mickey woods jr navy blue ep

Mickey Woods Jr. and Tony Dark make music for the melancholy soul.

Believe it or not, being able to shake the system doesn’t happen with a megaton bomb. A lot of times infiltration occurs in the sneakiest of fashions. If one were to dig up words and thoughts on Mickey Woods, Jr, they find a mutation of sound and color. Woods often rhymes with a dead-eye narration style, big on taking account of his friends and surroundings. His voice barely jumps up a hitch, and he always raps as if he need be in control at all times to get things out. Woods is not entirely new, but he’s different. Three years after Soul Searching, he’s the poet who kept finding new ways to remind you that nothing has truly changed.

One of the standout lines among many from Woods and Tony Dark’s Navy Blue EP comes on “Feeding The Youth.” Dark’s production finds him toying around with a hi-hat, focused on one sweet note rather than progressing outward. “I’m 24, I need money for my bro / And spend this hash to try to keep that man out of the jail.” The days of being Port Arthur’s golden child obviously haven’t gone by in Woods’ head. Especially if spending time discussing the Trill also comes with the thought of, “Are they helping themselves or is it all upon me?”

“This city got me paralyzed…”

Luckily, Navy Blue isn’t all about Mickey. Some acts get amplified when they’re in duos. Killer Mike and El-P were on two spectrums so opposite that one called the hardscrabble of beloved underground New York City home and the other enjoyed red clay near the multi-colored dimension of Stankonia. As Run The Jewels, they’re the face of a movement. Anti-establishment rap built on the same principals and foundations laid in their solo careers. Together, they’ve become larger than they were as soloists. Tony Dark lives for collaboration and finding a synergy with whatever party enters his orbit. In Woods, Tony finds yet another worldview to stretch jazzy, mid-stakes production with.

It would be perfect if Navy Blue found space that Danny Watts, a rapper of similar ilk to Mickey, could dance within. But Woods can admit that the day-to-day struggle is relatable. “I’ve been working on my patience, I been searching for a day shift,” he laments on “Feeding The Youth. “I been working on a night-shift / Cruising ’round the city with an outdated license.”

Woods saunters around Dark’s production like a man wanting to break away but cannot. He’s constantly asking about those perpetrating about the “trill.” “We never seen you in the city,” he scats on “Untitled.” “Oh so everybody real now? I want to go back to PA. To tell the truth, I’m terrified. The city got me paralyzed.” While the rest of Southeast, Texas is used to holding on to representing Houston and its double-sided history, Mickey’s is far more specific.

He’s beholden to a city, a low-lying town built off of refineries, East Texas slang, and protective Black skin. Where one half of the city’s most famous export is revered as a God and his word is pretty much law. Tweaking off samples, light strings and pounding drums, Woods hardly scrambles out of pocket on Navy Blue. He has a cold, surveying approach to rhyme and life. If he sees it, it can be obtainable. Getting out of his head to achieve it is a problem.

The life and times of Mickey Woods Jr is a strong by-product of Tony Dark’s original experience last May. At this rate, Tony is creating a haven for rappers, both nimble and cunning to craft their stories. The comparisons to the Alchemist stretch further than just similar pigment. Both men cater to their subjects in ways others couldn’t. Mobb Deep sometimes got their best when Havoc wasn’t primarily on the boards. Dark gets the best out of whomever decides to enter his atmosphere. Seeing PA ravaged and torn helped push Mickey to waddle even the murkiest of waters for the Navy Blue EP. In it, he found the color that most represented him.

Stream the Navy Blue EP below and purchase it on Bandcamp.