Biography: Bars for Days by Mic Nickels

He was born Michael Ray Winick and had fate not stepped in, he would have had a comfortable, conventional and upper-middle class life as the son of a nice Jewish doctor and his wife. Then a nurse broke the rules and allowed 18-year-old Donna Lynn Winick to hold her baby before he was given up for adoption—and she never let him go. The journey from son of a single, teenaged mother to becoming a rapper, musician, hip hop emcee and producer Mic Nickels is laid down with clarity and precision in the recently released Bars for Days.

Nickels writes his thrumming memoir with an ethnographer’s eye for human behavior and a gifted lyricist’s ear for the rhythm and the meaning of words. In a voice reminiscent of an old friend catching up during a car trip, Nickels recounts the twists, turns and tumultuous experiences of coming of age in the hip hop generation with an absentee father and a mother who struggled with addiction, but surrounded by a large, loving and opinionated family.

It is this dedication to family that serves as the foundation of Nickels’ examination of his entry into a world where young musicians created a musical genre that had never before existed, and the ideals that they sought to impart through their music. We follow Nickels as he tends bar at a comedy club in Miami and a jazz club in New York City, meets celebrities and emcees from the underground Hip Hop community, and begins to rise in the music industry.

His failures and successes in music and his world travels underscore the challenges of becoming a long-distance father and watching his beloved mother fight for her life, even as he struggles to survive an early case of Covid-19. Ultimately, Bars for Days is a deeply intelligent and keen look at how music and the dedication of family transformed one man’s life and inspires him – and us – to have hope for better days to come. ◊

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