Anti-industry and a non-conformist: Michael Bane, a rapper originally from Tallahassee, Florida, underlined faith and originality in his music and lyrics instead of typical mainstream propaganda. Now based in Nashville, Tennessee, Michael – who’s simply known as Bane as hip-hop artist – puts authenticity first when he defines his inner self in his music, trying to exorcize his demons while exercising his religion in the process. Developing his direction in hip-hop since 2002, releasing around ten soft or large-scale releases until 2011, his easy-flow rap lines did not fit into any box but rather shaped a unique style that steadily developed since his 2007 release “Local to Major” as Life Line – a rap group consisting of him and Tallahassee producer Big Griff. Described by Bane as an important milestone in his music career that produced growth and maturity in how he approached his music, it indeed showcased passion and growth, and deep cuts like “Bottom Line” from that album, shaped his style and direction that he followed as a solo performer. But then into the next level: Solo singles like “Am I Me” and “Dumb It Down” defined his unconditional individuality – the non-sell-out with clear visions, building up motivation in “Zone”, lifts you up in “Aquatic Acropolis”, or goes bleak in “Bane is Dead”, a nod to the Batman villain of the same name (putting on Tom Hardy’s famous Bane mask in the video). While in between also created anthems for the Florida State Seminoles football team (“We the Seminoles”, “Still Choppin”).
But then there was silence. Six years of silence to be exact. On blog posts, Bane explains his absence, how time changed his routes and what he has done in the meantime – basically ‘living life’ but also plagued with doubts: “Doubt crept into my heart. Fear grew within my mind. That fear and doubt produced uncertainty that replaced resilience with reluctance. It replaced boldness and confidence with apprehension and hesitancy. It produced an uncertainty that prevented me from continuing to progress in my passion, cultivate my craft, and pursue my dream.”
Regardless, Bane’s calling as a rap artist eventually gave him back the strength to go back at it, to abandon his former belief of not being ready to go out there again, and letting his fans know to pursue the talents that are possessed by every individual: “I want to reassure you that, regardless where you are in life, you are ready (Philippians 4:13). I want to encourage you to answer your calling. I’m gonna answer mine.”
The finished product, “Exile”, is literally the declaration of the six years he’s been in his own personal exile in the form of ten tracks, with a dark album cover – in black and white – walking alone in the woods, like a lone wolf in the distance. The whole vibe of the album plays around with a dark and dusky, yet still relatable tone, and introduces the listener into that world with “The Calling”: An introduction in 3:38 minutes where his pain and struggles throughout the six years are presented in an almost poetic form, with the message to ‘answer his call’. The contents in the lyrics then create the zone of “Exile” – whether about friends, family, relationships, or the struggle in the music industry. In a somber tone, Bane starts off by portraying how betrayal feels like in “The Coup” where he describes throughout the years how a strong friendship can crumble through time and out of the sudden brings you to a cold and unfamiliar place (“Friends turn to foes, allies to enemies / Sometimes it’s so frustrating / When relationships are drowning and you waste every breath in your lungs for six years trynna resuscitate ‘em”). From that moment on, every piece of the whole story is scattered throughout the tracks. “The Coup” is like the beginning; it addresses lost relationships, also the toxic/romantic ones, addressed as the so-called ‘girl problems’ (“Those princesses let my bank small”) and connects it more hands-on in “Enemies with Benefits”. One of the highlights of “Exile”, the track makes notice of itself with slow drums and playful sounds, and acts as a vindication song to a past love from an ugly relationship (“None of the females from my past were as evil as you. In fact, you’re the reason I’m even enemies with the previous two!”).
Personal lyrics and deep thoughts then continue in “Dreamworld” where rock band Evanescence is quoted, and funny enough also has similar vibes provided by feature Greta Smidt who sings her high notes in a similar fashion like the band’s lead vocalist Amy Lee. Moreover, “Never Bow Down”, one of the strongest tracks from the album, shares similar energy to Linkin Park when serious piano notes, electric guitar strings and Bane’s determined voice of ‘never bowing down’ for anything, remind of LPs early “Hybrid Theory” days, most notably their song “In the End”. Furthermore, apart from Greta Smidt, the album also features rapper Y, Bane’s pal and frequent collaborator (“The Road”, “Tallahassee”). In their collab “Limbo Nation” both Bane and Y know how to take over an easy flow by using several rap techniques. Reminding of an action movie, especially when Bane goes in fast-forward mode in the hook by saying “don’t get stuck in limbo!” – like sort of fighting out of the exile he was in.
What’s also a defining content in his lyrics is the music industry and how he sees himself in it. Like in “Christivanity” where he addresses the struggle of being a rapper in the Christian section and follows it through in “Quarantined” – in literal words being sick of ‘the hypocritical propaganda’. Bane defines the importance of his true self without falling into a commercial bubble that would outshadow his mission and vision as a rapper. The values have to come first, even though in single-released “Tighten Up” discusses how his voice is not yet as reachable as he wished for – where he desires to break out in the business, but still not being there where he wants to be (“I’m sick and tired of being overlooked”). The track’s dark atmosphere and anger in his voice create a close understanding between him and the listener, and though intense is also enjoyable with rhythmic beats. A fun listen, just like “X”, with the difference that this track actually cools off with positive vibes compared to the rest of the album – motivational beats where Bane allows himself to be silly when he sings “Give It Away” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers just for laughs or making pop culture references in between his lines (“These are not the droids you’re looking for, like C-3PO”).
Michael Bane, a rapper with a clear eyesight and distinctive goals, that knows what he wants and knows how to deliver. Dull moments are rare as he’s not afraid to show different kinds of styles and emotions. Although “Exile”, in comparison to his previous mixtape release “The Anomaly”, has a specific dark theme that he adapted, partly to explain what happened during his time off the stage. But also to let his voice be heard, like about fakeness and narcissism in the music industry and staying true to himself. However, as serious as “Exile” is presented, Bane does not shy away to show his playful side hidden in the tracks, making funny pop culture references, laughing with his signature “Haaa!” or imitating a Southern accent in “Christivanity”. Furthermore, on that same track he also tinkers with the words “but unfortunately…” that remind of Eminem, having similar Em-flavors when he gets more aggressive like in “Tighten Up”. The aforementioned “X”, on the other hand, lifts up the project but also in one way or another fits in with the remaining nine tracks. The lines in music and lyrics are very clear and showcase a very decent rap album where every song is still diverse enough to not get overshadowed. Most notably for his various rap techniques. So when Bane raps how he’s overlooked, then it’s definitely time to change that around.