In a churning sea of angry music with negative lyrics and hostile themes, local hip-hop act Mikey P ’N’ Key is a refuge from the storm. The duo is striving to bring positive, uplifting vibes back to rap, telling personal stories and pushing the genre to more prominence in Summit County.
“Don’t get us wrong, we’re versatile,” said Mike Plunket, aka Mikey P. “We do have songs that are about partying, about a good time, which is what some people want to hear. Then we have a lot of emotional songs like ‘Fade Away’ or ‘My Level,’ which are more emotional, more deep.”
Plunket said he considers most of the songs he creates with his cohort Key, otherwise known as Kishan White, to be what he calls “hit makers” because they sound mainstream, rather than underground. That approachable sound is what recently landed Mikey P ’N’ Key a spot in Denver’s Summit MC showcase, where they were given the opportunity to perform in front of representatives from Atlantic Records, Def Jam, Sirius XM, Skee TV and others.
The event was a launch pad for the duo’s career, Plunket said, and White added that the showcase was one of the best performances the two ever had together. Reneda Romain, of Ear Candy Mornings with Reneda Romain on Sirius XM’s Hip-Hop Nation, must have agreed because she’s since given Mikey P ’N’ Key a few plays on her show.
“We killed the show. I haven’t felt that good in a long time,” Plunket said. “We had the biggest crowd there, the biggest turnout, even the headliners. As soon as we got off stage, Reneda came up to us and said, ‘Give me a CD, here’s my card, get in contact with me.’”
The way, way back
Before there was rap, there was just music, which is in both musicians’ blood going back to their childhoods and beyond. White said he’s been in music his whole life.
“My grandmother sung, my mother used to pop lock, she had a little group back in the day, my uncles played bass guitar and drums and everything,” White said. “I grew up with music.”
Coming through middle school and high school, White said he’d see people in the hallways having cyphers, freestyling, and he thought to himself, “I could do that.”
“I’d think, ‘I wouldn’t have said that, I’d have said this,’” White said. “I don’t like the way he spit, he sucks, but in a sense, it does no good to think that and not act upon it. In hip-hop, it’s more competition; it’s more friendly competition. I’m going to kick you forward, you kick me forward; we all build off of one another.”
Plunket, 21, moved to Summit County from Chicago when he was 8 or 10 years old and said his musical roots go back to his great-great aunt who was in the first Chicago Symphony.
“She played the piano, and my dad is a gifted guitar player,” he said. “He taught himself, and he’s amazing at what he does. I just come from a bloodline of music.”
The rapping part of Plunket’s musical journey has only just begun, he said. Not too long ago, he and two buddies picked up a “piece of crap” microphone and a MacBook with GarageBand and set up a booth in the garage to practice rapping.
“We’d sit in my garage for hours and just write songs,” he said. “They were terrible, they were horrible, but you had to start somewhere. I thought, I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to do this as a professional, as a career, but I kept with it. I worked at it and worked at it and worked at it, made songs, wrote songs and it got me to where I’m at today.”
Plunket was with a local hip-hop group called The Kids when White turned up at their very last show. White, 30, came to Summit to pursue a culinary career and was working at Copper Mountain at the time.
“That’s how I heard about his concert,” White said. “They were like, ‘Yeah, it’s a rap concert.’ I was like, really?”
“I talked to him after the show and he said, ‘I rap, too. I’ve been doing this for a long time; I’d love to get down with you guys,’” Plunket said. “After we split up, I called Key immediately and said, ‘Hey, man, let’s record a song called ‘Everyday,’ and it turned out fantastic.”
White is a good partner, Plunket said, and the two complement each other in their skills.
“Some things I’m better at than he is, some things he’s better at,” Plunket said. “I suck at freestyling, I leave that to him.”
“I can’t sing,” White added.
The road ahead
Mikey P ’N’ Key are roommates and, up until now, have done their recording in a studio in their basement. Starting next weekend sometime, Plunket said, they will take their sound to Denver to record in a professional studio with music producer Russ P. They have also garnered a sponsorship with Big Hit Snowboard Shop in Breckenridge.
“We’re just trying to be the next big thing, trying to grow our fan base,” Plunket said. “We want to motivate people to chase their dreams. Two years ago, I didn’t think I’d be sitting with you interviewing; it’s weird how everything falls into place. Everything we’ve dreamt of doing is now becoming a reality.”
Both musicians want to work toward improving the hip-hop scene in Summit County through their music.
“It’s a growing base,” White said. “For people who like it and that support it, it’s very well received; for the people who don’t know much about it but know us personally, it’s also decently received. As we grow, people hear our music and it’s not like all of the rest, it’s not the derogatory things.”
White said besides increasing their fan base and securing more live performances, Mikey P ’N’ Key want to give something uplifting back to the community. He quoted Victor Hugo in parting:
“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.”
“We want to motivate people to chase their dreams. ... Everything we’ve dreamt of doing is now becoming a reality.”