As one of the first musicians to ink a deal with MySpace Records (eventually absorbed into Interscope Records), Mickey Avalon will always wear the mantle of a breakthrough artist whose career owes much to appearing on the right website at the right time. Though his self-titled debut sold decently and produced a cult hit in “Jane Fonda,” the rapper found himself mired in battles with his record label over industry politics. And until recently, his recorded output came from mixtape tracks, produced as part of hip-hop trio Dyslexic Speedreaders.
After a six-year gap, Avalon returns with his sophomore album, Loaded, released through LA's Suburban Noize Records. Even with the long pause between albums, the 35-year-old rapper (born Yeshe Perl) remains as popular as ever in Orange County, much to his surprise.
“I don't know how or when it began,” Avalon says via telephone before taking his daughter to the zoo in Australia. “But I always do well down there, which is a good thing.”
Initially apprehensive about Orange County, thanks to what he admits are misconceived notions about the area as a cultural wasteland, Avalon says he's now a fan, citing his love for the beach and the people. Whether it's the sleek, ultra-lounge atmosphere of Sutra or local haunts such as Detroit Bar, there are plenty of vodka-spilling, diehard fans who've stuck with the slim, tattooed MC six years after he scribbled the “Jane Fonda” lyric about a “girl named Dana from Santa Ana.” Avalon says the support from an unlikely fan base has taught him something about himself.
“You have all these codes you grow up with,” he explains. “And a lot of it is bullshit, and people are people [no matter] how much money they have or don't have. I'm the asshole who had these wrong ideas about them. Their problems are just as real as anyone else's.”
Despite a nasal delivery, audiences find themselves attracted to the rapper's raucous flows and deeply personal lyrics. “I think telling the truth, on some level, is always a good thing,” he says. “A lot of the stuff I do is tongue-in-cheek, but underneath it all, there's something that's real and appeals to people.”
Loaded continues where his self-titled debut left off. There are tales of seediness, salacious exploits and self-destructive characters, all set to the same catchy beats that made him a popular figure. “I know what I do best and stick with it,” Avalon says. “My lyrics don't always have to be autobiographical; there's all this stuff going on in the world, and no one wants to hear me talk about having trouble with my record label and stuff like that. I think, through my experiences, I can tell a story about these characters pretty accurately without having to live on Skid Row.”
The rapper is already starting to throw around ideas for album three. After six months of touring, he will head back into the studio with producer Mike E. Clark to piece together the next batch of songs. Now that music is more accessible than ever, some artists keep a tight lid on their material to prevent anything from being leaked or released for free. Not Avalon; so long as fans are checking out his live shows, he doesn't care how you get your paws on his music.
“There's a difference between giving someone a photograph of a painting versus the real painting,” he says, comparing recording music to a live show. “Going to a live show is like seeing the painting in front of you; you get to fully experience what's going on.”
As for his current release, Loaded ended up exactly how Avalon envisioned it, and he's excited to share it with his dedicated disciples in Orange County.
“I didn't try to reinvent the wheel or anything like that,” he says. “I don't mind being a one-trick pony rather than doing something that's not me. I don't think my fans are coming to judge my vocals or hang onto every note I sing. They're at the show to have a good time and to hear songs, but they're also there to party, which is more than fine by me.”
This article appeared in print as “Dirty Rhymes Reloaded: Rapper Mickey Avalon resumes his unlikely reign over OC's club rap culture.”
Daniel Kohn is a writer based in Southern California. With bylines in an assortment of outlets, Kohn primarily specializes in music with other interests ranging from sports to food. As a transplant, Kohn loves the beautiful weather and is glad he no longer has to deal with brutal winters. If you see him, say hi and of course, he’s always willing to down a beer or two…if you’re paying.