Motor City Cribs

This Detroit emcee is the muthafuckin' Afrika Bambaata of Detroit, searching for the perfect beat. Kid you not. What's more, most production work on his winning new indie hip-hop album The Session is handled by the underheralded Detroit producers Cream of Beats and Planet Da Majustic. Smoke scours the Internet for beats, and has worked with producers in Finland, Norway, Germany and England. "Whenever I'm working on a record I make sure I got a lot of money in my PayPal account for buying beats," he says.

Smoke (real name: Michael Ivory) is a gifted freestyler and beat-picker — for him the beat is crucial. "If I'm really into a beat it takes me no time to write lines," he says. "I'll hear it instantly."

The emcee-writer always carries two notepads to jot down rhymes whenever he gets time. "I'll have songs written on two pieces of paper and three sticky notes that look like chicken scratches. ... You can lose an idea so quickly if you don't get it down."

If Smoke has much on his mind lyrically, he's got a full plate at home. He recently moved in to his maternal grandmother's old west side home — with his mother Pamela and brother Raymond — after their home was foreclosed on (which inspired last year's Da Foreclosure Mixtape). He works two jobs at Wayne County Community College, takes care of his mother, who's on disability, and there's one other thing: This interview came to an abrupt end — Smoke bolted out to Providence Hospital for the birth of his son, Malcolm.

Dig Smoke's music at His new album, The Session, is out now on Insomnia Music in a limited-edition, packaged like a floppy disc.

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