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Chicago rapper/ally depicts city's realities in new music video
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Melissa Wasserman

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Mike Parrish, also known as rapper/hip-hop artist and comedic lyricist Mikey to the P, loves Chicago and in his newly released music video for his song "Big City" he focuses on the beauty and violence his favorite city holds.

"It's my love letter to Chicago and when I see it, it ties together everything that I feel is me, everything that I feel the city is to me and it does it on such a high level that I feel like if we had not done it that way we would've not been able to even show it because it would've been a disservice to the city," said Parrish. "The city is so important to me and so cool that the video had to match that and I think we did it. I'm so happy with it."

Parrish grew up in northwest Indiana with a religious and musical family. His first love was basketball and his love for music came when he was a child. Expressing love for all types of music, Parrish laughed and remembered constantly listening to Kris Kross and Nirvana on his Walkman in pre-school. In his early teen years, he recognized developed a talent for beatboxing and rapping was only something he did for a few school projects. Parrish explained that attending a school that was full of white students, people were listening to rap and hip-hop, but nobody was performing it. Upon graduating high school, Parrish was unsure of what he wanted to do, but he knew he loved performing. He went on to earn an associate's degree in acting at South Suburban College and then pursued acting at Illinois State University ( ISU ). At ISU, he said he figured out who he was and who he wanted to be, based on the people around him and the things that interested him. After graduating from ISU, he moved to Chicago.

Getting older and moving away from his roots to go to college, Parrish said he lost touch with religion and disagrees with the beliefs he grew up with.

"I see so much in my personal life of people being discriminated against for either their gender, their race, their sexuality, their own religion and whatnot, that I want no part of it," said Parrish, who emphasizes that he expresses his beliefs with a positive light to bring people together. "I'm a big atheist and a big advocate for atheism. feel like atheism is the way of progress and I feel that it's something kind of beautiful in a way because we have this short time on earth together and so let's make the most of it and love each other and try to create a better earth for everybody here and for everybody who has yet to come—everybody's kids and whatnot. That's something I firmly believe in."

Boystown was the first neighborhood in Chicago that Parrish ( who identifies as an ally ) lived in and it was where he was first exposed to the LGBT community. He recalled being emotional when seeing the Chicago Pride parade for the first time a few years ago, saying that seeing past the humor and audacity of people scantily dressed and freely dancing with the message of "we're here, we're queer" it was something he considered beautiful.

"Once you got the shock value out of your system, I looked around and I thought, 'no this isn't people being sodomized or whatnot, this is an oppressed group of people who have been oppressed for centuries and I look at them and today they're saying 'hey, on any other day, maybe you can say something, but today is my day, bitch and we are going to celebrate that this is who we are, we don't have to hide it or anything, and today, not only do we not have to hide it, but we get to show it off for everyone to see' and I started crying," said Parrish. "I found it to be so beautiful, just complete liberation of all these people."

When it comes to Parrish's music inspiration, he credits it to a number of things, mainly his surroundings. His music generally ranges from hip-hop and rap to alternative emo, serious to comical, but his album, "Quit Your Day Job," he describes as strictly hip-hop.

"I can be very dark and serious at times but at the same time I love to make people laugh and I love to entertain and I feel like in hip-hop, aside from someone maybe like Eminem, there's almost a lot of one or the other," said Parrish. "You're either funny or you're serious and for me I think there's a time and a place for both."

Parrish explained he, like most hip-hip artists since the style's birth, tries to reflect things happening in his own life and what he observes around him and uses it for his music. Big City is no exception as it is Chicago inspired.

"In 'Big City,' I tell a story of violence that doesn't necessarily have to do with gangs but it also still reflects a lot of the racial tension and violence that is in Chicago, but it also says all the great things that I love about Chicago," said Parrish.

The "Big City" video was filmed by Chicago-based director and filmmaker Michael B. Chait, features vocals from Kristina Reyes and Emily Nickelson, and was filmed in 10 different locations throughout downtown Chicago. The storyline is about two young adults and how their love of basketball takes a dark turn into violence in the big city.

As the song and video scenes set out to show the beauty and violence one could experience in Chicago, Parrish points out one lyric that refers back to his witnessing LGBT victory and discrimination. The LGBT-friendly lyric reads, "one side of the street dudes dressing in drag, other side waving American flags that say no marriage for fags."

"Though it is only one line of the song; a lot went into that line," said Parrish, adding certain words were selected solely based on his experience, specifically conservative protest signs he had seen when walking around his neighborhood at the time. "I took specific time and an effort to make sure that I highlighted that as a part of what I see in the city, especially at that time in my life. I'm glad that Chicago, where I live, is somewhere where when you see two people holding hands, you don't often see people pointing the finger and saying 'hey you queers.' Instead, you're used to it. I think that culture of Chicago and the celebration of diversity of all kinds, especially sexual and gender diversity, is so important."

To learn more about Mikey to the P and his music, visit: .

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