Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Mike City: City Life

Mike City
Mike City Mike City Mike City Mike City

“They weren't really unreleased tracks…I remixed the Lalah Hathaway record a couple of years ago and I dropped the Dwele record a couple of years ago, along with Crystal Johnson. Basically, those tracks were made for this project”. Mike City explains about his latest album “The Feel Good Agenda Vol. 1”, for which he has reunited with old friends Carl Thomas, Teedra Moses and Dwele among others. Over the course of his twenty years in the music industry, the singer, songwriter and producer extraordinaire has put his stamp on some truly iconic albums. With contributions to Usher's million-selling “8701”, penning Sunshine Anderson's biggest hit, “Heard It All Before” and writing the title track for Brandy's album “Full Moon”among countless others. City has established himself as the go-to producer for soulful dance-floor fillers and honest musical story-telling. he adds, “I have a few things floating in my head…I have a few people that I want to get with on “Volume Two”, yeah”.

With house-infused R&B being just one of the many colours on his musical palette, the versatile beat-maker shares the inspiration behind the album's uplifting sound. “Writing uptempo and straight R&B is the same to me. It was definitely a conscious effort (to have the uptempo sound). Actually, I came up with the concept of doing a project like that a few years back. I went to London for a month with a friend to just hang out. When I was there I remembered how much I loved house music when I was growing up. I'm also known for doing a lot of R&B, so I needed to figure out a way to fuse this house music together, to give it a new refreshing sound. It's almost like some new skool, 80's boogie. That's how I envisioned it when I was putting it together, to get people dancing all over the world. One thing I've learned from travelling is dance music runs the world, but I want R&B to have a voice in that music as well. I had to put it together so we could get them at the same tempo, so we could rock-out at the same time”.

“I wanted to create something that had that ‘feeling’, like Patrice Rushen”, City elaborates on his concept behind latest single “When I Luv” featuring, Faith Evans. “Faith heard it and she said, I’m down. She blessed me with being on it. She understood the vision of what I was trying to do and I appreciate her for that”.

Born Michael Flowers, the Philadelphia native began singing in church at age three. A talented instrumentalist, he went on to play drums, bass and keyboards before earning a degree in the concentration of voice from North Carolina Central University. After recording demos of his own songs, word quickly spread about the gifted new producer. A fan of the R&B-house group Ten City, he soon adopted the name as his artist moniker and thus ‘Mike City’ was born.

Looking back at his beginnings, City says that his foray into production was something of an accident. “I fell into production, that is actually what happened. In college I had a group with a couple of my friends. I started college as a business major and I said: you know, I want to do music! Growing up, I didn't even realise you could have a career in production. Honestly, when I first started doing “The Feel Good Agenda”, I was just going to only feature other artists over my production, with me writing the songs. Then I had a long talk with Lalah Hathaway and she said: no, you should sing on the records because a lot of people don't know that you sing, the people you work with know that you sing, but the people appreciating your music, they don't know. When Lalah Hathaway gives you the pep talk, you listen! (laughs). She is one of the greatest vocalists in modern history so I said, let's just do it! Now I want to get out and do shows! I'm anxious to really spread “The Feel Good Agenda” movement. I want to have fun with it”.

Two years after the release of 1998 debut solo album, “City Limits”, he found himself with his first bona fide worldwide hit, “I Wish”, a song written and produced for Carl Thomas, which is still considered a modern R&B classic. But the recording session for the song didn't exactly run smoothly. “The first time I went to Daddy's House (studios) I did get kicked out! I don't know exactly what was going on, but at the time, when I went to Daddy's House, I was staying in Yonkers with some friends because I was doing some work with the Ruff Ryders. The road manager might have come to the studio with a Ruff Ryders shirt on. I want to say that was the time when (hip-hop group) The Lox and Puff (Daddy) were going through their thing. We were the only non-Bad Boy (Records) people in the studio. Puff said, what are all these people doing here, I'm trying to finish my record! In the end, we got kicked out”.

City continues, “A week later, Puff heard the record and said, Yo, I want that joint! In one week, I went from being kicked out of (Puff) Daddy's house, to being in the biggest studios in New York. Everything happens for reason, but when I was working with Carl (Thomas), I was already working with Sunshine (Anderson). By me working with Carl, it accelerated everything and people could then hear what I was doing with Sunshine. Shout out to Puff (he wanted the record) and it was a blessing.”

The album “Feel Good Agenda Vol. 1” is out now on BBE Records

You can read more from our interview with super producer, Mike City, including what it was like working with Sunshine Anderson on the worldwide breakout hit "Heard It All Before", working with other stellar artists including Rihanna and Brandy. Plus, his influences, his views on Jay-Z's new material and secretly wishing to produce hits in a totally different genre...which one? You won't believe it, until you read it! All in the current issue of Blues & Soul Magazine - click the 'BUY NOW' link below to order straight from the B&S shop or read on for high street retailer details...

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Words Karen Lawler

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