Mike Dimes has a lot to be grateful for. This year, the San Antonio rapper was named one of Spotify’s 10 artists to watch in 2022 by Most Necessary, with over four million monthly listeners. Music tastemakers like Pigeons & Planes have named him a new and rising artist to pay attention to. The 21-year-old’s upward trajectory is moving at a rapid pace, and he’s getting a good reception for his latest project, In Dimes We Trust, which dropped back in March. His music has Southern roots with the swagger of A$AP Rocky, delivering impressive consistency and creative flows for someone still in his rookie year.
Now, Dimes is on the road polishing his live set, just finishing his three-stop Who Is Mike Dimes? Tour that hit Houston, Dallas, and his hometown, which sold out. Shortly after, he was tapped to join Denzel Curry on his Melt My Eyez Tour, and in April, he’ll be supporting EarthGang on their Biodeghettable 2022 North American trek.
For someone who was still working a 9-to-5 job not that long ago, he’s certainly adjusting quickly as a rapper on the come up — one who is also majoring in business management at UTSA. “I don’t want to sound egotistical with it, but I’m better than half of these rappers probably, so I knew my time was going to come,” Dimes says, calling from Vancouver B.C. on one of Curry’s tour stops. “You always know it is going to happen, but when it really happens, it’s like, ‘Oh, s–t. I didn’t know it was going to be like this.’ It is never how you expected it to be.”
Dimes’ Dallas show on March 26 in The Cambridge Room at House Of Blues was a small gathering, which means there was plenty of room for the young crowd to get rowdy. Most of the fans in attendance heard of Dimes through his “My Story,” which went viral on TikTok last year. But to see his fans connecting to his music live, especially after In Dimes We Trust tracks “Home” and “No Trends” opened up the mosh pits, created an exciting atmosphere that usually is reserved for larger festivals. Watching him being joined on stage by openers Doeman and Quality Control’s Metro Marrs and a bunch of friends, for a finale performance of “Home,” the future of Texas hip-hop looked to be in good hands.
Below, Billboard speaks with Dimes about growing up in San Antonio, his thoughts on being called a TikTok rapper, paying homage to Mike Jones, partnering with Joie Manda’s Encore Records, and more.
You’re one of the rappers we get to vote for to decide this year’s XXL Freshman 10th spot. Throughout the history of the Freshman class, you had Kirko Bangz and Megan Thee Stallion on there that represented Texas. What would it mean to you if you did the same?
It would mean a lot, ‘cause I’m a military child. I’ve been to a lot of places, but I always ended up back in Texas in different parts. Since I’m in San Antonio, all my music started in San Antonio… I haven’t seen one rapper from San Antonio on the list before. It would mean a lot for me to be on it so I could rep — not just my state but my city as well.
So you were in and out of Texas. When were you in San Antonio for the long haul?
My dad retired and we moved here to San Antonio. We’ve been in San Antonio for seven years. There and where I was born were the two places I’ve been for longer than five years. That’s why I always claim Texas.
San Antonio is such a culture-rich city. What are some of your favorite things to do there?
I ain’t gonna lie, man. I really stay in my house and work on music, 24/7. I mean, I go [out] with my friends. We skateboard. We go fishing. We do very country boy things. Sometimes you’ll catch us going to the arcade. We don’t like clubs. We do childish things if we are not working on music. We don’t like to be in the mix that much.
Before rapping, you played sports. What type of sports did you play?
Of course, when you’re a little kid, you played baseball. That was the first sport I was into. Then I was on track. My baby fat started widening out on me and I was into football. And then, in 7th grade, or whenever I moved to South Carolina, I started growing and becoming really tall. And I just started playing basketball for a couple of years, and got ranked. When I moved to San Antonio, I quit.
From there, was that when you decided to do rapping full-time?
Yeah, because I was always writing poetry. I was a big 2Pac fan, and 50 Cent. So when I first got introduced to them, I just loved writing poems. And then I quit basketball and I didn’t know what I was going to do. But we used to go around school and sometimes skip school to go to fast food spots and freestyle for free food. And then, I heard of A$AP Rocky and I started making my poetry into raps. And after that, I heard of Joey Bada$$ and I was like, “Oh, I could take this really seriously, and make this into a career.”
I was watching one of your interviews, and you talked about Cinco. He is someone who you would speak to for hours, plotting where you’re at now. Who is he and why is he so important to you?
Yeah man, you probably hear it in my music too — a lot of times I say Cinco’s name. When I first moved to San Antonio, I moved here for basketball, and I was going to continue [doing it]. Me and Cinco were both in Spanish class. I met him because the Spanish teacher said something to me. And I looked around like, “What the f–k did she just say?” Everybody looked at me like, “Oh my God.” And he just started laughing. He sat next to me and we were just talking.
And the next day I just quit basketball. I quit basketball after my first week of being in San Antonio. He was like, “What do you want to do?” I was like, “I wanna rap.” He was like, “That’s dope. Let’s get it then.” He was playing football. He just said, “Let’s get it.” I was like, “Yeah, bro.” He heard some of my poetry. He was the first person to see my poetry and lyrics. He was like, “Yeah, we are really going to do this.” I was the new kid and I didn’t know anybody. He knew everybody.
And then every night, we’ll just be on the phone talking about how we were going to take it seriously. We were going to make a crew. We were just going to take over everything when it comes to music. It’s like little kids chasing dreams. That’s how we were every single night. ‘Cause I had an Android. We were on the phone having these conversations. It wasn’t even like FaceTime, it was a phone call. We’d just be in our rooms planning out how to do it all. He didn’t know anything about music. He just supported it, because he knew that’s what I wanted to do.
When did you start working on your first project, DLOG?
DLOG was really called 1 of 1. I dropped it before “My Story.” It was called 1 of 1. I dropped “My Story” as the first single after six months of me taking a break because I wanted to find my actual sound that I wanted to stick with. I dropped “My Story” and then it blew up. I started stressing like, “Damn, I didn’t pay for any of these beats I put on 1 of 1.”
So I deleted the whole project. I deleted everything. And then I had new things to rap about whenever “My Story” dropped, ‘cause it went crazy. That’s why “Labels Callin’” was a newer song that was on the project. “HBK” was a newer song. Towards the end, there were a couple new tracks that I replaced from 1 of 1 to DLOG. If we speaking 1 of 1 to DLOG, that was probably a year-and-a-half process. But if we speaking from the old songs that we moved to the new songs, it was really like three months. It didn’t take that long to make the songs.
And then we just had to plan a day to drop it that would be smooth. I only dropped it because “My Story” was such a gimmicky song that I didn’t want to think that all I do is make gimmicky music. So I wanted to make DLOG so I can show people that I actually know how to rap. I know how to make a singing song. I’m not really just a rapper that you’ll be like, “Oh, I know this one will blow up on TikTok.” I want to be taken seriously as a rapper.
When I went to your Dallas show, you kept asking the crowd: “Do you guys think I’m a TikTok rapper?” Does it offend you when people say you’re a TikTok rapper?
It’s not that it offends me, it just takes me back to people calling people SoundCloud rappers, because they put their music on SoundCloud. I really don’t believe that people understand that there’s no such thing as a TikTok rapper, unless you only post your music on TikTok and it’s not any other platform… I make my music just to make my music and somehow it became a trend on TikTok. I didn’t have TikTok when I blew up on TikTok. It is not that it offends me, it’s just like — how do you pick up that I am a TikTok rapper when I don’t even do it for TikTok? I do it for the art type thing.
It’s a platform. I view it like social media. If I promote my music on Instagram, they are not going to call me an Instagram rapper. The people who call somebody a TikTok rapper are trying to be offensive. I wouldn’t take offense to it unless they were trying to be disrespectful in a way.
During the show, Cinco got the crowd hyped by saying “Who? Mike Dimes!” I’m just curious if this is your way of paying homage to Mike Jones.
To an extent, yes. It’s like 50-50. One of my managers, Barry, was like, “Mike, you need to do it.” First off, it’s lit because it is homage to another Texas rapper. But with me, I was looking at it from the perspective like — when I was first gaining notoriety on other platforms than TikTok, everybody was like, “Who?” Like, “Who is this guy?” You know how everybody does that on the pages. That’s why every time I post something that’s promotional for myself, it is like, “Who is this guy? Why is he on the billboard?” It went from that to “Who is Mike Dimes?” It’s like a double meaning type of thing.
Would you ever do a song with Mike Jones?
Yeah, man! I wanna do a song with a lot of Texas artists, just for the fact that Texas just went through a drought from [nothing] to publicly something important to people. When people look at Travis Scott, they don’t look at it as Travis Scott from Texas. They look at Travis Scott, cause he’s just Travis Scott. He’s monumental. And I want it to be a thing that everybody [embraces]. Like the way Atlanta is praised for their sound, I want Texas to get their recognition again.
“Home” and In Dimes We Trust were the first releases on Joie Manda’s Encore Records. Tell me a bit about why you wanted to partner with them.
My whole intro to a lot of people was very like… people brushed me off. A lot of teams brushed me off. And Joie, he liked my personality, because I don’t act like the typical rapper. I am very human, and a lot of artists act very arrogant. Which is not an issue, I could see why. But they are not really relatable to a lot of people. He just liked the way I was acting, and he liked me. He also liked my music. It wasn’t just the numbers.
So whenever I met him and I was the first artist to sign with them, I was like, “OK, all the attention is going to be on me.” I’m already the youngest in my family so when I am the only one on the label, I love it. Now everybody gotta pay attention to what I got going on. When I went with them, we met up. I was like, “Yeah.” After a week or two of just me talking to him, I was like, “Yeah, let’s work. Let’s get it.” [That] type of vibe. We started working, dropping In Dimes We Trust. It’s going great, not just like my music, but [with] the team as well.
Do you see yourself remaining independent for the foreseeable future?
It’s whatever is best. I don’t want to say yes and say no, because life and just contracts always say something differently. It’s just whatever situation can be the most suitable for me. If the independent road is the best way for me, then I’ll stay independent. But if something comes along that’s more suitable like a deal with a record label, then I’ll do that as well.
Is In Dimes We Trust setting up fans for a debut album?
Hopefully. In Dimes We Trust was really like a mixtape, but not a mixtape at the same time… That’s why it was so short. I want people to gravitate toward me as an artist and rock with me. It was really a promotion project type of thing. It was like a mini album. DLOG was a Mike Dimes-before-Mike Dimes-was-even-anything type of vibe. In Dimes We Trust is like, “OK, this is something my fans that I have gathered so far are going to like.”
I work on music every day. I be planning for 10 albums without even knowing. I dropped In Dimes We Trust and I called my manager, “Man, I can’t find a good beat.” He’s like, “You just dropped a project. Relax.” I don’t work at my job anymore. All I got is school. I don’t have anything to do besides work on music a lot.