Last week I was fortunate enough to sit down with a former UH student whose work as an artist has been gaining momentum in Houston. AJ Mikell, who goes by the name Alpha Raps, is in his senior year studying construction management at TSU and spent a couple semesters here at UH. At 23 years old, AJ has come from his hometown in San Diego, California and performed at venues across the south including Warehouse Live in Houston. Over the 2017 summer, Alpha Raps headlined a pop-up tour at barbershops across Houston, making for intimate shows and as he put it, “an experience I wouldn’t trade the world for.” AJ’s eagerness to perform live is backed by an unshakeable confidence that comes from over 7 years of working on his craft. As a producer and rapper, Alpha Raps’ dedication to expressing himself brings stories to life with noteworthy authenticity.
Growing up AJ’s mom wouldn’t let him listen to rap, so he soaked up lots of jazz, classical, and gospel music until a cousin snuck him a Cool Kids CD. When “Colors” played through the speakers his mind was blown, and the fascinating world of hip-hop became an obsession. Heavily influenced by artists like J Cole and Wale, Alpha spits bars loaded with imagery and realness that take you into his mind, while his soulful roots bleed through as he sings soothing hooks. Alpha’s skills as a producer are exceptional in their own right, but when paired with his lyrical and vocal abilities AJ can create a vehicle with every track that takes the listener on a journey.
His latest mixtape 92LX was released in June and gives us insight to his lifestyle, ambitions, and struggles as a student artist, with most of the story centered on his life in San Diego. “I figured if Rob $tone was gonna be the world’s first listen of San Diego rap, let me give my perspective as well.” Alpha takes us into his studio on “Dojo” with raps that strike through a jazzy laid back beat with the precision of a black belt. My personal favorite is “Glow Up ii/Palladium” on which AJ reflects on his growth as an artist and addresses his doubters before a booming 808 and ringing keys turn the song into a trap banger. The project as a whole is inspiring, and I encourage fellow student artists and hip-hop connoisseurs to take a listen.
Alpha Raps will be dropping some singles over the next few months, and I’m filled with excitement and anticipation after hearing his previews. As far as his goals in music, AJ told me, “I want to supply the world with feel good music, thought provoking music, music meant for down emotions, music meant for up emotions, music that is relatable for the average man, music meant for the dreamer, but from the hands of me, Alpha.”
Listen to Alpha Raps on Soundcloud and follow his twitter and instagram at swankaintjank. Alpha has great energy, lots of experience, and wants to continue connecting with fans at live performances. Book him for shows, features, and collaborations at [email protected]