Queens, New York-based musician, Michael Kraun, considers himself an alternative hip-hop artist with visions of using music and art, entrepreneurship, and community-building initiatives to empower mental health among the masses.
By taking a vulnerable, uplifting approach to the pen and pad, Kraun makes one person feel at ease when it comes to the war that’s going on inside their head.
“I believe mental health is the key to bringing us closer as a society, and so I strive to accomplish that by using the tools I was born with and the things I’m passionate about.”
He continues, “Sometimes, I’m super productive, and I feel at peace, knowing I’ve contributed something positive to the world at large. Then there are days where I’m just in my head, wandering alone in the city, with my girl, or staying at home, trying to figure out this puzzle we call life.”
Still, Kraun’s music carries a broad spectrum of messages. Sometimes you’ll hear Kraun paying homage to Queens, unveiling a bit about his past, admitting to his wrongs, or encouraging others to keep the faith alive.
Most times, Kraun lays out rhymes of awareness so the human race can see society for what it is. Production-wise, Kraun uses jazzy, lo-fi, or boom-bap arrangements to tell stories about what he’s witnessed or seen.
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Y’all know Flushing, Queens is the hometown and the soul. Had to bring it back to the essence to close out this instrumental series. Main St., I’ll be back soon ☁️ . 🎥: @brownbearvisuals • 🎵: Instrumental to “Get The Money” by Michael Kraun produced by @djpain1 • . #queens #qgtm #flushing #flushingqueens #mainstreet #mainst #hiphop #nychiphop
“Queens, being such a diverse area, really affected my music because Queens will make you feel connected to the world. You’ve got all these intricate parts of Queens with different cultures and communities, and so when you work on your craft, you’re thinking beyond your own neighborhood,” he adds.
Michael Kraun’s moniker derives from his first name, Michael, and alteration of his last name, Krau. When you add an “n” to his last name, “Krau,” sounds like the word “crown.”
“Doing that to my last name, I think, gave me a sense of confidence and determination.”
This modification falls as a symbol that represents greatness. He concludes that evolving into something “great” would be something he’d pursue even during the days when he didn’t feel so driven.
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Before rapping, Kraun noticed his pen game at 11-years-old when writing fiction. He adds, “Many of the stories and poems I read back then as a kid incorporated rhymes. Regular writing felt like work. Writing in rhymes felt like drawing. It appeared as multi-layered puzzles in my mind that said things that a proper sentence couldn’t.”
Kraun continued, “I took all of that and transitioned it into rapping once Nas and Eminem’s music started permeating through school and connecting with me.” Fast forward, and Kraun recorded his first song at 15-years-old.
During this time, Kraun was working at a local movie theater called Main Street Cinemas. As he clocked day in and out, Kraun longed for an in house recording setup, so he saved every penny.
Eventually, he ended up buying one from a friend’s cousin, who was also a rapper. He recalls recording his first song in his room, saying there was a sock over the microphone. He also remembers his parents yelling in Hebrew to stop cursing so much. Kraun lists Nas, Eminem, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Drake, J.Cole, and Kendrick Lamar as inspirations.
His project series, Downtime, Downtime Pt.2, and Downtime Pt. 3, embody the same drive that Kraun has carried from his youth. After his project, aNY minute, Kraun rummaged through beats, hoping to be inspired.
Amid his research, the lyricist found four beats from a producer from Toronto named Omito Beats. According to Kraun, the beats created a vision of being in a chaotic city and trying to find a sense of stillness.
“They had this soundscape I’ve been trying to capture ever since Kanye’s Graduation: soulful, big, optimistic, and hard-hitting. It felt both innovative and nostalgic at the same time—lyricism with triumphant hooks,” he said.
To create in the booth, Kraun needs to be at Brewery Recording fully rested. He also lists water and his best friend and manager Mike Epstein as a necessity, saying that he incorporates Mike’s vision, feedback, and support in every artistic and strategic move.
The Downtime trilogy digs deep into Kraun’s past, motivation, optimism, grind, societal issues, battling demons, and overall maturity. Standout tracks on the albums include “What You Want,” “Cloud 9,” and “Get The Money,” to name a few. The other songs on each tape deserve some spins as well!
Downtime‘s first track, “Cloud 9,” carries a somber R&B beat with bright piano riffs, hi-hats, and snares. The song sees Kraun encouraging others to be themselves instead of falling victim to a clout induced society.
In the first verse, he raps, “All this madness I can’t handle, it’s like this planet forgot/Human race turned into animals, now this planet will rot.” He also speaks on the world’s trickery when it comes to fitting in and even addresses how “characters make you [someone] lose it all for one tweet.”
Instead of focusing on the next trend, he adds that it’s better to focus on your goals, your dreams. At the end of “Cloud 9,” he leaves listeners with some positive affirmations.
“Clarity” delves into Kraun’s ups and downs with alcohol and how music saved him from it all. Over a jazzy soundscape full of beating drums, he acknowledges the battles he’s fought through thus far.
Still, Kraun never let go of his dream to make an impact with rhymes. Instead, the musician pushed forward and followed his intuition. In the second verse, he unveils how his mind lingers on past failures and fallouts every so often. But once Kraun hops in the booth, the worry fades away.
One notable line goes, “I always had it in my hands/To become the man I always planned to be/My only plan to see what the world’s planned for me.” Ultimately, Kraun seeks answers in terms of his future.
He almost feels blindsided. Kraun says this record is one of his many favorites because it captures the consistent ambiguity and uncertainty of life.
Downtime‘s latter, Downtime Pt. 2, begins with “Old Me,” a song that digs deep into Kraun’s old ways. Over a Kehlani-type beat, the “Clarity” lyricist opens up about past actions and how one situation made him realize that he needed to do better.
With self-awareness, Kraun was able to break bad habits. Previously, Kraun swore not to trust a soul. But now, he’s ready to open up a bit more. Likewise, Kraun went from losing the love of his life to making her a soon-to-be wife. As for the other things he did in the past, well, he hopes to be forgiven for them someday.
The second song, “Long Nights,” explores Kraun’s drive. On the song, he admits to procrastinating and then staying up until the early hours to get a task done. At one point,
Kraun asks, “Can the kid from Queens do it big like the kid from Bedstuy?” He also raps about not reaching all of his goals yet but working hard to do so. As the song continues, Kraun reveals that materialistic things sounded good at one point, but as he matured, he realized that family is way more important.
Amid making it, Kraun wants to help his mother, positively impact the youth, and make his Ms. into a Mrs. Another standout piece of the song shows when Kraun calls out rappers who blow racks on jewelry statements. In an entendre fashion, Kraun raps, “Kids got gold grills but no words of wisdom.”
Lastly, Kraun’s Downtime Pt. 3 starts with “Get The Money.” On “Get The Money,” the pen master details the power that cash holds over a jazzy, lo-fi beat with bright piano riffs, open hi-hats, and electro-synths.
At first, Kraun reminisces on visions he’d have as a teen. Growing up, Kraun wasn’t the wealthiest, so “the dollar was deceiving.” Deeper into the song, he speaks on a time when he felt like no one understood him.
Until this day, Kraun feels sadness creeping in, yet he refuses to let capitalism crush him. Towards the minute mark, he uses a fast cadence to talk about the workforce’s corrupt ways with labor.
No matter how hard you work for others, it won’t be enough. In the chorus, Kraun says, “Queens get the money, it was written, I’ma prove it,” which references Wutang’s chorus in “C.R.E.A.M.”
All-in-all, Kraun plans on honing into his craft until the Benjamins appear. Aside from his lyricism, Kraun displays a significant number of entendres like “Thinkin, why be the goat? When lyin’ gets you the throne.”
This song is the first time that Kraun was able to communicate on a song about what it’s like for him to have the privilege of experiencing a different economic class than his parents.
“I’m proud I was able to communicate those feelings in the song and simultaneously embody what Queens is about.”
Following after, the piano-led single “What You Want” encourages those in the dumps to keep their head up. The song also motivates individuals who are losing hope. Over an upbeat boom-bap soundscape with faint guitar riffs, open hi-hats, and snares, Kraun reveals his success story.
Between lyrics, he raps about sleeping on “benches in Central Park to garnering enough support to benchpress Central Park.” He also details how he pushed through. Later into the song, Kraun calls out the human race for being friendlier to strangers than neighbors.
However, a message from a fan in London made Kraun conclude that not all people are ill-willed. At first, Kraun thought success was a long way coming. Then, alas, it came right around the corner.
Kraun says he relates with these bars, “We all corrupted/We all dealing with something/We all stuck with/The demons that we grew up with.” He feels like these lines speak to others about the correlation between our current mental health, childhood, and upbringing.