Two years ago, a white rapper named Mike Dece played a show at Louisiana State University. It was late September of 2016, just weeks before the election, at an event called “Fat Shaming Works.” The show was one stop on Milo Yiannopoulos’ “The Dangerous F*ggot” tour, hosted by the LSU organization, Students for Trump. Dece was introduced by Rockie Gold and Rockie Savage—the frat-rap duo behind the semi-viral track “Dicks Out for Haramble”—and Gold, wearing a tie-dye tee that read “I party with bitches,” tried to warm the room up. It did not go well. “I want you guys to make some noise for Mike Dece right now,” Gold told the crowd, who did not make noise.
Dece took the stage in a white MAGA hat, a red Trump shirt, and skinny jeans that exaggerated his Babyface frame. He started with his minor hit, “Marilyn Manson,” and followed up with a slightly more famous song, “Donald Trump.” Neither was well received. In shots of the all-white crowd, several women check their phone; men pick at their beards. Even when Dece called out for “Trump 2016,” he got only a few weak “woos.” Later, the footage was uploaded to the Reddit page “r/cringe” under the title “explicit rapper performs in front of very uncomfortable audience.”
To some, the mediocre Milo event might have seemed like Dece’s big break. He got a national headline on Breitbart, and hip-hop podcaster/tastemaker Adam Grandmaison, who had never mentioned Dece before, tweeted out the link—though perhaps not for the reasons the rapper might have liked (Grandmaison, aka Adam22, has since been accused of rape). But for others, Dece was already a known entity. The Miami rapper had come up as part of Raider Klan, an underground group founded by hip-hop godfather SpaceGhostPurrp, whose sound shaped the styles of rap strongholds like Denzel Curry, and helped put South Florida—now one of music’s most important regions—on the map.
The lukewarm performance at once alienated the rapper from many of his South Florida friends, and failed to ingratiate him with the pro-Trump crowd. Not long later, Dece disappeared from the public eye, and in the two years since, it’s become clear that he made a bad bet.
In 2018 alone, many of Dece’s Miami peers made the big leagues: XXXtentacion broke streaming records in almost every category, Ski Mask the Slump God dropped a chart-topping mixtape and album, and Denzel Curry—an old collaborator and friend, with whom Dece had a dramatic falling-out—released his third studio album, TA13OO, which peaked at 28 on the Billboard 200. At the same time, Yiannopoulos’s career imploded: he got fired from Breitbart, banned from Twitter and lost his $250,000 book deal. On Monday, The Daily Beast reported that the alt-right provocateur could be as much as $2 million in debt (Yiannopoulos denies the allegations).
But as Milo hammers the last nails into his coffin, Dece is trying to stage a comeback—one without Trumpian ties. The rapper, who did not respond to requests for comment, has deleted every Trump-related tweet from his profile, and returned to social media. On December 1, Dece released new music: a heavily auto-tuned single called “Drug Phone,” and a hazy music video with Photo Booth effects. It smacked of an attempt at reinvention which, as South Florida bursts through into cultural relevance, reveals an MC desperate to leave Milo and Trump behind and get back to his Miami roots.
One of Dece’s earliest public appearances came in 2012, on a YouTube series called Nick and Pouya Show. The show was the comedy side-project of Kevin Pouya and Nicholas Minucci (now better known as Miami rappers Pouya and Fat Nick) and Dece, a friend of the pair, shows up in a four-part piece uploaded without a title (Pouya has since been accused of orchestrating the gang rape of one of his fans; Pouya denies the allegations). The footage opens in a Toys “R” Us parking lot, as Dece and a friend named Ruben Thompson, who would later make music under the name Ruben Slikk, ride a mechanical horse. Fat Nick and Pouya, holding the camera, accost the boys and drag them off as hostages. If there was any intended plot to the episode or its three sequels, it does not come across to viewers. Over the course of 12 minutes, the four kids drive around, talk in accents, tell a few pedestrians they’re going to “rape” them, smoke cigarettes and giggle.
Most of the episodes are like this: that is, comedy in only the loosest sense (most jokes get drowned out by laughter). But they serve as a kind of time capsule of the South Florida cloud rap scene in its barely pubescent form. Nick and Pouya Show regularly featured Florida kids who would, like the hosts themselves, later become well-known. “[A] lot of us watched and grew up alongside these guys all the way up until to the young kings theyve [sic] become today,” a user named internethippy wrote about the series on Twitter. The cast list reads like a Raider Klan roster—Dece and Slikk, but also Yung Simmie, SpaceGhostPurrp, N3ll and Denzel Curry—and serves as a snapshot of the music world where Dece used to belong.
When Dece and Slikk came on the show, they were already in Raider Klan and already making music. The video credits the two kids as “Propr Boyz”—the name of their early rap project. Between 2011 and 2012, Propr Boyz released a handful of minorly-successful songs: a single called “Slap a Fat Bitch” with SpaceGhostPurrp, two self-titled mixtapes, and a well-reviewed album called Jesus Boyz, featuring their most famous single, “Jesus Christ.” With lines like, “Prostitution is my life, bitch, I’m Jesus Christ,” the album was pretty funny, kind of catchy, and full of Jesus jokes. (Dece, who wore his hair in a curly mane, cut a messianic figure.)
That project didn’t last too long. Slikk had his own thing going on (a group with his brother called Metro Zu, that got write-ups in Noisey and Dazed), and kept getting into legal trouble (first for grand theft, drug possession, burglary, and robbery; most recently, for indecent exposure and sexual battery). Dece also had a tendency to disappear to Brazil for long periods of time.
In 2012, Dece released a solo tape called 1996, which featured Slikk and the rest of Metro Zu, and a young Denzel Curry. After Slikk, Curry was one of Dece’s main early collaborators—it was actually Dece who introduced him to Raider Klan. If tweets are any indication, they were friends too—in the early 2010s, Curry often called Dece his family, his brother and his “lord and saviour.” At some point, Dece left Raider Klan over a conflict with SpaceGhost, but he stayed friends with Curry. Over the course of the next three years, the two rappers worked together on songs, albums and other things (Dece did a video with hardcore porn star Bruno Dickemz for his musician series, “Groupie Lust”; Denzel Curry did one too). In early 2015, when Dece dropped his solo project, Rich Slut, Curry appeared on a song called “The Federation.” Denzel tweeted it out, adding, “Mike / Dece / is / Amazing.” That same year, Curry released an EP called 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms, and Dece scored a feature on one of its singles, “Ice Age.”
“Ice Age” was, without a doubt, the biggest track of Dece’s career. The music video, which features Curry and Dece on a private jet surrounded by women, premiered on WorldStarHipHop and has raked in almost two million views on YouTube. By comparison, Dece’s other top tracks, “The Federation” (which features Curry) and “Marilyn Manson,” have 400,000 and 96,000 respectively. But in 2016, Dece and Curry had a falling out. In June of that year, Curry told the radio hosts of Sway in the Morning that he and Dece were done. Neither artist explained the conflict, but a month later, Dece dropped his single, “Donald Trump.” Then, in October of 2016, just three weeks after Dece played the Milo event, Curry pulled 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms—the EP featuring “Ice Age”—and another mixtape off of iTunes to remaster them. When the records returned to the streaming service, Dece’s verse was cut out of “Ice Age.”
In the time since, Dece slunk into obscurity. Pouya and Fat Nick cut ties with him. Longtime friend Ruben Slikk went back to jail. The rapper re-emerged briefly in 2017 with a mixtape called Dece, featuring the “Donald Trump” single and—in an apparent effort to reach peak unpopularity—a new song called “Chris Brown.” But it got scant attention. In response, SoundCloud commenter “ya dingus” summed up a widespread sentiment: “mike dece retire bitch.”
So far, Dece’s new song, “Drug Phone,” has barely been played. At press time, the video had about 4,000 views. But while listeners have not forgotten his Trump days, the new Dece seems to be trying to. The single—produced by Ruben Slikk’s younger brother, who worked with Dece on the album that might have been his peak, Jesus Boyz—makes no mention of politics or anything at all, really, other than a sterile warning not to call his “drug phone.” And Dece’s new look smacks of his pre-Trump style. Just before “Drug Phone” dropped, the rapper reappeared on Instagram for the first time in months. The scrawny MC, now a full-on white guy with locs, wore no MAGA gear—just a Jesus-shirt and cross. In one Instagram story, smoking a blunt over a Bible, Dece’s caption read: “Im back.”