Blaque Dynamite set for Ithaca debut Thursday at Deep Dive
Thursday, acclaimed drummer-singer-songwriter Blaque Dynamite will make his Ithaca debut at Deep Dive. He’ll be showcasing the powerful blend of jazz, hiphop, gospel, and funk that has garnered him more than a dozen Downbeat Music awards and a Grammy nomination.
“I'll be singing my ass off and I'll be playing my ass off,” promised Blaque Dynamite – a.k.a. Mike Mitchell – in a phone interview from his home in Harlem. He’ll be joined by a full band of players from Los Angeles, New York, and Boston.
A graduate of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, Texas, Blaque Dynamite grew up in a family of musicians. His grandmother brought him a toy drum set when he was two years old, “and I destroyed it in two or three weeks because I just would not get off of it. And my mom said ‘Maybe we should buy him a real drum set for his size, one that's made out of real materials.’ So that was my drum set for those years as a baby.”
He hit the road at an early age, playing with his dad’s gospel group. “My first time going on tour, I was like maybe nine or 10,” he remembered. “But I didn't know what touring was, I just knew I was going to a different city every night. I never developed a fear of playing in front of people because I was really wanting to play. Because it was the thing that was made me most comfortable.
“As a kid, I was very socially awkward around other kids – I was very standoffish until I saw musical instruments, then I would light up and start running around. And every time I sat down at my drum set, I thought ‘This is my comfort zone.’ Once I was near a drum set around music, that was like a language that I understood more than I understood English. I mean, I started playing drums before I could talk, so that's always been a safe place for me.”
Blaque Dynamite started touring nationally and internationally when he was still in high school, landing the prestigious gig with legendary jazz bassist Stanley Clarke. After he graduated in 2013 he “just kept touring and being an artist,” he said. Since then, he’s played with Christian McBride, Erykah Badu, Thundercat, Michael McDonald, Bob Mintzer, Chrisette Michele, Kamasi Washington, and other Grammy Award winners.
In 2015, he released his debut album titled "WiFi" with Dallas band, Raché, and went on to work with Christian Scott, Derrick Hodge, Doobie Powell, Kierra Sheard, Willow Smith, Talib Kweli, Jon Bap, and other artists.
Now 28, Blaque Dynamite took his name from the adult animated cartoon series based on the 2009 blaxploitation comedy film of the same name.
“Imagine Black Dynamite being a cartoon version of cool,” he said, adding. “When I was a teenager I saw those cartoons, and thought ‘I want to be that kind of drummer.’”
Blaque Dynamite’s most recent full album, 2020’s “Time Out,” showcased his production and arrangement chops. “I played a lot of drums on my previous records, but at that particular time I wanted to make a point to be like, ‘this is separate from me being a drummer; this is totally just a record of the music and has nothing to do with me playing the drums.’ I did play drums on a couple of songs, but I approached it more as a producer.”
Last July, Blaque Dynamite released the single “Blue Wig,” following up with a batch of remixes in February. He’s currently working on his next project, which is described as a blend of all of his previous albums.
“It’s a lot of production, but also a lot of me playing really crazy drums and singing really crazy, so it's like the perfect mix,” he said.
Blaque Dynamite notes that his ADHD contributes to his all-encompassing approach to music.
“I wouldn't be able to play or think or create music the way I do if I didn't have ADHD, because I want everything to be as dope as everything else, no matter how different it is,” he said. “The way I play, it feels like it could be metal, jazz, or R&B, or gospel, but it doesn't sound like any of those things. It's all happening at the same time.”
If you go
Who: Blaque Dynamite, with openers Wingnut, COOKIE., and Jacks Muñiz
When: 9 p.m. Thursday, March 30
Where: Deep Dive, 415 Old Taughannock Boulevard, Ithaca
Cost: $20 day of show, available online here and at the door