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One in a Million: It’s Hard to be Mike

Posted on May 09,2019
Filed Under Down In Richmond , Politics,

By Gessler Santos-Lopez
RICHMOND — It’s a calm Wednesday evening in the city’s East End, and at the beginning of a dead-end street lies Michael Millions’ townhouse. The blinds are closed, the grass sits uncut and a faint beat emanates from the house.
Past the front door, the beat becomes less muffled. A haze is in the air and the smell of incense hits the nose. At the end of a hallway is a living room, or what appears to be.
“Could you turn my headphones up a little bit?” Millions, 35, calls out from the back-left corner of the room behind his makeshift recording booth.
Depending on the day, Millions’ house — or as most people say, “Mike’s house” — could be a typical suburban living space, or a hub for Richmond’s growing hip-hop scene, hosting such artists and friends as Nickelus F, Fly Anakin and Young Flexico.
Millions is an up-and-coming hip-hop artist and music engineer whose roots are planted and thriving in Richmond. It’s the city he refers to in “Sirens,” on his 2018 full-length album “Hard to be King,” as “once one of those capitals where those murders be.”
The artist was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and raised in the River City. His mom was a dentist, and his dad was in the Navy. Millions received a bachelor’s degree in mass communications with a focus in photo/film from Norfolk State University, but he always knew he just wanted to make music.
“My parents never told me what to be. I always told my parents I was going to be a rapper, and they would just be like, ‘Did you turn them college applications in?’”
After a short run in the communications field, Millions ventured into IT. He made music and worked in the IT department at the Bank of America in downtown Richmond until his job was dissolved.
The same day he got the call, he got a check in the mail for a music project he was a part of. That’s when Millions made the choice to leap headfirst into music.

  1. Michael Millions performs live at Wonderland RVA in downtown Richmond on Feb. 28. This was Mike’s last stop on his Silkys and Switchblades Tour with fellow Richmond artist Nickelus F. The two artists performed at venues throughout the Southeast for a month.
  2. Mike stands at the back door of his house while answering a text and getting some fresh air in Richmond on April 7.
  3. A flyer for Mike’s fourth studio album, “Ghost of $20 Bills”—released in 2014—sits on his desk in Richmond. He didn’t do any promotion for the album until after its release. “I just finished the record and released it,” Mike said. “I didn’t hear anything for a little bit. It made me not want to get out of bed for couple of days.” A few weeks later, the album was featured on The Source and recognized for its “brash and introspective sound.”
  4. Mike thumbs through an old notebook in Richmond on April 24. He is the co-founder, with his brother Brandon Bass, of Purple Republic Music Group, a record label the two started after Mike’s first music deal fell through. This page is the rollout plan for his most recent project, “Hard to be King.”
  5. Mike works on a record he has been crafting for a few months in Richmond on April 24. He hasn’t been fully focused on his own music because of other obligations. “I have a few engineering projects I have to knock out before I can fully get back into it,” Mike said.
  6. Mike and Richmond producer Fan Ran listen for production issues on the final cut of an unreleased album on March 30 in Richmond. Most of Mike’s time is spent mixing and mastering projects for both local and high-profile artists.
  7. Mike sits at a light at the intersection of Q and 25th streets next to the police precinct in the East End of Richmond on April 8. Mike never thought this area of Richmond would be as developed as it is now. “None of this stuff used to be here,” he said, referring to the apartment complexes and grocery stores.
  8. Mike stands waiting for his tacos at El Tacorrey on April 8 in Richmond. He calls this area of Richmond “the multicultural zone.”
  9. Mike, his brother Brandon “NameBrand” Bass and radio host Blair Durham talk about the business of music on a radio show in Hampton on April 17.
  10. Mike lays vocals on a record in his home studio in Richmond on April 24. “I only record when I know what I have to say is going to mean something,” he said.
  11. Mike works late after a three-day “Game of Thrones” binge in Richmond on April 24. Mike is waiting on his tour dates for the summer and is getting things ready for his next project. The artist said he doesn’t know what comes next, but he couldn’t be any happier. “Life, it should scare you a little bit, right? Or something about what you are doing, you know what I mean.”

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