Tag Archives: Illroots

Mike Waxx Makes His Rap Mark

When you’re a teenager in Westport, it’s not always easy to take a path that leads away from the crowd — the road that often ends on Wall Street, or in an executive suite.

Mike Waxx did.

In 10th grade Staples — where teachers called him by his real name, Mike Bowen — he formed his own company.  Illroots promotes artists and provides graphic design for mixtapes.

Mike spent every day working to make it a viable business.  Closing in on a million hits a month, and with thousands of fans on Facebook and Twitter, the growth has been spectacular.

Last year Mike spent 5 months planning a massive relaunch, turning Illroots into something much deeper than the standard hip-hop blog.

Despite no real education in video, he and a college friend created their own content.  (Other sites rely on posts sent in by artists or their handlers.)

In November Mike shot a music video for Kanye West’s artist Big Sean, with Chiddy Bang.  That song —  Too Fake — has been viewed over 2 million times on YouTube (Big Sean’s biggest video to date).

Now Mike is working on a new video with Big  Sean, which he says will put “Too Fake” to shame.

Last month, Illroots set up a house in Austin for the famed SXSW event.  Called “The Illmore,” sponsored parties every day and night drew great attention from press, celebrities and music fans — along with visits from huge hip-hop names like KiD CuDi, Whiz Khalifa, Asher Roth, Mac Miller and the Cool Kids.

Also in Austin, Mike previewed a line of branded merchandise.  It goes into production soon.

Mike Waxx

But Mike is  not resting on his laurels.  He’s finishing artist Nero’s new mixtape, slated for release this spring. Mike has managed the 18-year-old Harlem rapper for 3 years. His 1st solo project “won’t disappoint,” Mike promises.  “Hopefully he’ll become the next big thing.”

Since November Mike has been living in New York, working for and traveling with one of the biggest artists in hip-hop.  Even I recognize his name.

As he heads into the hip-hop stratosphere, Mike Waxx looks back at his, um, roots.

“Without the support of my family and friends, none of this would be possible,” he says.

“I’ve always been really ambitious.  I love seeing growth and progress.  That motivates me the most.”

At the moment, he says, “I’m just taking everything a day at a time, while still planning 6 months ahead.  I want to surround myself with great people, and be happy with every decision I make.

“Surrounding yourself with people that believe in you is one of the most important elements of success.

And, he says, “I want to make my family proud — especially since school wasn’t really for me.”

But the rap world is.  Mike Waxx is comfortable there.  He’s talented, and his work is embraced and celebrated.

Maybe one day a former Staples classmate will call him up — from Wall Street, or an executive boardroom — and ask Mike Waxx to share the secrets of his success.

Today WYFF; Tomorrow The World

Saturday’s Westport Youth Film Festival featured dozens of entrants from around the country.  Among the winners:  1 from our backyard.

“Buck ‘Em Down” — filmed and edited by Staples juniors Michael Holmes and Josh Rauh — was named “Best Music Video.”  If you know that calling it “dope” is high praise, then you should check it out on YouTube.

I don’t understand rap, and god willing I never will.  But I do understand teenagers’ passions, and “Buck ‘Em Down” is a success story not only for its 2 creators, but for senior Mike Bowen as well.

The video features Nero, a young rapper from New York City who is being promoted by Mike. He organized the filming session in Stamford, and gave it much of its gritty look.

Mike Waxx

Mike Waxx

Mike — who is also known by his nom de rap, Mike Waxx — is president of Illroots ( “ill” is high praise too — go figure).  He  worked as hard at building his business as other Stapleites work at physics, theater, debate or swimming.  Mike does it all:  He promotes artists, is a mixtape DJ, and is a tremendously talented graphic designer (example below).

His website is professional, wide-ranging, great-looking.  And if I knew anything about hip hop, I’m sure I would find it highly informative too.

With 4 million hits, it is also one of the top-rated hip-hop blogs in the world.

Mike has not created his business in a vacuum.  Staples courses like digital darkroom, design and technology, and audio production gave him the tools he needed.  But he did the rest.

As graduation nears, much attention is focused — rightly — on the high honors students, the ones going to Harvard and Stanford, the young men and women who are “leaders of tomorrow.”

Quietly, in their own way, the Mike Bowens of the world are making their mark too.  Somewhere along the way they found something they love, and they embraced it with all their heart.

I look forward to hearing from them in the years to come.  Even if, in the case of Mike, I’m not exactly sure what I’m listening to.

One of Mike's mixtapes

One of Mike's mixtapes