Back in February Don Michael Jr. (@dnmchljr) dropped his third studio album 'The Man Behind the Curtain.' Now that we've had some time to sit with it, we have a breakdown of what's contained on this highly anticipated album from the consistently ground-breaking Camden, NJ hip-hop artist.
The majority of ’The Man Behind the Curtain" produced by his alter ego and former alias Traxx Trigga, in addition to contributions from Hotman (@hotman856), Trac-Qaeda (@tracqaeda), and fellow Camdenite Klint Beastwood (@klintbeast_ontheboards). TMBTC is somewhat of a concept album, which walks us through Don Michael's state of mind as he balances his superstar persona with his personal experiences that have shaped him and therefore his music.
Here is a rundown of the album:
"Curtains Up" details Don Michael Jr.'s state of mind leading up to performing on the big stage, Don Michael walks us through his motivations, and expresses his resolve through the trials and tribulations he’s faced in the music business and personal life. Consistent with theme of the album, a reflective Don Michael shares memories - those of his childhood and how he’s worked to stand out from the crowd and find himself musically despite the fact his father lost his job at Interscope Records, creating financial burden on the family. Don Michael makes it very clear at the outset that despite all this, the show must and will go on.
"Scared of Falling"
On "Scared of Falling" Don Michael oscillates between his ultra confident stage persona and the inherent insecurities that go along with it behind the scenes. The record leads off with a braggadocios Don Michael aggressively displaying his lyrical ability as an emcee, followed by a melodic hook which admits that "in my thoughts, I'm scared of falling."
On “Escalators” Don Michael Jr takes a wavy approach to explain the difference between where he’s been and where he finds himself now. He talks about what he’s been able to accomplish despite the efforts of those who wouldn’t like to see him win. He compares his ascent in the music business and descent of those attempting to stop him to an escalator, on which he will "see you on my way up, and on your way down."
“Water” is a melodic, down-tempo reminder of the pressures associated with becoming a star, using the pressure of a wave forcing you underwater as the imagery describe the pressure. Don Michael states that “When you grow up with the have-nots, they wanna make sure you have not.” This record is driven by DMJ’s reflection on situations that remind him that the more you work to better yourself the less people will understand you, observing on his come-up that “I’m starting to see no one likes me. I’m trying to figure out what I did."
“Crooked Pictures” is a deeply personal record about Don Michael's family, specifically his uncle Steve, his mother, and his grandmother. Mike Maxx lends soulful vocals to help paint a picture about “the crooked pictures on the wall” the imagery of which Don uses to tell the story of the family struggles. This record explores memories from Don Michael’s childhood of his Uncle Steve, who struggled with alcoholism and had a violent encounter with a 9-year old Don Michael, as well as Don's Aunt Patsy who struggled with a drug addiction.
"Don’t Let Me Lose"
On “Don’t Let Me Lose" Don Michael harmonizes to a significant other with whom he senses a faltering connection “I don’t love you like I used to, but I’m lost if I lose you.” Don sings and raps a tale of unreciprocated love which could be interpreted as a message to lover that also applies to Don’s love-hate relationship with music.
“Don’t Let Me Lose” ends and “Face Down” begins with a skit of Don Michael and his girl arguing over who she’s talking to on the phone as he walks into the house. As she ends the conversation she puts her phone down face-down, which Don Michael notices and wonders why. The record begins with Don Michael singing “why you got your phone face down?” inquiring about his girlfriend’s suspected infidelity. The narrative continues as Don Michael leaves to clear his mind and possibly find the man his girl has been talking to, and is then pulled over by the police. Don Michael recounts a story a terrifying encounter with the police all too familiar to a high percentage of young black males. The police find an emotionally charged Don Michael in his car, take it as a threat, and decide to send a message by forcing him out of his car and physically assaulting him, before receiving another call, leaving him lying "Face Down" in pain. Don Michael is then left to return home, where the turmoil began, to talk to his girl about why her phone was "Face Down."
Here we find Don Michael in a situation with a seductive female sending racy photos to his phone, leading up to a steamy encounter about which Don Michael begins to have second thoughts knowing that she has a man who is a fan of his. He puts himself in her man’s shoes as he approaches her door and begins to back out, but then she sends even more to seal the deal. Adrean Black plays the role of the seductress in the story, lacing the records with sultry vocals imploring Don Michael “please don’t leave me alone, because I get so bored. I don’t know what to do with myself no more."
“Congratulations” is a record about a girl Don Michael brought our of her shell and out of the hood to have a tremendous amount of confidence, who began dressing, acting, and talking fly after being involved with Don Michael. Though Don Michael laments that she took everything he taught her and “used it on another nigga,” he still congratulates her for leveling up and having got what she wanted in the end.
“Method Man” opens with an observant Don Michael speaking on the industry trend of picking up hip-hop artists who garner attention via social media only to find that they don’t truly have the skill to live up to the hype. Don Michael Jr. uses this record to express to these artists that if they want the sound to make an impact they can “come and see me, get your profit.” Don also discusses his influence on the hip hop game despite the lack of recognition, stating “once they learned my method man i seen a whole lot of me."
On “Alive” Don Michael reminds us that he hails from Camden, NJ, one of the toughest cities in America to grow up in, a place where crime, drugs and murder run rampant. Don Michael states on this record “isn’t it amazing that i’m still alive” commenting on the environment he grew up in that took so many lives and led so many astray, and celebrating that he not only survived, but thrived. This song is a reminder that despite your upbringing, you can grow beyond it and make the most of the time you afforded while still “Alive."
"What They Came to See"
“What They Came to See” is a triumphant anthem celebrating how far Don Michael Jr. has come with his EDIS (Every Day is Saturday) gang, stating that “haters look away but this what they came to see."
Make sure you go check 'The Man Behind the Curtain' on iTunes and stay o the lookout for Don Michael Jr.'s next move.
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