In the past, Myke Towers has said that his initial desire was to become a hip-hop record producer, citing Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs as an example of the kind of behind-the-scenes heavyweight he dreamed of one day being. Those plans changed, however, when he fell in love with rapping and realized he was damn good at it too. Every new track brought in new fans, and over the last 8 years he’s cemented his position as one of the top tier Latin trap artists of the day.
But that first impulse to be a producer still lingers, evident in how much detail and control he wields over his albums. With his just-released third LP, Lyke Mike, Towers once again made sure his fingerprints are everywhere from the cover art’s inception to his telltale dearth of guest artists. Here, he purposefully pushed back against efforts to add more commercial bops, and stood firm on releasing a pure Latin rap album with lyrics he says encompass his experience so far in the industry—and its similarities to the streets that reared him.
Context-wise, on this album, Towers weaponizes his talent to muse on everything from the challenges of keeping his head on straight as his success explodes, to the sordidness he encounters in the industry and the lamentable street violence back in his home island of Puerto Rico.
Listeners will sway their hips to “PIN PIN,” a rap track buoyed by a salsa sample of Tommy Olivencia’s “Periquito Pin Pin,” and then, the rest of the tracklist oscillates between trap, rap and drill—bringing to life his vision for a disc that lays bare his art in a definitive way and marks a shift in his career. “I felt comfortable coming out with this album, and it didn’t really feel like a risk either,” Towers says. “I wanted to go back to the kind of music that made people respect me in the first place.”
Towers sat down to talk with Remezcla to discuss his new album, his trajectory so far and what future ventures he has coming up.
This interview has been translated, lightly edited & condensed for clarity purposes.
How do you feel when an album is finally released? Anxious or excited?
You feel like you’re releasing your baby out into the world, y’know? And honestly, I don’t listen to my own stuff once it comes out. I recorded it months ago, and you might go over them a bit to learn them for live shows, but once it’s out I’m just focusing on the future. I can’t hear my old stuff, because then also I’ll stay doing the same thing instead of growing. Aside from hearing it when other people play it, I won’t revisit it much.
Do you pay attention to the feedback once it’s out?
For this album I did! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check out what people are saying. I’ve listened to a few podcasts, and read comments on YouTube and Instagram to see what the reactions were.
And to be honest, I was worried my female fans weren’t going to support the album. I thought maybe they’d be used to a certain type of music from me and then not like this, but they like it! I think they saw that, y’know, it’s the same guy who normally brings us flowers but now he’s bringing the stones that you sometimes gotta throw, and truths. I feel good, I feel really good about the reception it’s getting. People from back home, people I was raised with, they love it and also the working people, people who work at restaurants or hotel services, they see me and they’ll say “Yo I love the album, I have it on repeat.”
It’s the kind of album you listen to by yourself too, to really absorb it. My other stuff is for when you go out with your friends or hear in the clubs, and there was a time my stuff wasn’t like that. I wanted to be spun in clubs too, so I studied the kind of music that was popular and started making that. So I know both sides, and that’s who I made this album for too. I know lots of new talents are hearing this, and it’s a responsibility for me, so I kept that in mind.
The album art is a photo taken in the neighborhood you grew up in, shot by legendary hip-hop photographer Jonathan Mannion. How does it feel seeing so many important people working on a project of yours?
Yeah, that building in the photo isn’t specifically the building I grew up in; I was raised in another one across the way from there, but it’s a place I hung out in with my friends and I have fond memories of. It’s a spot that I’m very nostalgic about.
The luxuries I’ve had with my success are great, but they’re not what I really do this for.
[Working with Mannion] was a dream come true! I’m a huge Jay-Z fan and as I paid attention to his career I saw Mannion would photograph him all the time. So, I spent a long time courting him on social media, messaging him and telling him “I hope we work together one day, I respect you so much!” I wasn’t even reaching out as Myke Towers, but as a real fan of his. Then after a while he got back to me and thanked me for the praise, and that’s when it all came together. I put him in touch with my team, and we flew him down to Puerto Rico. It was his first time ever visiting and we even took photos at a cemetery here where his [close family member] is buried, so there was a special connection there too.
This is a guy who’s worked with DMX, with OutKast, with Snoop Dogg, and the first time he ever comes to Puerto Rico, it’s to work with Myke Towers.
With Myke Towers! … I told him when we were together, “I want to get on the same level as those artists you’ve worked with.” He actually gave me a gift, an original print from a photoshoot he did with Jay-Z, and he signed it. It was such a huge gesture to me, he went beyond just doing shots for my album. We bonded.
You’re clearly a very successful artist right now, and you’ve earned all of your blessings and put the work in. What do you do to make sure you don’t stray from being the same person you were when you started: Michael Torres who worked at Foot Locker?
I gotta credit my close friends for that, the ones who’ve always been with me and who I know that if I retired tomorrow they’d still be hitting me up. I don’t even talk about music with them or about my work, I’m just Michael to them and that’s how they call me too, they don’t call me “Myke.” As long as I stay surrounded by those kinds of people, and don’t stay far away for too long from the places I grew up in, it keeps my feet on the ground. The luxuries I’ve had with my success are great, but they’re not what I really do this for.
A few years ago you said “Imagine if I sang about bling and Mercedes-Benz but didn’t actually have any of that? What would my fans think?” and added that you’d never try to “sell people a movie that wasn’t real.” Is that something that’s still important to you when you sit down to write a song?
I’m gonna say “yes” because one talks about the things they want and they’re usually grand things, and you can’t act or talk like you have them when you don’t because then when, or if, they finally arrive… you have to demonstrate that this is a process, that you have to go through a journey, and so when you finally talk about the big things that are now in your life people will recognize and say “oh I remember when he didn’t have any of that” and they’ll feel it’s genuine.
I tell people all the time, “just because you might see me with expensive chains and things, that stuff doesn’t motivate me or fill my heart but it’s stuff that attracts attention and elevates our standing.” It’s just material, though, and it’s not necessarily the message I want to send with my music.
I had a friend, he was an athlete, and we lost him a while ago to the streets, and I always say if you’re an artist or an athlete, if those are your passions, keep chipping away at that and never give up on you dreams because that talent you have, whatever it is, in the long term can give you more success and happiness than trying to find it in the short term, y’know what I mean? That’s a message I’m trying to send out to young people now. Athletes gotta practice all the time, and if they don’t then that talent they have will be lost. They just think “well no one’s paying me to practice” and they lose their way. It was a process for me to get where I am now, and I try to teach that to young people.
People don’t see the part where you’re in the studio 6 days a week.
No! They don’t! Or the stuff that doesn’t even have to do with recording, y’know? All the sacrifices you gotta make. They go to your shows and they see you arrive on stage, but they don’t see all the airport trips you had to make, all the negotiations and deals, it’s so much you have to take care of that gets you where you want to be. I’ve been doing this for 7-8 years now, and I appreciate everything I went through over the years. I don’t take it for granted or think I can have it all just because I “deserve” it. I tell myself “there’s a long line of people waiting to be where I am, and the second I lose my discipline I’m gonna be passed by and left behind.”
The album title Lyke Mike is obviously a reference to Michael Jordan, and even having 23 songs is because of his jersey number, but would you say it’s fair to say it’s a statement about people who want to be “Like Myke Towers”? Both admirers or haters?
When I started rapping back in the day I actually spelled my name “Mike” instead of “Myke”, and then I changed it. Now, since in this album I’m rapping more and it’s very lyric-heavy, I wanted to call it Lyke Mike because it’s like how I started when I was Mike Towers. I’m still the same Myke from now, but I wanted to demonstrate I still had it in me.
I want my career to show that I can do all styles of music. I can do harder stuff like this album, or I can do music for the radio, for the charts, y’know? This is a business and sometimes you gotta do stuff like that, but at the end of the day my heart will always lean towards rap.
And you still kept the “yk” of “Young King” in the Lyke.
I did, yeah! I don’t even mention that name anymore in my songs, but it’s always going to be a part of me in some way so I fit it in there. “Young King” was always more, to me, like an attitude rather than me thinking I was a king or better than others. It comes from remembering that even when I was little I was always striving for more and bigger responsibilities, I always wanted to be the leader no matter where I was.
What’s your strategy when it comes to making an album with so little featured artists, or what are you trying to say when you do something like that considering it goes against what other artists normally do? Is it a creative decision on your part?
I always think of an album as a letter of presentation, to listeners and to the industry, of what I can do. Back with Easy Money Baby I only had one guest, Farruko, and I wanted to demonstrate to my colleagues what I could do by myself, and ever since then I got more invites to participate with them, got more opportunities to hop on chart-toppers.
I wanted to demonstrate what I could do by myself.
Now with Lyke Mike I’m in the position to do that myself with the next generation of talents. I’d like to soon do a deluxe edition of this album and re-release it with remixes featuring new artists and maybe even some old school ones that inspired me. Not to mention so many songs that got left out, that I know fans would like, so I’d like to include those before working on my next album which will be completely different from this one.
You have a drill song on this album with Jon Z, and it’s the first drill song you’ve released, correct? When you hear a new style of rap do you think to yourself “I’d like to make this in Spanish” or “I’d like to try my hand at this new thing,” as a creative challenge?
I’d say that it’s not as drastic as me rushing to do what others are doing, but this is a business where you have to have the talent to do what’s hot right now. It’s funny, tomorrow suddenly vallenato can become popular and maybe I feel I can make a vallenato, but I’ll take the time to study it and practice it to see how I sound, not just dive into it.
In the case of drill, Jon Z was the first one who brought it to Puerto Rico, and apart from being a respected colleague Jon’s also a guy I consider like a brother to me. So, if I was gonna make a drill song it had to be with him. Doing something new like that, most of what you try to focus on is “okay, how do I pull this off but still stay in my lane and not lose my essence” and also try not to sound like you’re trying to copy someone else. With drill especially, you think of Pop Smoke or Skepta, so you listen and study to try and make it as good as you can.
You said in a recent interview that for you, this album is like a museum of your life for listeners. What was your goal when you sat down to plan Lyke Mike out, to differentiate it from Easy Money Baby and El Final del Principio?
I’ve been through a lot of experiences in the time I’ve been in this industry, and I couldn’t go into all of them here because it’d just be too many songs for one album. So, when I call this album a “museum” I’m talking more about my experiences within my career, my years as an artist, not necessarily my entire life.
This isn’t easy, but if you really want it you can make it.
So, I talk about how no one believed in me when I started, about how I proved myself and saw people then say “oh he’s the real deal”, and they changed their perspective about me. The first track, “MÍRENME AHORA,” is all about that. I knew I had the talent and I knew where I wanted to go with my career, but I couldn’t front like that so early because I had to go through the process and grow. In that process I learned things I didn’t know, because I thought this shit was just record yourself and go. That’s how I used to do it in the beginning, before being signed, I’d record a song and I’d drop it the very same day.
But over time we learn how to do things better, and about the business side, and that’s what I wanted to show. Like I said, it’s what I want the next generation to learn. This isn’t easy, but if you really want it you can make it.
What can you tell us about the follow-up album you mentioned earlier? How soon will you be dropping it?
The [deluxe edition] of Lyke Myke is going to be the same music, but with more featured artists. My next album I already have a name, it’s going to be called Michael. The way I describe it is that it’s gotta be different from Lyke Mike, so if this album is casual wear then Michael is gonna be formal wear. It’s gonna be a little bit more serious!
You’re making your debut as an actor soon in the film No Es Lo Que Parece. What was that experience like? Did you enjoy it, and would you do it again?
Yeah, I really liked acting. I don’t have a lot of screen time, it was a short scene, but it helped me stop being camera shy because it’s not the same doing a music video as opposed to having a director telling you what he wants from you in a scene. I’m down and ready for future opportunities [laughs], from here to Hollywood!