: Virgilio Solis Jr. (for
New York, N.Y. -- Last week, we
, a DJBooth favorite whose long-awaited
LP is set to hit our front page on Monday, February 8. For the 21st entry in our
Booth-exclusive interview series
, we're giving readers an up-close-and-personal look at
, the Windy City buzzmaker last heard on mixtape cut "
Hailing from the same streets that spawned such Chi-town greats as
, Halsted has been bubbling under the mainstream radar for the past several years, landing short-lived deals with
). Now signed to indie label
, the emcee is preparing to bring the uninitiated up to speed with the February 11, release of his latest street album, a compilation of new and previously-unreleased material entitled
The Best You Never Heard
. Next on Halsted's agenda following that project's arrival is
The Dark Room
, a freshman full-length the artist hopes will be placed alongside such legendary debut albums as
exclusive, five-question interview
, Mikkey Halsted gives us the inside scoop on the perks of working under an indie label, what he hopes to accomplish with his latest street release, and the exciting career developments that lie in his near future.
The title of your forthcoming mixtape is The Best You Never Heard. What do you think listeners will say once they've heard it?
Hopefully those who have yet to give me a real listen and have only seen my name pop up all over the net will walk away wondering how they could have slept on someone so good or "why is someone so dope not out on a major scale?" For those who are up on me already i think they'll be happy with the new joints, and some of the rare old joints, etc. DJ Toure did a great job mixing the project so the heads will definitely enjoy the artistry of how it's put together. Its a real blend tape. More than anything i did this mixtape for the streets; I'm giving away more than 10k of them. The streets are a different animal than the Internet and I know you need both.
Is the project a collection of material that you've recorded over the years and never released or newer material that you feel will simply blow listeners away?
It's a mixture. I got old joints that have never really touched the web, new joints that have never been heard, snippets from the forthcoming
album and verses from some of my most prominent features. Its almost like a 'Best of Mikkey' to bring everyone up to speed before we drop the album(s).
The first song to leak from the project was "Lifetime in Between the Paper's Lines." Does that title accurately sum up your journey as an artist thus far?
That song wasn't finished and wasn't supposed to leak, but the finished version will be on the mixtape. To answer your question, it does accurately sum up my journey. It's a good representation of me as a person and pays homage to those closest to me. I think the people respond well when an artist bares his soul.
Several years removed from the last major label situation you were a part of, are you more comfortable or antsy as an independent artist?
Definitely not antsy because I could take a deal tomorrow. I enjoy ownership, so right now I'm happy with where I'm at. Being indie is more of a choice. I really want to see what
The Dark Room
will do. The songs on this album are my babies. That album is my
. I understand why Jay-Z bought his album back to own the masters. I'm glad that I will put that album out myself and be able to shoot videos for almost every song. I'm happy that I don't have to try to make a radio single that suits in an office would like. This album is a throwback. It's the album I've been pregnant with for the past 5 years. I'm ready to give birth. I'm not in this game to just be an "underground artist." I'm in it to be the best. I know what i can do with the right situation. I'm trying to take the rap game over. I believe that God has given me a talent. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't rap.
Following the release of the best you never heard, what can readers and fans look forward to from you over the next few months?
My forthcoming album,
The Dark Room
, and also the signing of a major deal. Then, I'll release
The Photo Album
. Don Cannon and I are about to start working on an album (not a mixtape, an album) and I'm also working on a project with Rhymefest, Juice and Twone Gabz.
Final thoughts? Plugs? Shout outs? Mentions? Confessions?
Shouts to Z and the whole DJBooth fam, Andrew Barber (
) for seeking me out, Coach K for being the best coach in the business and allowing me to run the point, No ID, Javin Foreman, my brother Rico, DJ Toure and the whole
family and Decatur Dan, Phil da God, Papa Smirf, Alex and Virgil @
, and everybody that appreciates true lyricism.