“Fumes from the paint can slither through the night/
Tunes from a wasteland visionary light/” (Union Square, Factz)
In today’s fast paced “pulsing membrane” society everything is done in haste and convenience. By now there are most likely plenty of reviews on Mickey Factz’s 2012 project MauSe, scattered all over the World Wide Web. I’d like to think that I exist outside of that maelstrom (even though I don’t), but nonetheless, I think it’s quite normal to take over 4 years to write an album review. It is imperative to slow down in 2016. Art has been reduced to the experience of revolving doors in shopping centers. The countless faceless bodies pass through it, interact with it, but never connect with it. Art simply becomes a brief moment before our next destination as our blood pressure runs high with the rising of anxiety as we all shop “til” we drop. Concentrated interpretation of literature along with all other forms of art is no longer a normative occurrence. We race to the “new”, but the “new” in 2016 is regurgitation, loopified for our consumption…Feast.
The first time I heard about Mickey Factz, a friend, played a video of him freestyling in the studio (can no longer find the link). From that moment in 2008, Mickey Factz had me intrigued. At the time, I wasn’t writing, or reading, I didn’t care much about anything. But as Factz grew as an artist and no doubt as a human being, so did I. I lived life had great experiences filled with mirth and inspiration. Endured, as everyone across the globe, the laborious weight of the world’s burdens with muscles aching and knees buckling.
365×4 = 1460 days of life experiences since the release of MauSe; it is different, I am different. As a result, I have a myriad of reactions to this project.
The illustrious MauSe project remains to be one of the most overlooked albums that deserves our attention, focus and praise.
I applaud to you Mickey Factz
I find it difficult to write about this project and solely stick to discussing the music, MauSe is much more than that. It demands, challenges, excites, inspires and stimulates us to brood on what we are listening to; place ourselves within the shoes of the protagonist and witness his maturation, limitations, triumphs and pitfalls. It would be more fitting to label MauSe as “audio literature” or “audio lit”; because it demands both a close listening and reading.
The production of this “audio lit” is as challenging as the technical aspect. To my knowledge, you have to forgive me if I am incorrect in this claim; the entire work samples previous productions of Danger Mouse and Deadmau5. This methodology of production sets limitations on how the end result of the project sounds as a whole. Simultaneously, the lyrical ability of Factz not only raises the style of language but also, in a continuous fashion, works to interweave the numerous themes and ideas discussed on the album together. They intersect and overlap to form a harmonic cohesiveness; very similar to an artist applying multiple colours, techniques and layers to their canvas. Anytime producers set boundaries for themselves it only increases the difficulty of creating. Factz’s and his producers rises to the challenge as if it was meant to be. One of the reasons the art of production is perceived as such a free artistic expression is its openness. Anyone is free to create any type of music they wish and in 2016 we see the blending of genres constantly. In MauSe the decision to restrict production to a few sources is clear sign of raising the project’s difficulty level. Not only is the listener challenged but the artist is as well…And it works. Factz’s is able to holistically create a cohesive sound, from beginning to end.
For those who have not listened to it, I regret having to spoil the surprises of the album, because it is really no different than a movie. There are ups and downs. If you are unfamiliar with some of the key cultural historical figures, you may not be aware of the way it all ends.
The album follows the life of MauSe (a pseudo character created by Factz) an artist living in a drug infested 80’s New York City, during the highly publicized Pop Art movement.
The work is clear and concise and within the narrative there is plenty discourse covering history, art, sports, fashion, social/political issues and literature all blended together and presented in the form of hip hop. I remember the first time I listed to the album’s opening monologue. It begins with the sound effect of a cassette sliding into a tape deck and the record button being pressed. The first words are “Hey Keith can you pass me the light? Yea, I wanna light this cigarette up. sound effect of lighting cigarette Thanks bro”. “Keith” is Keith Haring, whose art often addressed the social issues prevalent during his time.
The devastative effects of the crack era in New York City, which is dubbed “The War on Drugs” era, had a significant impact in poverty stricken communities all across America. As this despicable event is commonly discussed in the hip-hop genre, Factz’s follows this tradition through addressing crack’s major presence in MauSe’s life. Hulk Hogan & Crack the simplistic titled track is Factz’s methodology for illustrating the role of the addictive drug. The juxtaposition of Hulk Hogan and crack aligns the popularity of each item to one another. This unlikely combination invokes images of the multitudes of crowds experiencing the high of excitement, watching Hulk Hogan land a leg drop from the top rope “I was higher than a Hulk Hogan leg drop” (2:48); along with the multitudes of drug addicts wandering the NY streets searching, buying, and lighting up as they climb aboard the enterprise “beam me up Scotty”. It is imperative to note that Hulk Hogan & Crack is a celebratory piece. MauSe is “representin’ his set”. Creating the landscape of the NY streets by highlighting his experiences “…duckin’ guards with their flashlights/My tape popped in my Walkman that’s twice/I’ve seen a virgin last night hit a glass pipe/” (1:47). The atmosphere of the song encompasses a Rock Star element. This is in part to the electric guitars rifts, which alters MauSe’s narrative by establishing a mythical mode. His tales sound legendary as if he was some knight errant. Though this is a celebratory song of MauSe’s origins, Factz’s ensures that the reality of drug use during this era is explained. On the second half of Crack, which samples Gnarls Barkley’s Necromancer, MauSe finds himself waking up in the hospital due to suffering a drug overdose “…The socialites at my bedside prayers up above/Unicorns are flying maybe it’s the drug…”(3:20). MauSe also address the different kinds of drugs that wind up having shattering effects to is users: “Neighbour in my next bed/Lost his left leg/On his death bed/He was a meth head/”. This all cohesively cumulates to paint the grave outcome of many drug users during this time. MauSe in this moment has had a close brush with death, who is conveyed through Factz’s choice of production. GNARLS BARKLEY. It is as if Death itself overshadows MauSe’s commentary.
MauSe’s words in the opening memoir are inspirational, radiant and earnest. Living in New York City during the 80s MauSe’s frustration is expressed as an outburst sharing his disgust of the crack era “Fuck you Ed Koch! Fuck you.”. Ed Koch served as the mayor of New York City, when drugs were the face of the great American enemy. MauSe’s frustrations continue as he curses his mayor “…and I hope you die from whatever disease is killing off my friends”. The hostility towards Koch is a product of the AIDS epidemic that had once spread rapidly throughout the city that never sleeps as well as North America.
As the monologue continues, Factz authenticates the album by mentioning some of New York City’s prominent figures from the city’s 80’s art scene. Throughout the album Factz trickles these name amongst the numerous tracks and I have added a list at the end of the blog post since there are too many to name. Familiarize yourself with them, it is worth it. That is why this project is significant; it demands deep mental attention, not just physical reaction. Music has always had the main goal of having us groove to it with our bodies. MauSe, while certainly satisfying that goal, also demands the mental. The first few times I listened to the album I remember struggling to understand what I was listening to. I constantly heard names of people I never heard of before. I was familiar with Basquiat and Warhol, but I was unaware of the significance of their work, as well as the back story of most of the artists during this time. To have a complete understanding of this project’s significance one must familiarize themselves with the numerous issues, figures and ideas discussed.
There are four memoir entries in total and each one is a vivid retelling of the past. Within these memoirs the many mystical elements of New York City, which ultimately created the energy filled city we know today, are described to the listener. Every single one of recordings is pretty lengthy, but each plays its role in creating the backdrop of the setting as well as build the character profile of MauSe. They all are loosely tied to the musical works that follow them. After “Memoirs of MauSe Entry II”, which involves an interview of Andy Warhol, MauSe pounds his chest with a quick 60 seconds of braggadocios raps explaining his rise to prominence in the art industry “Young, black, gifted, talented I don’t even try/Just started using cameras I won’t even lie” (5:30). One can think of these memoirs as a testimony or a form of commentary to the musical tracks that follow, one another until the listener is once again prompted with a different memoir. The memoirs are authentic, specific and focused. It is clear that Mickey Factz has a great understanding of the 80s New York art scene. Not only did he ensure to incorporate the crème of the crop of the movement dropping the names of Haring, Wahol and Basquiat.
Factz incorporates the significant backdrop of Union Square to transcribe both his narrative and music. I had no idea what this was before hearing this album. Over time, in addition to learning about the art scene through my university classes and side studies, I was able to gain an understanding of Union Square’s significance. The iconic setting is the “eye” of the artistic vortex surging during the 1980s. The square was and continues be the landscape for socio and political movements in New York City. Ironically the eye of the vortex is where the album begins. MauSe describes his life, his art and upbringing. The racism of the NYPD towards black men is also highlighted reminding many of the injustices experienced by black men in New York City. Factz’s lyrics reverberates much of Basquiat’s Irony of Negro Policeman “…Cops got me all sought out/Cause my work now get me more clout/” (0:57). The struggles of MauSe are explained as well; he is homeless sleeping on park benches “…sleeping on benches/the stenches from the bums are so relentless/…” (1:14). The rest of his life involves traversing the city spray-painting on any available edifice “Leaving my mark in a literary state/On buildings in the states no filters for my paint” (0:34). A dreamer dreaming the dreams of dreamers contrasted with a dark, cryptic reality due to homelessness. Union Square in conjunction with the 1st memoir paints a vivid picture of MauSe’s struggles as an artist in New York in the 1980s. The quote of Basquiat at the end of the composition subtly suggests to the the listener that what they’ve heard may and probably was a great deal of Basquiat’s experiences and mindframe during his short life span. The juxtaposition of cause and effect does not end with the theme of drugs either.
Crowed, Heart<3, 3rd 3y3 and Mickey MauSe, which are all sequential, detail MauSe’s independent growth as a human being and artist. The success of MauSe, who by this time in the album is being mentored by Warhol and Hering as revealed in Factory “When I see Andy and Keith I feel pressure/They sat me down for a real lecture/They said the clones will get cha/Try to etch a sketch ya/” (2:07), which is placed ahead of Crowded in the track listing. The Factory is an interesting item as if one is family with Kanye West’s DONDA they will see similarities, that all spawned from Wyndham Lewis’ Rebel Arts Center. It seems as though both Warhol and West had better success than Lewis in creating a hub for creativity as Lewis’ Rebel Arts Center was not complete able to get off the ground. Crowded shares MauSe’s frustrations with the results of his new found fame and praise. With his newfound success MauSe finds that the number of people around him has increased and they are unfamiliar with inscrutable goals. The cliché of Hollywood fame has engulfed MauSe and has unsettled his being. “So many people got opinions on my dominions/I work for what I earned I’m not offended I’m meant it/” (1:20). He notices that many of these unfamiliar faces are simply present for financial reasons: “…They Spring up when your Win Turns to more freedom/Cause they want Sum ma ya bread before you Fall screaming” (0:46). Mother nature or Gaia is inexplicable connect to her children, us. Our emotions change and rage no different to her and her seasons. These naturally nature of emotions are presented by Facz’s is charged as he engages Mother Nature to exemplify the fickle change of the “Crowds” converging on MauSe. The eccentricity of MauSe’s reality continues as he loses the love of his life. The lose of a lover is not out of the ordinary from a holistic perspective, it is a common occurrence for most of us in life; but in this one we can find the peculiar.
In Heart<3 MauSe is blindsided by the end of this relationship and it as the course details he is left with an irreparable wound “Ripping my heart was so easy…So easy/Launch your assault now…Take it easy” (Chorus), which along with the key rift is from Deadmau5’s Raise Your Weapon. For MauSe, who is steadily reaching his zenith in the art industry is losing one of the most sacred pieces of his life, which many who have been in love before can understand MauSe’s bewilderment. The flip of the Deadmaus5 production into the traditional dub step sound sets the tone for MauSe to sling all of his frustrations to out before moving on for good.
The 3rd 3y3 is MauSe’s acknowledgement of his social-political era. Sampled from the Dangermause production Smiley Faces Factz’s incorporation of “The Third Eye” in his title add a tinge of conspiracy theory. The current desolate state of many black American neighbourhoods have been explained as reaching that state of desolation being due to “The Man”, “The Powers That Be” otherwise known as the “Illuminati”. I am not saying that this is Factz’s agreement in the song, but there has been credible documentation supporting the argument of the American government not only spying on civil rights leaders, but also turning a blind eye to the kilos and kilos of drugs smuggled into America. The song’s censuring of American’s economic condition with the over arching ideal of the harsh conditions for the lower class being a result of the greed of those who truly govern America; which many theorize is the Illuminati. It is clear that the governing parties, whether MauSe knows them or not, is the target of his lyrics. The actor turned president, Ronald Regan, is quoted at the beginning and the end of the song. The short audio clips reveal an unapologetic president and justly represents the man who introduced the help the rich hurt the poor policies of Reaganomics. Factz’s use of this in title widens the overall scope of the song, the listener is prompted to ponder on what they most likely already knew about the 80s, but the incorporation of “3” in the title leaves room for additional contemplation.
The self-titled track Mickey MauSe encompasses MauSe’s self-realization or his coming of age. At this moment he is the product of his pain and growth of his journey describe through previous tracks. He has become a successful artist living the so-called “good life” “Ya’ll all with it/Champagne spillin’/Yup! Your boy did it!/ (1:33). Though MauSe is enjoying the spoils of his success he still is well aware of the emptiness of it all: “I wanna own land, fuck havin’ stones/All on your neck and arms to show/King Tut was robbed for those/…So why we blinded by thoughts of gold/And diamonds and chains/I’m tired of lames who try to be what they ain’t/But surprisingly we all kings/” (0:35). The materialistic nature that often accompanies fame and fortune hasn’t seemed to completely engulf MauSe’s core. Sure he dabbles in wine, weed and women, but he knows them all to be temporary entertainment. To MauSe he is happy he made it to his zenith keeping true to himself. “I’m a triangle on top with a view/All seeing eye loft with a roof” (1:14). Mickey referencing the Eye of Providence or better known as the “all seeing eye” affirms MauSe’s self-confidence and looking back at this song from song number 16 it is clear that this is MauSe at his zenith.
In Taking Pictures of Girls Naked Factz sets the stage for the impending down fall of MauSe. The following tracks The Art of Death foreshadows what can be understood us MauSe’s undoing. A.I.D.S, one of the last tracks on the album, although titled after one of the most brutally dangerous and incurable diseases known to man serves as MauSe ce la vie “If tonight is my last night please don’t cry/Just remember the good times of my life” (0:01).
MauSe as a whole is a project that due to its depth is one of the best musical creations of all time. The structure, content and production all work to shape a protagonist, that influences the listener to want to learn more. I do strongly feel that anyone who listens to this album probably learned a multitude of things. Due to the album’s range of themes from music, to the socio-political to art history. Mickey Facts truly crafted and painted beautiful pieces of art and then curated a wonderful audio exhibit. One that people from all walks of life can enjoy, learn and embrace. In 2016, hip-hop is often targeted as a meaningless genre, projects like MauSe is what is being overlooked by Hip-Hop naysayers. Hip-hop, because of its negative perception, will always have projects like MauSe go uncelebrated, but since I categorize this as “audio literature” I suspect that just like literature it will be much more celebrated once we are dead and gone, because it is infused with content that serves as a fortified foundation that will remain strong through the decades. After all I heard that Melville’s Moby Dick only sold 12 copies when it was first released and now you can’t take an English literature class without hearing about him.
Author’s Note: Recently Factz has noted that he is releasing MauSe 2, which could debunk some of my theory above. I understand that and still stand by my interpretation until another volume is released.
People, Places and Things:
Jean Michel Basquiat
Stay High 149
Humphrey Bogart and his ego
Jake the Snake
Fab Five Freddy
80’s Economy in NY/Crack Era
Wyndham Lewis & Kanye West
“Clones Go Home”
 Tilghman, Carolyn. “Lewis in Contention: Identity, Anxiety, and the London Vortex”. The Johns Hopkins University Press on behalf of The South Central Modern Language Association, 2007. Print.
Mickey Factz – Mause
Gnarls Barkley – St. Elseswhere