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Cold Men Young wants you to be a fan with new album

By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Cold Men Young have proven themselves to be rising stars among the newest breed of hip hop artists from Detroit. The collective of four emcees is quickly becoming known for intense live shows and matching urgent revolutionary lyrics next to pulsating party jams. Their new album, “YSBAF (You Should Be A Fan),” was released this month to high critical acclaim.

The group — Mic Write, Kopelli, Mic Phelps and Blaksmith — are fashionably out of step with the era of drunken swagger raps that currently dominate mainstream radio airwaves. This is no mistake for these young lyricists, who place as much value on the poetics of their craft as on the music and rhythms.

“I feel like it’s our best work,” says Mic Phelps about the “YSBAF” album, “because we’re all more mature now, we’ve all settled into our flows with the music. I feel like it can and will reach a very large demographic just based on the work that we put in and what we paid attention to.”

Cold Men Young have emerged in an era of turmoil in the city of Detroit, which they proudly represent in their name, a reference to former Mayor Coleman Young, as well as in their perspective as artists. The economic struggle of the entire region has been a dominant force throughout their lives, creating an urgency in their art for something to come along and change the tides for the people.

“Times are treacherous right now, which makes it such an odd dichotomy,” says Mic Write. “You’ve got such a surge in creativity, in the art and entrepreneurial scene, but on the political scene you’ve got this adverse force just crushing all of that.”

The album title is more than just asking audiences to appreciate their music. They feel as though their music is starting a fire, and they are asking the world to help fan the flames. The more fans, the bigger the flames.

“I think music is one of the biggest motivators in the world,” says Mic Phelps. “You can move a whole generation of people just to one song, just to one genre of music. I feel like we can do that, we can put out that music that can change Detroit.”

“YSBAF” is the second album from Cold Men Young, following 2010’s “Champagne Nights/Red Stripe Budget.” The new album continues the group’s skilled balance in creating high intensity songs challenging the political and social system alongside party songs that are meant for a sexier ambiance.

“We try to be a good illustration of life in general,” says Kopelli. “Not everything is stress in life, sometimes you do have to cut back in life and relax. Sometimes that’s how you’ve got to do it.

“We just try to come across as real. Everybody has got their trials and everybody has got their tribulations, but you balance those out with fun and carefree times.”

One societal pressure the group acknowledges is rising student loan debt, a condition alarmingly present with young adults today. While media may not focus on the stress this is causing an entire generation, Cold Men Young lets their listeners know they understand this struggle.

“We talk about student loans being one of the ills of society, even in the sexy songs we have,” says Kopelli. “The concept might be like, ‘Girl, don’t think about those student loans today.’ It’s prevalent, student loans and corporate corruption.”

“We are the first (generation) with the real high debt,” says Mic Write. “The good five-figure debt, like, ‘What am I supposed to do with this?’ We just paraded right behind y’all like, ‘What are we supposed to do with this?’”

The name of the group Cold Men Young rings a powerful tone in the Motor City, a nod to former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, whose legacy of bold leadership remains powerful among residents of all generations.

“We knew we wanted something synonymous with Detroit that instantly gave the audience a solid representation of Detroit,” says Kopelli.

Their style of music reflects the spirit of the Mayor Young, with the four men all born during an era when people were used to his honest and unrelenting perspective.

“It wouldn’t be Cold Men Young if it weren’t a bit flagrant,” says Mic Write, “as well as very aware of what’s going on. Just honest, be honest and straight to the point, but as creative as we can be. We take on that persona.”

The group members stay busy with other art projects as well. Blaksmith is becoming well known on the scene as one half of his other group, Passalacqua, while Mic Write and Mic Phelps are also both accomplished spoken word artists in the city. Though rap and spoken word poetry are artistic cousins to each other, Mic Write notes that the differences are much more pronounced than causal listeners may realize.

“People think it’s an easy transition. It depends on where you’re trying to go with it, but it’s not as easy as you might think,” says Mic Write. “Having that beat not be there and trying not to be a rapper in a room full of poets is tough, it takes work. But if you’re trying to be a top tier poet, then it’s going to be a lot more than you just writing bars and saying them offbeat, which a lot of people try to do.”

Regardless of whether the messages come through poetry or hip hop, Cold Men Young aims to be a meaning voice for the people, either in speaking truth to power or helping relieve the pressure of the daily grind.

“We get it that times are not the best,” says Mic Write, “but it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Sometimes you kind of put that down and have a little fun in the face of that. I think that’s one of the functions this album has. It’s like we know things are bad, we understand, but don’t be afraid to enjoy yourself in the face of it.”

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