Mikaben dons a white shirt and a blue denim hoodie. His eyes are fixated somewhere we’re not allowed to look. Framing his head are some geometrical shapes and etchings that could be from Ancient Macedonia, Haiti’s ancient Taino caves, or from the temple of a rarely-mentioned Mesopotamia civilization. Probably, the second, knowing Mikaben’s penchant for all things Haiti.
From its opening notes, “Numero 1” (Number One) sounds very futuristic. Will it be an electronic dance music track, one wonders? Is this the prelude to some romantic song? Then Mikaben flips matters, and comes out rapping, his syllabic-rich phrasings accompanied by island trap beats.
Why is Mikaben cursing? Since when does Mikaben utter expletives on tracks? I thought he was a nice boy. I really did. (The following is said in my grandmother’s voice: Ala de koze!) A minute and a few seconds into the song, Haiti raptress Princess Eud comes on board, spitting out rhymes like she ate some really good mayi moulin for strength before recording the track.
They make a great creative team, I must say. Once Princess Eud’s rap verse ends, Mikaben comes back harder, telling us:
Yo te mèt fè sa yo vle
Se etwal pam ka pi file
Map toujou file pase yon razor
Menm si la vi a toujou gen yon gou sale
Fò ou toujou pedale
Let ’em do whatever they want
It’s my star that’ll stay on the rise
Even if life be salty tasting
You gotta keep right on pedaling
The meaning of this song nearly got lost within all the beats. So, “Numero 1” isn’t about bragging about one’s status. It’s really about the warriors who keep fighting the battle, whether the anti-forces are themselves, the circumstances they face in life’s path, or downers who come in the form of friends and enemies. It’s about rejecting a defeatist attitude and about pouncing on no matter what.
Skipping around, I came across “How Do You Know”. I had high hopes for it from the first lines. It’s going to be a love song, I surmised. But I tried to be open-minded and all. The thing about a Mikaben song is that you really can’t judge it from the first notes.
This Mikaben person almost always manages to swivel past your expectations. It’s almost as if he works overtime to make sure that you will never figure him out musically, and that you can never, ever predetermine his musical direction in a song. You think you’ll know what you’ll get, but it’s really Mikaben who decides what the song will be.
It’s not until the song is over that you’ve got it all figured out. And even then, you’re sitting there, wondering if there are hidden meanings, if there are points that you missed. Remember in that song in “Ayiti Se” when I thought he had said, “Ayiti se tè ou tou” (Haiti belongs to you), but he had really said “Ayiti se tè Ogou” (Haiti is Ogou’s earth), and this Ogou turned out to be, according to historians and scholars, the voodoo god of War.
No, I will not get into this. I don’t want ya’ll super Haitians to come for me. Again. Thanks. So, yeah, I’ll be listening hard for slickly-concealed references.
So, I was right. “How Do You Know” is indeed a love song. But then it’s not. It goes beyond that. It sounds like a conversation wanted to have with a woman he passionately loves. Like the song is him talking to himself, practicing what he’ll say when he talks to her.
I refuse to believe that this song was created out of inspiration. The mere depth of emotions in the singer’s voice more than hints that it wasn’t. It’s deeper than creative inspiration. This song is a public service announcement, but it’s not for a public, but for one individual in particular that the singer intended.
And all those details about him surprising the subject of the song at a party and her being afraid of the dark at said party…er. Whenever you’re listening to a song, and there are extreme details like this, it’s never coincidental.
Mikaben wants to make sure that the individual for whom the song is intended for and was written for knows that it was written for her. He wants her to know that he’s talking about her, and specifically addressing her! And if some delusion fan listening to the song wants to fantasize about being the person he’s referring to, she won’t be able to relate to those details.
She’ll know the song isn’t for her, but for someone close and dear to Mikaben’s heart. Podyab. Towards the beginning “How Do You Know” almost sounds like “Ti Pam Nan”, like two dresses that were made from the same fabric.
A tribute song to a well-loved friend, “Pou Ki Se Li” (Why Him?) comes out to be a very touching track, and is probably the most traditionally konpa song on the entire album. The Mikaben on this song is a Mikaben we don’t see often.
At the crux of the song is denial about death, the desire to move on, but, ultimately, resignation with death, and cherishing past memories. There is a similar track on , another Mikaben album called “Count on Me”. In the intro of “Count on Me”, the singer makes it clear that the song is for a friend who passed away named Steve.
This one is for someone named Gregory. Guess Mikaben is a very sentimental person. His friendships run deep and he just had to convey his grief on a record. Musical bereavement.
I can already see “Kenbe M” (Hold Me) becoming a wedding tradition. Very romantic and dance floor-friendly. The song features Rich Cave of the group Kai. Very smooth and romantic. The track features a rapper named Masterbrain in the bridge.
So Mikaben the singer-songwriter-producer also known as Mika, also known as Michael Benjamin has at last released a third studio album. After torturing his fans to their detriment, the singer made the decision to be generous, offering an eye-popping 18 tracks on Mikaben MKBN.
MKBN is the treat your parents have been promising you forever and year ever to the point where you wonder if it will ever been given to you. But once it is handed over to you, you forgot about all the torture and endless promises. You’re too pleased with the end product to hold any grudges, and you’re even a little thankful for the wait. The songs on MKBN are an extensive showcase of the singer’s talent and eclectic abilities.
“Je Fèmen” (Eyes Shut) touches on chemistry that will always exists in a relationship. Although clocking in at more than four minutes, the track seemed to be over in no time. Its pace is quite frenetic. “Bye Bye Baby”, on the other hand, takes its time.
“I’d rather have a piece of you than none of you at all,” the singer croons in one of the verses. It’s a break-up that he’d rather not experience. There’s lots of pleading, begging, kneeling, and more begging. You guys know how much I like that.
He wants her back, but he respects her boundaries. Let me put the song on replay so I can hear more of the begging. Mikaben doesn’t beg like most male singers in his songs. He’s begging, but he holds on to his dignity, just not his pride.
“Bouje Kò’w (Move Your Body) is going to be a dance track. Am I right? You never know with this Mikaben dude. So, I was right. For once! There seems to be a theme running in a lot of Mikaben’s songs.
He’s always talking about being deserted, about love being elusive to him. He loves with abandon and with lots of intensity. “Bouje Kò’w” is meant for the dance floor.
Mikaben gives of himself on this album. A lot of the songs are extremely personal in nature. Besides some of the love songs that sound like his innermost, most intimate thoughts set to music, there’s “Pou Ki Se Li” (Why Him?).
That track is his way of getting closure or near-closure over the untimely death of a friend named Gregory. As I previously pointed out, the singer has a song dedicated to a dead loved one . This surely demonstrates although he has had new experiences, his personality has matured, his voice has ripened, he has the same vulnerabilities.
Although he has shed a lot of himself as he’s grown as a person, there are things at the core of himself that he will never change.I was so ready to listen to “Pye Lòv”. Another love song? Would there be more begging, pleading and supplicating? And who is E.sy Kennenga?
At first I wondered if this was another one of Mikaben’s gods, but it turns out that this is a fellow artist from Guadeloupe-France. Their pairing is smooth, tinged by a ska-like beat. So, it’s not a love song, but it’s more like a brotherhood-type-of track.
“Without love, nothing can be fixed,” Mikaben admonishes. Very solid duet. On the album, Mikaben also pairs up with Paul Beaubrun, in a very inspiring teaming entitled “Ayibobo.”
One of the best collaborations on MKBN is the song “On Y Va” (Let’s Go) with singer-songwriter-producer-guitarist Belo. It’s very danceable track. It’s like Mikaben has become this personal development guru, encouraging everyone to forge forward, and to stomp on, in spite of what life throws at them. Very assertive track. The song hinges on world afropop. I can see this song climbing on the French charts. Very appealing.
Speaking of collaborations, there’s a track entitled “Carnival Anthem”, which features Caribbean artists Kevin Lyttle and Elephant Man. What a grand idea it was for these three to team up. This song has the potential to go real far if pushed properly by the respective teams of all three artists.
Very catchy…a sort of well, carnival anthem…a Pan-African track featuring three artists who have much in common, but who by themselves are forces to reckon with.
Caribbean people, jump away, jump away
Caribbean people, jump away, jump away
I like the last notes. Wow. Just wow.
“Taking Ova”, his duet with Admiral T, jumps all over the place. Musically, it’s probably one of the most innovative tracks on the album in terms of sounds. It’s afropop, but then it’s zouk. There’s a little konpa in it, but mostly techno. The song demonstrates the fact that Mikaben practically lives and breathes to experiment.
Miami rapper Zoey Dollaz is Mikaben’s musical foil on the song “Tubes”. Dollaz spits in Haitian Creole, Mikaben in French. Er…and the beat is very inspired by early 2000s hip-hop, during that gap where the gangsta rap era ended and the R&B-tinged hip hop started showing its face.
We’ve already established that Mikaben is unpredictable as an artist. So, when I saw the title “Change Your Life”, I thought that it was going to be a personal development track. Turns out to be a love song. See what I mean about Mikaben!
Who is the female singer on the track?
Let me check.
Aha, so it’s Meilan. Interesting. This song is going to set my ears on fire. Make my device explode. A lot of suggestive lyrics and sexiness. A lot of talk about the pleasures of the flesh.
Let’s talk about “Upside Down”. Mikaben sings about childhood love, getting vertigo from the throes of love and passion. So much begging and pleading, and him basically putting out of his vulnerabilities on the table, and begging and pleading some more.
So, we’ve got three sets of pleading songs: “Upside Down”. “How Do You Know”, and what was the other one? “Bye Bye Baby”.
With “Upside Down”, the singer talks about being crazy in love. He must be getting more than his share of serotonin, which according to Psychology Today, is the chemical that . Sounds to me like plenty of the love stress hormone norepinephrine is also getting released by Mikaben’s brain.
Mikaben apparently did not want to bow out without leaving listeners with a socially-conscious track. The track with the artist Belo could be considered socially-conscious. On “Lyric All”, it’s Mikaben all by himself bemoaning the ills of the world, comparing himself to a modern-day Makandal, the Africa-born slave who in the 18th Century called for an uprising.
But the uprising Mikaben asks for is a bloodless one. He wants a mental uprising, so to speak. Reggae, flamenco, and ska-inflected, “Lyrica All” recalls to mind “Mpa Kapab Ankò” (Can’t Take it Anymore) from the Mika album. Mikaben calls for an end to gang violence in Haiti’s slums, corruption, and hunger.
The best lyrical line was Mika denouncing violence done against women. Good to know that he opposes domestic violence. Lyrics condemning assaults on women isn’t something I hear too much about on these Haitian music albums.
“Le Vrai Problème” (The Real Problem) is a French language song. Between the two, I prefer “Lyric All”, maybe because I’m so grateful for those lyrics about raising awareness about domestic violence.
I thought I had a favorite on this album, but it’s hard to choose. It’s like having a buffet of Haitian food in front of you and being asked to make a selection of your fave. Come on, now! You’ll say you like the pikliz but not the griyo, or the diri but not the djon djon. Come on, mezanmi.
MKBN is Mikaben sticking his tongue out and rolling his eyes to all his naysayers to all his doubters. MKBN is Mikaben saying, “I told you I’m going to show you what I’m made of”. So many of the songs are heart-felt, and very impassioned (the love songs come to mind).
It’s not like we didn’t know what Mikaben was made of before. What’s good is having a compilation of Mikaben’s capabilities as an artist all in one place. And that’s something that the artist hasn’t done in minute.
MKBN is a reminder of what Mikaben represents as an artist, of how he can stretch himself creatively, of how he can bring a myriad of sounds and styles together and still remain true to himself.
Last Updated on February 16, 2023 by kreyolicious