Mike Dimes: Texas Boy

On paper, Texas rapper Mike Dimes has the resume of a rising star your teenage cousin won’t stop raving about. A year ago, the former basketball player was balancing a rap career with college, pursuing a degree in business management. But he also recently landed a TikTok hit and co-signs from JID and Joey Bada$$, a product of his cold delivery, versatile flows, and talent for spitting over sedated boom-bap and subwoofer-shredding beats. Last year’s debut album In Dimes We Trust was high-octane, but occasionally Dimes would slip into generic flexing that caused his words to get drowned out by the beats. That downward trend continues on his sophomore album Texas Boy, which has all the color and personality of a graphic tee that was left in the dryer for too long.

Dimes is still a technically competent rapper. His style blends the groove and bounce of his home state with the laidback confidence of New York, creating pockets for his clear monotone to dip into. Vocally, it’s hard to tell if he’s too cool for this world or just masking a deeper pain. After the hearty track "INTRO," which features Houston legend and Chopstars founder OG Ron C, producers Spliff Sinatra and Ben10k bring deep bass licks and drums to “WHISKEY AND WEED,” making inspired connections between different generations of Texas rap. Dimes skips across the track while reflecting on making his family proud: “They counted me out/Shout out to momma and poppa, I made me a M in the house/I don’t think they can get to me now.”

But this reflective mode only shows up in fits and starts, which would be fine if so much of Texas Boy wasn’t obsessed with bland, empty stunting. Flex rap is entertaining because it’s voyeuristic and specific; take Tyler, the Creator bragging about his kelly green BMW and canary diamonds on “DOGTOOTH,” or Megan Thee Stallion casually name-dropping her Nike deal after talking about running shit on “Megan’s Piano.” Dimes is desperate to flaunt his ends any way he can, but he is missing the flavor and magnetism that makes it compelling. “I just spilt my cup, uh, all on my kicks/Designer on cuffs, that’s all on my bitch,” he says on “ARSENAL,” leaving out the drink and the designer brands in the process. Occasionally, a stray detail will help a line pop, like when he compares himself to swordsman Tomioka from the anime Demon Slayer on “UNDEFEATED,” but for the most part, the particulars play out in the most basic ways imaginable. He hooks up with women in Venice (“GREEN”) and in the backroom of chicken spot Zaxby’s (“FEELIN’ ME”). He runs up bags, counts money, and drops bands on nothing in particular. Both “KARMA” and “KISS N’ TELL” use his boring posturing to floss on faceless women; the songs would be offensive if they weren’t a snooze.

Dimes is capable of good storytelling, which only worsens the frustration. On “HATCHBACK,” he recalls times running drugs with friends “who used to bust a couple scams off of Snapchat,” putting you in the driver’s seat for its first verse. On “ALL 4 YOU,” Dimes pines for an ex who has copies to all his house keys and envelops his thoughts: “I could’ve kept you on my team, but I’m too scared of saying ‘we.’” Rap doesn’t have to be autobiographical, but these bits and pieces are more intriguing than hearing Dimes whip it like Betty Crocker for the millionth time.

The man has potential, but the music never fully connects like it should. He sounds great cutting his way through Ben10k and cdmp3’s violins and throbbing 808s on “ARSENAL” and the screeching sound effects that power “HATCHBACK” and “STRETCH,” but often lacks the perspective or charisma to rise above them. And any time he’s paired with a guest, they consistently prove just how out of his depth he is. Denzel Curry’s memeable three-word intro to his verse on “ARSENAL” (“I smell bitch!”) hits harder than Dimes’ whole 16s. On closer “OFF THE PORCH,” fellow Texans BigXthaPlug and Maxo Kream squeeze more excitement out of clever pronunciation and word games than their host does on the entire album. Dimes is working to assert himself here, but technical skill and nonchalance aren’t everything. Sometimes you need to hit the car with a fresher coat of paint.