, OK, I got another line. So I build it and the song will start moving going off of the mood. So I can honestly say, these aren’t really records but more-so moments in time.
What is the album about?
The album is my story but it’s also a general feeling of aspirations. The second song, “The Louvre” reflects how it really is my desire to go to Paris. The day I go to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower for the first time, off of music and doing a show, I’m going to cry like a baby. And I hope it’s recorded. It’s the realest sh*t. To make it from the projects based off of words and people connecting to those words, it’s the dopest sh*t in the world. I just wanted to create a story and it’s the story of my life of this past year.
Especially as someone who works on music in the way that you do, what ideas grew into the album? How did it all come together?
This album was created talking about things like, thinking of the kid in high school who says, I want to be an artist, but my mom wants me to be a doctor. I don’t want to be a doctor. It’s about chasing your dream and living your goal. Do what’s gonna make it happen for you.
The craziest dreams, the ones that sound the most insane, are the greatest things we’ve ever seen. Just think about it. Someone once was like, “I’m going to have this phone. It’s going to fit in my pocket and I’m going to carry this sh*t everywhere! No wires or nothing!” That sounded crazy at one time. You know what I’m saying. Like yo, trust me. We’re gonna have lightbulbs, no fire! There’s billions of ideas like that. No matter how big or how small. Dream big. You should live to make dope sh*t.
You call your sound Luxury Rap, which is so awesome. Please go on!
I don’t want to make rap, I want to make music. It’s not called luxury rap in a sense of money, but more so in a sense of quality. It’s the sh*t you could listen to in your yacht or in your Rolls Royce or in the most chic restaurant of all time.
Just growing up in the hood, nobody tells you that you can dream for bigger things. But why not? I want them to play my record in the Louvre. I would love to have a party at the Met. Bump this next to mad Picasso paintings! Y’know what I’m sayin?
What inspired that vision for your music?
I feel like the most influential album I’ve heard that changed my perspective was Watch The Throne because it was the first time of looking at the idea of Black excellence and what that was. Watching these guys make this contemporary rap for a higher class, and for people that enjoy rap too. I feel like I make this hustlers ambitious music for people that want to dream big. Prior to this, the only perspective you have to think bigger is always from a drug dealers perspective. It’s never just for the person who is in school and trying to come out and have a great job. Who makes the music for the guy who wants to start Uber? I want to make music for those people.
What’s it been like working alongside the Five Seven Music crew?
It’s been amazing. J57 was one of the only people who thought my crazy ideas weren’t crazy. I remember saying, Yo, I need a Rolls Royce Ghost. Like I need it. And certain people would be like why do you need that, that car is so so expensive and pretentious, why would you want something like that? And J would be like, the only other guy to agree and say absolutely. Yes, I need a half a million dollar car. Why would I not want that? Why would I not want a 30,000 ft. square house?
With a team atmosphere, especially with entertainment, people get jealous or have bad self esteem. They can’t deal with someone else’s success and they can’t be joyful for someone else doing well. I’m so grateful to not have that problem. Sometimes you’re the guy that has to score 40, and sometimes you have to come off the bench and play dope defense. That’s just part of the game, but at the end of the day, the whole team gets rings when you win.
How does it feel to finally have your own music out there? What’s up next?
I’m in a space where I feel like I’m brand new. I think the album is going to do well and have a great response. But I’m a nobody right now and I know that and I’m comfortable with that. I don’t mind putting in the work. So if I do a release show, it’s going to be for my friends since they’re the only people going to be there anyway! [Laughs]. Nobody knows me, but I feel like they will. This is going to be the biggest year of my life to date. I’m confident with the music.
Why would I want to do this to be average? I want to compete with Kendrick. I want to compete with Kanye. Respectably. I want to compete with Drake.
Mike Two photo courtesy of @hiphoptions