Face to Face 05.22.14

Seaside rapper Mike Mills describes his sound as strong, something you can believe in and feel a part of. “It’s who I am,” he says.

For Mike “2Ls” Mills, this was a huge stage. Not figuratively – he’d played higher profile venues like the Catalyst in Santa Cruz on the same bill as Lil Debbie and Baeza – but literally.

It was as big as a basketball court. In fact, it was a basketball court. At Seaside High School. In front of a notoriously fickle and aloof crowd: teens.

In short, it was an uncommon, even daring, gig. But Mills signed up for the rally because he believes students familiar with hip-hop culture, in a community devoid of its own stars or consistent shows, could benefit from seeing a local guy make a pro go of it. That’s another uncommon thing about Mills, a 28-year-old Seaside native (Mingo Avenue, to be specific): He’s putting out quality rap with well-produced beats without leaving the area to do it. Sure, he still has to hold down a job at Peppoli in Pebble Beach to supplement what he does on the FastLife Music Group label, but his recent videos and debut album, December 2013’s R$CH CONVERSATIONS, suggest big things coming on a range of stages. On the biggest, he whipped the students into an sea of bobbing heads with upbeat anthems “Highrise” and “Every 24,” even joining them in the stands, his actions matching his words of solidarity and proximity. For more on Mills, visit http://2lsmusic.com/

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How central is Seaside to your identity?

Seaside is where I’m from. I have that tattooed on my chest. Where you’re from is important. Seaside I love dearly. Am I product of my environment? You’ll have to be the judge of that.

Help me roadmap your tattoos.

It says BLEED on my right arm, GREED on the left. BLEED stands for “Believe life enriches everyone’s desire.” GREED means “Grind right earn every dollar.” We started this music thing a long time ago, and that’s who we were for 10 years. There’s a scroll on my arm with some words for my boys I lost. Something personal. On my chest is a Seaside S, borrowed from the old Seattle Mariners hat. OGs from Seaside used to wear the hat.

Being a successful artist involves a lot more than clever hooks and a mixing board.

You need to be outgoing, connect with people, be diverse. Your work ethic and networking have to be good. You have to be heard and seen. You have to carry on conversations.

Give me the good news-bad news on local hip-hop.

The culture of hip hop in Seaside is strong, but I feel like they don’t have a billboard to grow it. There’s no outlet and that’s sad. More shows could breed more competition and more studios.

What changes in you when you’re on the microphone?

Nothing. That’s who I am. That’s who I really am when I’m walking around. Even if I wasn’t in a Bentley, I felt like I was in a Bentley when you saw me. I feel good, I look good. Anything I say on the mike, I feel that.

What’s the biggest untapped opportunity for hip-hop?

The greatest opportunity is opportunity. It’s up to you. Before it was “Where is a producer?” Now there are so many people doing it, and everyone can work with everyone. It’s going to be challenging – it is the entertainment industry – but there’s opportunity.

Some say nothing bad happens to a writer because it’s all material that can be used. Where do you mine the most material?

I’ve always been ambitious. Having a single parent, my mom, I was taught to always strive to do something, don’t wait on the next person to do it for you. She gave me tough love, that if something gives me happiness, do it. Everything in my music is what I see myself doing now, and what I see myself doing in the future. I tend not to dwell on the past.

Why was the song you picked, “Every 24,” the right one for the student audience at Seaside High?

I was thinking up tempo – “turn-up sound” we call it. And to ask, “What do you do in your 24?” I be on it every 24. What are you on? Put the song on and study for your SATs or practice for basketball, just make sure you’re making the most of your 24.

Why do the high school show?

I want them to see I’m local, at this magnitude, doing consistent local rap, living 10 minutes away from the school, as opposed to someone on the TV you have no connection to. When I was growing up, the OGs didn’t know how to use the recording equipment. No one reached out to me, saying there is opportunity. Now the door is open.

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