Mike Spitz (also known as Spitzer) is a contemporary Hip-Hop & Rap artist that through hard work and a willingness to embrace a wide variety of music is making a well-deserved reputation as an artist to watch.
Regardless of whatever direction his journey into the musical world takes him, Spitzer is determined to always “keep it real”. While his sound has been described as a combination of Twista, YelaWolf, Kid Rock, Tech N9ne and Rage Against the Machine rolled into one melting pot of sound, he emerged into the industry four years ago as one of the fiercest up & coming artists in the game today and captured the attention of industry heavyweights all over the world, not only for his musical abilities but because of his lyrical talent, delivery and tone that set him into a singular league of his own.
While he hails from Saginaw, Spitzer was accepted to perform at the New York International Music Festival in November, 2005 and built his name through freestyle battles, also logging appearances on Video Central, which airs in Detroit, Lansing & Cincinnati.
He won Rap/Hip Hop Artist of the Year, Best Promoter, Best Performer and Best Hip Hop Video for his track White Boy at last year’s Review Music Awardsceremony and will be appearing this year at the 28th Annual Review Music Awards in a showcase segment featuring his newest unreleased material with a full-blown band that he has recently assembled.
Recently I sat down for a conversation with Spitzer to get a closer view about what drives this ambitious artist; and also glean his impressions on the current Hip Hop & Rap scene in the Great Lakes Bay area.
Review: Let’s start at the beginning. When did you first start rapping and writing and getting into the entire Hip Hop scene?
Spitzer: I’ve always been writing and singing and rapping ever since I was a little kid. My first big influence was The Beastie Boys and I remember being 7-years old and rapping at my Grandpa’s 50th Anniversary party. I’ve always loved music and grew up on Led Zeppelin and old rock & roll from my Mom & Dad’s collection. From there things progressed and I started rapping at parties for fun and in school and then it progressed into getting into the studio and recording.
My first serious album was called Welcome to Spitzerland and it came out in 2008. It featured Gee Pearce, Esham and I go to work with MC Breed before he passed away, which was pretty cool. A little later I started getting into more rock influenced music and put out a mix tape called Tattoo Music that was more chaotic but controlled than my first release. After that I started doing more shows and working that release throughout last year and this year, doing as many shows as possible, mostly in the Detroit area. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of venues here in the Great Lakes Bay that showcase Hip Hop, unless you promote your own shows.
Review: Do you promote and sponsor a lot of your own shows now?
Spitzer: I do that here and there. A lot of the stuff I do is always free. It takes a lot of money to put together a quality release and whatever I don’t sell I give away for free because I want my music out there. This summer we did the Altered Skin festival in this area and now I’m working heavily with a live band that I’ve pulled together.
Through a mutual interest in tattoos I hooked up with Shawn Yancer and we clicked strong. Now I’ve got Derrick Fisher on bass, Rob Conway on drums, DJ Snakes on turntables, and Kyle Mayer from Thick as Thieves doing vocals, too. They’ll all be on hand at this year’s Awards Ceremony.
Review: When you look back at your writing and material how would you best describe the arc of your progression? How have your sensibilities changed?
Spitzer: It’s pretty much night & day. I’ve still got traces of where I was at before, but I also go to school full time right now and have my wife and kids, so I’m at a different place than when I started. I’m going to school for Audio Engineering and learning different chord progressions and exploring all different aspect of music, so now I think my material is more real.
Ask yourself what is music? It’s organized sound created to make you feel or think a certain way. If I’m not making a song with a purpose what’s the point? My goal is to be as real as possible. The more real you are with your lyrics the more fans will connect with you, so that’s where I’m at with it.
Shawn and me are working on the new album and have six songs together so far. We’re working with Bernard Terry in Flint who is an incredibly awesome and knowledgeable guy. I soak up all I can from him.
Review: What types of topics do you find yourself writing about?
Spitzer: Back in the day my material was mostly party stuff, but nowadays it’s about having a purpose and being real in life. I don’t write about anything that I haven’t gone through, or something one of my family members hasn’t gone through. It’s easier to write that way. A lot of rappers and musicians are trying to fit the pieces of a puzzle together and focus more on how cool something sounds, not how it actually works. To me a song has to come from someplace real. Fans know that and relate to it. If I can almost be in tears on a song I’m doing live then I know the crowd is also gonna feel it.
Review: Do you have any artists that inspired you, apart from The Beastie Boys and Led Zeppelin?
Spitzer: Definitely a lot of the older rock music like The Doors. Even tough I don’t listen to as much Rap as I used to, I would have to say that Eminem is definitely an influence – how can he not be? There’s newer artists I do like, but basically I like any artist with soul. Any artist that can keep it real.
Review: What do you think about the state of the current Hip Hop scene locally?
Spitzer: There is some good stuff that people are doing, but the more talented artists have taken off and migrate to other parts. As for local scene artists I think they need to take time when making music and not just put a bunch of stuff together, but put it together so you can feel it. I mean, what’s the rush? If you rush through recording and writing something you put out BS and it’s exactly what it is. If artists took more time and actually studied the craft of songwriting it would be much different. I want to get better. If they followed that approach not only would there be more music from this area out there, but more attention on this area as well.
I’m into a lot of blending with my material. On one of my new tracks called Long Day, you’ll hear some Country in there – but that’s probably because my aunt Michelle Spitz is a great country artist, so that’s my country roots showing. I’ve been doing a lot producing as well. Kyle Mayer is working on a solo acoustic album and I spent two hours recording him this morning. I’m amazed at his talent – he has such a nice tone.
Review: What for you is the most challenging thing moving forward?
Spitzer: For me it’s the financial end. The creative is never a problem. I’m constantly writing and Shawn is always sending me guitar tracks and I’ll send him vocals every day all day. I’ve been going at it hard for two years now and am very picky. I rewrite a lot and now that I’ve been getting into sound engineering, I’m developing a pretty good ear that I want to take full advantage of.
Locally we’ll be doing the Altered Skin Revolution again this summer and have other shows lined up but not finalized. We’ll probably be doing the Pub Crawl in Carrollton again and drew 600 people there last year. Apart from my new album I also want to do an analog album in the old school tradition because I find it has a warmer sound. Now that I’m getting into the engineering side of life, I’m falling in love with the sound of the older stuff, like Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters. You can come close to that sound with digital, but you can never nail it like you can with analog equipment.
I prefer working with musicians. People spend big dollars for digital beats and I’ve been there as well and spent $700 or $800 for certain beats, which is usually a producer recording the whole thing. But when I started bringing in the live stuff I already had a good catalog of music, so the band learned it. And DJ Snakes cuts up the beat while playing, so actually my show is half live and half digital but it works out good.
Review: Any other goals for the immediate future?
Spitzer: I just wanna make music and support my kids and wife. If I can do that I’ll be good. I’m making music my career now that I’m in school for engineering and will take it as far as I can and grow as many fans as I can. If I sign a record deal that would be awesome, but with or without a deal I’ll always be making music no matter what. Even if its just me in my bedroom. That’s what I do – I make music.
Review: What’s your impression about the state of modern Hip Hop & Rap. Do you see it improving?
Spitzer: Lately it’s getting to a point where it isn’t so cookie cutter anymore. People are demanding good lyrics and well thought-out songs. We’ve been oversaturated with crap. I can’t even listen to the radio half the time. But lately I’m sensing that artists know they’ve got to step up their game or get pushed aside because nobody will take them seriously.
There’s so many sub-genres of Hip Hop and it’s always going to be evolving, because that’s what music does. I borrow and take from every which way like a sponge – I absorb everything I hear and see. I’ve had A&R guys say they don’t know where to place me, but that’s not really a bad thing. I’d rather be versatile than stuck on one thing.
Tattoo Music by Spitzer is available for free by going to hotnewhiphop.com and typing in the name Spitzer. His music is also available on iTunes and Reverb Nation and you can check out his videos on facebook. Spitzer says he will also be shooting three new videos this summer.
16th November, 2023
7th November, 2023