When You Need a Party Thrown, Call Mike Bone
When You Need a Party Thrown, Call Mike Bone
Nov 17, 2022
From America's Got Talent to the Hit Show Reservation Dogs
If you’ve been watching the hit sitcom Reservation Dogs on FX and Hulu, holla! Sorry. I mean if you’ve been watching the show, you should recognize this musical duo. Or, if you’re a loyal watcher of America’s Got Talent, chances are you recognize them from a stint on the show in 2013. Meet Mike Bone, Native American rapper brothers Lil Mike and Funny Bone, perhaps better known as Mose and Mekko from the show.
Reservation Dogs is a breakthrough in indigenous representation on television, both in front of and behind the camera. The show has accomplished something few others have: it has successfully introduced a mainstream audience to a Native American culture without leaning on reductionist stereotypes.
It’s is a teen comedy drama series that follows the exploits of four indigenous teenagers on a reservation in rural Oklahoma as they rob, steal, and save in order to get to California. The guys are the show’s version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, rollin’ through on bicycles every now and then, offering the perfect hint of comedic rap gold in perfect timing when needed. But they’re not just rappers; they’re also songwriters, actors, motivational speakers with hearts of gold, and all-around awesomely cool, entertaining guys.
Mike Bone made their national appearance in 2013 on America’s Got Talent and were well-received. They’ve had a successful career of winning contests, being on live television in the U.S. and Canada, hosting parties, DJ’ing night clubs, and opening for big names like Jacob Latimore, Wine-O, Lil Troy, Billy Ray Cyrus, Bobby Valentino, and T-Bone, to name a few. They’ve even performed in penitentiaries.
The guys were seeing a ton of success … right up until Covid slammed into the world and shut life down. But something positive came out of the halt for these two: a chance to audition for a new television show from hit filmmakers Taika Watiti and Sterlin Harjo. And the rest is history.
I had the awesome opportunity to talk face to face (virtually) with Lil Mike and Funny Bone, and we had such a great time, it’s best you read their replies, mostly unedited, for yourselves.
KB: So, guys, thank you both so much for doing this interview. You’re widely known as Lil Mike & Funny Bone, Mike Bone, or Mose and Mekko. But tell us what your actual names are.
LM: Yeah, so both of our names are Jesus. But I’m oldest.
FB: And we have a younger brother named Jesus as well.
LM: (laughs) It’s what happens when Native Americans name children. Our father had the choice of naming us and he wasn’t, I guess, thinking straight when he thought it would be a good idea to name [us] all the same name.
KB: Thus, the nicknames.
LM: Our nicknames reflect who we are. I became little Mike because I love to dance and [always used to dance around] to Michael Jackson.
FB: Well, you know, in the 90s, Bone Thugs [-N-Harmony] was big and doin’ their thang. We were trying to build our brand, and I needed a name when I joined [Mike] onstage at the age of 12. They just kind of took my characteristic, because my thing was going out on stage while [Mike] was switching out songs, and I would tell a joke or do something funny and make the crowd laugh, so we took that, added the bone—funny bone—and I created an acronym for it that stands for Fully United New Nourished Young Brotha of Noble Essense. Just means I’m new and nourished as a believer of God and I’m of nobility because [he’s my father].
KB: Let’s talk about your height. You’re 52” tall. On your website, you describe yourselves as, “shorter than everyone else but too tall to be midgets.” Do you guys ever experience size discrimination and if so, can you tell us how you dealt with it?
FB: Once we went on tour with Extreme Midget Wrestling. Of course, now it’s known as Extreme Micro Wrestling because of, you know, cancel culture. But yeah, we were the halftime show. Everybody called us “fake midgets.”
LM: You know, if you allow certain things to offend you, then you’re allowing those people that are trying to offend you to have power over your emotions.
FB: You give away your energy.
LM: And that’s something that we do different. It’s like yo, you can call us all kinds of stuff out the book, but you can’t offend me because I’m not easily offended, because I don’t accept what you have to say.
FB: I think that’s just natural as indigenous people … you learn to grow up like that and then embrace and laugh at what people say about us. Like when [Howard] Stern was trying to clown around on us about girls and Mike just said to him, “Get me a chair. I’ll be alright.”
LM: You shouldn’t let things get to you so easily and so fast because not everybody will have the right approach from their minds in certain areas, whether it be judging someone based off this or that], you shouldn’t be so judgmental because there’s always gonna be somebody …
FB: … hate does not change your value, and that’s something we stand on and push really hard. Same with no smoking and no drinking. We sing about it in our songs. We go to schools and talk about it.
KB: And do you experience any clap back on that platform?
LM: We get laughed at like, “What’s wrong with y’all?” Ain’t nothing wrong with us. We like to have a clear mind in what we do. We don’t need a fake substance to find satisfaction.
FB: We also abstain from sex.
LM: We would rather know someone more emotionally than physically, and I’ve never wanted to be trapped by an addiction.
FB: You gotta be careful with all that stuff, because there [are] consequences.
LM: We lived in the city, goin’ to parties, seein’ all these different people doin’ all these kinds of stuff, and we’d be like, “Don’t do that.” It made us see we wanted the dancing and the loud music, not the drinking and the smoking.
FB: We learn from others’ mistakes. That’s the main thing and that’s something we push: learn from others’ mistakes; you don’t gotta make them.
LM: We’re from the hood, so we’re on alert [at parties and events] already.
FB: How we do it without drugs & alcohol, this is just us. We love it. We’re just having a good time. We’re too short to get high. You just got to joke around and have fun with life.
LM: We base our performances off the type of crowd and event. If it’s an indigenous event, we sing songs that relate to those issues, but if it’s something churchy, we change it up and do a little more faith-based performance.
KB: Mike, I read on ChoctawNation.com that when you were 12, you tried out for a talent show with a performance of your poetry about a friend dying of gang violence … to a jazz beat. How’d the idea to use a jazz beat come to you?
LM: I don’t remember if it was HBO or BET, but they’d have these poets go on T.V. and they would do their thing … say a poem or whatever, and it seemed to me like the ones with the music captured me more, so I said to myself okay, I’m gonna do a jazz beat to my poem in front of the school to encourage people not to get into gang violence and whatnot, and it just, I guess it captured people in a good way. Afterwards, a kid came up saying he liked my rap, I was like oh snack! I should try to rap! There’s probably a VHS recording out there somewhere at an Oklahoman Jefferson Middle School. Somebody has to have it. I made that mix off cassette tapes too. I’m dancing like Michael Jackson but in a transforming style on stage, so I’m having to change clothes on stage. So, I start out as Jackson 5 – bell bottoms, afro—then I spin around and rip my bottoms off and I’m doing older Michael Jackson, then I spin around again and rip the afro off and take my loud jacket off … “the hippie one” … and I’m dancing to “Beat It” and “Billie Jean,” and I take off the black jacket (laughs) and I take that off and I have the silver pads on (laughs), and I take another layer of pants off and I have silver pants on and I’m doing “Black or White” and just dancing and everyone’s like, “Yo! He just wardrobe changed four different times on stage!”
KB: Nice! Let’s talk about the show for a moment. How’d you guys wind up on Reservation Dogs?
FB: Well, we were riding the America’s Got Talent wave, then Covid hit and we had to shut down touring. We were broke for the next two years creating merch online, trying to sell to our fanbase and make money to pay the bills, and it wasn’t enough. A manager came at us with an opportunity for acting, and it was local and paying so we went to audition. They wanted two eleven-year-old twins in the casting call and so, we kind of look like we’re eleven and …
LM: (laughs) … we gave it a shot and they called back and said, “We could work with y’all.”
FB: And we were like cool!
LM: Yeah, we did not think they were gonna pick us up because not only were we not eleven-year-old twins, but we also changed the script. There were cuss words and we took those out, and I think we even changed up the jokes.
FB: Yeah, we changed the jokes too.
LM: And they still loved it and were like, “Yooo! There’s something here.”
FB: The cool part is while we were on set, the cast and crew were saying how good of a job we did and how much we stand out, and how much they could see a spinoff of us.
KB: Who came up with the idea for y’all to ride around on bikes?
FB: It was the writers.
LM: The writers … I think because eleven-year-olds don’t own a car.
FB: Originally when we read the script, we didn’t think about the characters being 11. We thought it was gonna be us. The script read that Mose and Mekko pull up on the scene on set, and we [were] thinking on we were gonna get to drive a car.
LM: Yeah, we thought we was gonna get to roll up in some wheels. (laughs)
FB: (laughs) So we got to the scene and they had the bikes, and that kind of threw us off.
LM: Yeah, that threw us way off because man, it’s been years since we rode a bike. I fell two times.
FB: (laughs) We hadn’t used those muscles in a while. [The bikes] were old school Schwinn [bikes] with no cushion. But it was a fun experience. Major actors were on there and we got to work with them, and that was really cool.
KB: There are so many fantastic aspects to the show, from it being the first Native sitcom to its creators, Taika Watiti and Sterlin Harjo, on to the cast of teens and supporting roles—even this love for fried catfish. What’s the best part about the show to you guys? And speaking of catfish, is that true? Do Natives have a thing for catfish?
LM: (smiles) I think it’s just Oklahomans in general … different [reservations].
FB: We love some grilled catfish with Cajun spices, not the fried stuff.
LM: My favorite part about the show is the accents. Not every Native American has the same accent, and not every Native American looks the same. You have the light-skinned ones and the dark-skinned ones, the ones with facial hair and without, so it’s just cool they’re incorporating that [into the show].
FB: We even had a character in season 2 who was afro-indigenous, and a lot of people, I think, are gonna be surprised at next season because now they’re expanding outside of Oklahoma to California, and hopefully we’ll get to experience some Native Americans out there and they’ll jump between the two states to see what the Indian Mafia has done with Mose and Mekko vs. what the Reservation Dogs are doing in Cali. Cool thing is, we grew up in the city in public schools, homie. That’s why we don’t have a typical native accent.
KB: You guys are Pawnee tribe members. The word skoden is used a lot in the show. What does it mean?
FB: We are. Loud and proud. [Skoden] is native slang for let’s go then. It’s something they say on Reservation Dogs and people are picking it up and running with it. We actually wrote a song about it—it’s a single. It’s streaming everywhere. It’s called “SKODEN.”
KB: How do you guys get away with holding it together while filming? There’s so much that’s hilarious and enlightening but also heartbreaking. You never know what you’re going to get.
LM: I caught myself crying this season and afterwards, there was a joke and I’m laughing through tears.
FB: Something I like is that the show touches on deep issues Indigenous communities face and it relates to a lot of other cultures and communities, so it’s humanizing Indigenous communities.
(Both guys acknowledged knowing words have power. Bone says, “That’s why we write the way we do. Every word has meaning.”)
KB: Let’s talk about your music. You guys have a slew of songs out there on multiple albums, with each album featuring 20 songs or more. Where do you find so much inspiration?
FB: I think growing up dealing with what we did has helped us. We’ve seen a lot and been in the middle of a lot, and me and Mike are the only ones sitting there praying over someone dying while everyone else is screaming and running.
LM: You know, music can hurt or harm you, depending on the content, which is why we encourage people to listen to [positive music] …
FB: … to plug similar artists like us.
LM: If you really listen to our songs, you’ll notice the change between songs. We don’t sound the same on every song.
FB: You guys support all these other artists that put 10 or so songs on their albums. We put 20 or more. We had to convince people to buy the albums, so we needed a lot of songs
influenced by life circumstances. Other stuff just comes to us out the blue and it just piles up and next thing we know we got 20 songs and are like, “Whoa, we should probably release this.”
LM: [Our song] “Wifey” is rapped in the style of Pretty Ricky (the reason a lot of 90s kids got pregnant), so we wrote a song in that style that talks about saving yourself for marriage. We made a song about celibacy to the beat of the song about sex.
FB: Yeah, and “Pop Pop,” (famously featured in Reservation Dogs). If you don’t know what you’re singing about, it sounds like we’re talking about shooting stuff, right? But if you listen deeply, that song is about shooting down evil spirits and negative energy, and that’s something we live by.
LM: We also have “316,” which is a song about missing someone you love and being up thinking about that person at 3:16 in the morning. But a lot of people think we’re talking about the Bible verse John 3:16. On one end, its about missing your relationship with God and on the other end, it’s about missing someone you love.
FB: “Fists in the Air” is our song about raising awareness for the missing and murdered indigenous people. We wanted to use our platform to raise awareness and make an anthem for that.
LM: It’s a west-coast feel with a bounce to it … a little west-coast gangsta rap.
FB: “After Party” is a song dedicated to people who’ve passed on. We had lost so many people and we were like, “Yo, we should make a song that’s happy instead of something that draws you down.” You gotta remember a person in a good light and the time you had with them, and that they’re no longer in pain or dealing with the troubles of this world. They’re in the after world ... the after party.
LM: The closest song I can think of that didn’t drag me down was “Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. In my opinion, there will be a big family reunion when it’s your time, and we all get to go and hang out and [reminisce]. It’s just our way of bringing light and joy back to peoples’ lives.
FB: We’re believers, not traditional Christians. We believe in a lot of stuff—Christ, aliens, crystals, spirit guides and spiritual gifts, healers. We believe in the powers of the moon and the water and the fire.
LM: Don’t let someone else’s actions push you away from Creator because of their evil intent. If you feel torn between the church and traditional ways, Creator gave us our traditional ways before someone gave us a book, you know? Smudging, medicines … the same way creator gave Moses knowledge, Creator came to us in different forms and gave us the knowledge we needed to care for this place. But we haven’t been taking care of it like we should.
KB: Any albums in progress or upcoming releases?
LM: Girrrrl! Reservation Dogs had us rap some songs we wrote way back in the day. So, like “Pop Pop” was 2005/6, then we have a song called “Problems” we wrote and rapped on the bikes [on the show] … and then I was like, “Yo! We should remake ‘Problems’ and remake ‘Pop Pop’ and put it on an album with better beats and better recording quality!” Because those two songs, when we recorded [them], were not recorded in a legit studio …
FB: (laughs) It was, uh, at-home productions.
LM: And so, I [said] yeah, we workin’ on that—bringin’ back some oldies—and then the “Problems” song isn’t as churchy and wild as it was, but it matches what we did on the show. We’re taking our time with it because we don’t want to …
FB: … we don’t want to just throw something out there.
LM: We critique ourselves to the max, and we don’t wanna just write any old thing and put it out there.
FB: And plus, putting out music now is way different than it has been in the past because of [the internet]. You can put out singles now, and then put out the whole album, and that’s what we’re starting to do.
LM: This high-speed generation has put out music too fast to where some of the songs people are listening to could’ve been done better.
KB: Or it all just sounds the same.
FB: Yeah, we don’t listen to mainstream music because of that. It’s either terrible, or it all sounds the same.
LM: I feel like take time, listen to it. Don’t enjoy it just because you want it. Something we do different is we’ll record a song, let it sit for a day, then come back and listen as if it weren’t our song. That way I can be like I should sing it this way instead of that or we should change these lyrics. It is more expensive doing it that way, but at the end it’ll be so much more worth it.
FB: Plus, the producers have ideas that [takes the song] to a whole other level.
We want to work on some rock, and we wanna do a remix of “Rain Dance” ... do a rock-n-roll version.
(“Rain Dance” was Mike Bone’s hit from America’s Got Talent. You can view it below, and you’re gonna want to, trust me. It’s a great song.)
FB: We’ve recorded [the song] three different ways. I wrote it in high school – just me with a mixed-tape beat, and people loved that so much, we had to have our producer make an original beat and we added Mike, and America’s Got Talent picked us up with that. We released a dubstep remix, and that’s on the Rain Dancealbum, and we wanna work on a rap version … [and] we have a song out now about police brutality. It’s called “That’s Enough,” and it talks about all this mess police get away with, and then when they get caught, [all they get] is just paid leave. It endorses more of that kind of behavior. And we’re like, “That’s enough.” Enough of this, enough of that. We need consequences for these folks.
FB: We’re also working on being in some different film projects. A movie. Next year we start filming for a movie called Brave, and I’m hoping it’s gonna be big because there’s a lot of big producers and actors on it. We aren’t the main characters, which is a good thing because we get to focus on our music and touring and stuff.
KB: All of this is so fantastic. Do you have a message for readers and listeners out there?
FB: (smiles) If you need a party thrown, call Mike Bone! (laughs) That’s our motto. And stay original.
LM: (smiles) I would say that with everything that you do, treat each other sacred, because as a human species we only have each other to lean on, and causing other people trauma or pain in any form is only gonna hurt you in the long run, because it makes you look like the evil person and it leaves the legacy that you are the evil person. It all starts with you and your actions, so treat each other sacred.
And there you have it, fellow entertainment lovers. A talented duo who are an open book with quite a message. You’ll definitely want to visit their website at www.MikeBoneMedia.com. Be sure to check out their AUDIO page for all their singles, albums, and mix tapes, and their VIDEOS page for all kinds of viewing content. After that, visit their STORE and buy some merch in support of these worthy independent artists just tryin’ to make it doin’ what they love. You can also find links to all of their social media directly on their home page.
Listen and watch away, entertainment lovers.
*photos provided by Mike Bone Media
Questions or comments?
Holler at Keeley at firstname.lastname@example.org.