Michael Steven has been sharing his bars and early footage from this album with me since well before its recent release. From the first few verses I heard, I had a feeling he was onto something marvelous. Once again, my instinct didn’t fail me as Do Not Open is one of the best rap albums to surface in recent years. Michael Steven takes listeners on a personal journey over the album’s 10 tracks, with lyrical delivery that is often relentless and instrumentals that trample over much of what is topping charts nowadays.
Mike’s lyricism is brutal, personal, and flows like the Nile. It’s clear that Michael Steven has had his bouts with demons of his own and has lived to tell the tale. It’s not often that a hip-hop artist successfully delivers their emotions through vocal delivery, but Mike is an exception to this rule. I found myself often feeling encapsulated within the stories Michael shares on this album, and even after multiple playthroughs, that feeling remains the same. Although often dark and deep, the lyrics are catchy and I’ve often found myself playing Hype Man to the tracks as I’m listening along. Michael Steven has seemingly drawn a lot of inspiration from some of Hip Hop’s greats such as Kendrick Lamar and Eminem and developed his own super formula that works almost flawlessly.
The instrumentals on Do Not Open are simply wonderful. Even if you don’t find the fast-pacing of Michael Steven’s delivery appealing, there is much appeal simply within the instrumentals and production value alone. This album sounds like it was crafted by AAA producers over AAA beats. Reverting back to my previous reference to Kendrick Lamar, there are a couple tracks on Do Not Open that change pace mid-song and it feels reminiscent of Kendrick’s signature style, while also maintaining a level of originality that eliminates the opportunity to be labeled as a copycat. Although the overall aesthetic of this album is on the darker side, Do Not Open is a hell of a fun listen.
Do Not Open is a minimally flawed album. For a freshman effort, it’s one of the best I may have ever heard, and in comparison to damn near anything that’s come out in the last couple of years, it stands tall. There are few moments on this album where Michael Steven sounds like he’s cramming words into a verse, but even then it goes with the incredibly fast-paced delivery, and likely won’t stand out to casual listeners. This album has a lot of dark tones to it and some violence reminiscent of Eminem’s earlier works, so while I wouldn’t recommend playing this in front of your church choir, I still highly recommend it. Every so often, I hear an artist and get a feeling of confidence that they have a bright future ahead of them. Michael Steven is the next on that list for me. Do Not Open will make you smirk, it’ll make your crank up the volume, it’ll make you nod your head and it might even make you shed a tear. Although it’s simply my opinion, the one thing I don’t think Do Not Open will do, is disappoint. Don’t listen to what the title tells you to do and listen to Do Not Open as soon as possible.