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“El Matador” by Mic Nickels (feat. Method Man)

In the all-new single “El Matador,” recording artist Mic Nickels doesn’t waste any time in getting right down to the business of shaking our bodies with a bold bassline, seductive rhythm, and a cutting lyricism as sharp as a samurai sword. The instrumental intro at the start of the track doesn’t last even ten seconds total, but that doesn’t prevent this opening salvo of melodic intensity from setting the tone for everything that will soon transpire before us in the next few minutes. Nickels came for our hearts here, and with the help of legendary rapper Method Man, he’s going to collect every last one of them for keeps.

The drums aren’t that loud in this song’s big picture, but frankly, if they’d been any more prominent in the backend of the mix, I fear they would have drowned out the volatile edge of the lead vocal altogether. The grooves are robust no matter the volume, and when joined with the slithering bassline up top, they create a wall of harmony that could crush just about anything you could place in front of it (in an instrumental remix, at least). The vocal is the linchpin keeping all of the more eccentric elements in this single from falling apart, and it’s only through his commanding control of the lyrical direction that we’re able to fully appreciate how multidimensional a composition “El Matador” is.

Method Man throws a lot of hard-hitting potency into the mix with his swaggering rap, but even at his most jarring, his performance isn’t enough to distract our attention away from the melodic web Nickels is weaving with his conceptual take on the arrangement. They bring out the best in each other’s respective skillsets in “El Matador,” and though this has been a really interesting time for indie hip-hop artists, most don’t have the electric energy that this single does – partly because of the giant imprint Method Man leaves on the beats with his throaty style of hip-hop poetry. With any luck, this won’t be the last time they share a studio, but if it is, they certainly owe a lot to each other in having helped to launch a memorable new strain of molten-hot pop.

“El Matador” comes full circle and concludes in an eruption of tonality not all that dissimilar to what it begins with, and even though it lasts just under three minutes total, it doesn’t feel like a limited track at all. I’ve been keeping up with the emerging indie rap beat in the last decade-plus, and of the more talented artists that I’ve had the chance to review in 2023, Mic Nickels has made one of the more noteworthy impressions as a songwriter, producer, and vocalist. His skills are raw and unfiltered by some major label’s marketing department, and in a song like this one, we find out how well he can work with others while remaining the brightest star in the night sky, which is hardly easy when you’re in the studio with a heavyweight like Method Man.

Mindy McCall



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