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Mike G will forever be a vital part of Odd Future. Born Michael Griffin, the star describes himself as a “lyricist, DJ, and Chopstar,” which has everything to do with why he’s a vital member of the group. Joining Tyler, The Creator and his Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA) movement is more than a humble brag. It’s a family that can’t be duplicated.
With his parents serving in the Marines, Mike always moved around as a kid and spent seven years in Japan before finding his way to the states. Regardless, his love for music shines through in every facet of his life, even dating back to when he was singing in the choir or falling in love with his parent’s diverse collection of CDs. Fast forward to his teenage years, he attended Crenshaw High School where he took a production class, and discovered how to chop and screw music. It was a wrap ever since.
It’s those early Odd Future days that ignite the best memories, which include making the group’s compilation projects, touring, and shutting down stages all across the world.
While the group no longer tours, the artist reminds audiences that the brand is still very much in tact — recently returning from Seattle for a Zumiez event where he celebrated with the Odd Future family. Now at 29 years old, he continues to push the envelope. Whether it’s throwing and deejaying his own parties in Los Angeles, unleashing his own Stealth Fighter clothing brand, putting out his most recent EXILE EP, or performing at Camp Flog Gnaw for the eighth year in a row, Mike hasn’t let his foot off the gas pedal in the slightest.
REVOLT caught up with Mike to discuss his initial encounters with Tyler, the Odd Future brand, what L.A. means to him, and much more. Read below!
What does Los Angeles mean to you?
L.A. means... it’s more of a community... It’s a foundational place. A great place to grow. It’s home-base for many.
What part of L.A. are you from?
South Central. I was actually born in Oceanside. My parents moved around a lot. So, my dad was here, but I was with my mom traveling. She was in the Marines. Left and came back a couple times.
What were you seeing growing up in South Central?
It was different. I actually used to live in Japan. So coming here — transitioning from high school — that was a bigger culture shock to me than anything. It’s pretty cool though. Here is different, it’s kind of unexplainable. South Central. Those areas like Inglewood and Leimert Park, it’s a real cultural-driven area. You can go either way with it, it’s good or bad. It all depends on you.
At what point did you realize music was what you wanted to do?
I’d say in high school, I was just looking for a route. I’ve always enjoyed writing and had a display of talents, that sort of thing. Then, I took a production class and it just snowballed from there.
Were you producing before?
Not at much as I am now, but I just wanted to learn everything and get into it. We had the class at Crenshaw, which was rare. So, I just wanted to take advantage. I was in there with Left Brain and he was real fire. This was 11th or 12th grade, I was 17 or 18. I graduated with him.
How did you first cross paths with Tyler, The Creator?
I had always heard about him. I was an Odd Future fan in high school. So, knowing Left Brain and Casey Veggies both went to Crenshaw High School the same time I did, I was familiar with the music and what they were doing. But, I was chopping and screwing music.
How’d you know about chopped and screwed?
My mom’s side is from Florida. Riding around with my uncle, that’s all he used to play. Pretty crazy. That’s what I was doing in high school as a form of expression and I did the first Odd Future tape. That was my first encounter with Tyler. My first time meeting him, I was doing my first show at the Knitting Factory in 2008. He was at the Supreme store on La Brea, they were having this warehouse sale. It’ll be unheard of now for Supreme to do this, but their samples and everything were 50% and 70% off. He was outside. They’d sell their spots in line, that’s how they would get money. He was out there doing that with Jasper because he could walk into Supreme at any time, even around then.
Do you remember when he named the group ‘Odd Future’?
Not so much, I just knew the message behind it. What he intended to do with it: to bring creativity to the forefront. Even then, it was the microwave artists. People were doing things just because they were cool. So, he wanted originality to be the main thing, and I understood that completely. So, getting my music to him was through the chopped and screwed, and we both saw eye to eye.
What does it take to be in it?
There’s not a word for it. It’s more than a family. You have to have the right mind-state and understanding of the direction for what you want to do in the culture. Within yourself, that’s where it starts. I think it’s a type of person.
What is that type of person though?
I’m digging myself into a whole (chuckles). Just willing, expressive, and creative.
How has your friendship with Tyler evolved over the years?
It’s on the same terms as when we first met. Anybody regular growing up together, you grow alongside each other, but you have your different paths. Our understandings of that is what keeps us friends and not creating animosity toward each other. At this point, we’re great. I don’t have problems with anyone.
Is the group still in tact?
The brand is still in tact. But, as a touring group, we’re not.
At what point did it shift?
After the last tour in 2012/2013. Our biggest tour, nothing really came together after that. But, the carnival (Camp Flog Gnaw) is one way for us to see each other every year. We had Dash Radio, that was a good way to keep things going. Things grow, things change.
What was some of the best memories you have from touring?
Definitely realizing the different methods of transportation everybody has to go through. Being on the tour bus for however long, seeing the tour bus go on a boat. Shit like that is weird. But of course festivals, performing, just to experience different countries is pretty great.
Talk about still being active with the brand and the Zumiez events.
Zumiez and Live Nation have taken the brand into their hands. Zumiez is really a great company because they involve the staff they employ and the staff of the brand. They have a cohesiveness, they make the environment to where we can integrate with each other. We have an understanding of what they do, they have an understanding of where the brand’s come from. Just being involved with Odd Future, I have the opportunity to do that and it’s pretty amazing.
You’re going on your 8th year performing at Camp Flog Gnaw. How’s that make you feel?
Mad appreciative of it, of course. But, it gives me a chance to expand on my set and what I can do. The possibilities, that sort of thing. It’s the perfect stage, I’m just happy I have a set. Being on there every year, I usually get to kick it off kind of early, so it’s great to see all the people coming in.
How would you describe the atmosphere? It’s such a genuine, positive vibe there.
Right. It’s not only Odd Future performing, but people who listen to our group members definitely have a certain aesthetic to them. Also having them all connected in one place, it’s an energy that’s unmatched. Nothing I’ve ever seen before.
How’s your hometown love compare to elsewhere?
L.A. honestly, people from here are jaded. They’re spoiled a little bit, they get to see people from here all the time. But, I couldn’t see it any other way. I love L.A.
What’s the best part about being from L.A.?
The opportunity. I mean, everything is here. Where we at? We’re in Burbank, I know Warner Brothers is right over there. The fact that this stuff isn’t available other places, you have a certain drive. It could be in the back of your mind, but it creates the willingness to do shit. You have no excuse at certain points.
Talk about the parties you throw in the city.
I started throwing parties really just to debut my deejaying. I wanted to play music that I listen to for other people, so I just organized a party. It was a great opportunity and I had a chance to do it. Any time I get the chance, I’ma take it. Haven’t done it in a minute, but I’ma get back into it for sure.
What’s your take on the music scene here?
L.A.’s music scene has always been crafted towards our base of people. Whether it be in South Central or Hollywood, it elevates to where people make the best music for that situation. I can’t hate on it at all.
Top five L.A. rappers?
That’s broad, L.A. has a lot of sections. I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of this. I’ma do no order. We’ll go ScHoolboy Q, Snoop Dogg has to be up there, Kendrick of course...Vince Staples of course.
Some of them are from Long Beach though.
I know! See that’s the thing. Alright I’ma go Sahtyre, then take it to Danny Myers. He’s another battle rapper.
Three things you need in the studio?
Lights, weed of course, and water.
What’s one thing you want fans to get from you EXILE project?
With EXILE being part of a series, I want them to understand the construction and the direction. Mainly direction.
What’s a normal day for you like?
I wake up at 5:00 a.m. I try to workout, maybe run or do push-ups. Then, listen to music. I might play a game, but mostly I watch battles to catch up. If anything, I’m downtown or in Hollywood. If there’s something going on that night, I’ll be getting ready for that. Nothing extravagant. Living the L.A. life...