Whether he was always this complex and we just weren’t able to hear it, or he has grown as a...
DJBooth Album Review
Mike’s new album, Pl3dge, is the latest in his I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind series, and in many ways, lyrically, musically and conceptually, it’s his most complete work yet. While the critics and haters (I’m only one of those) will find plenty to tear apart, ultimately Pl3dge is a work that should serve as an announcement; Mike is a rap force that can’t be contained. Hide the children, and men who act like children, this is grown man rap.
With the exception of Ready, Set, Go, which we’ll get to in a moment, the first five tracks off Pl3dge are as solid a musical manifesto I’ve heard on an album in a minute. Mike’s devised a way to marry street banger beats and flow with conscious lyricism (isn’t consciousness the least we should expect?) that’s difficult to describe, but descriptions are why they pay me the big money (not really). Let’s start with opening cut So Glorious, a soulfully tinged record that by the time it closes has found Killa Kill touching on everything from a corrupt government to a corrupt music industry, topping it off with a pretty hilarious 50 Cent impression. Glorious is a solid opening shot but That’s Life II is where things really get moving. Over a beat that most would use to Pyrex cook over Mike instead cooks up some biting commentary that fires crippling shots at Bill Cosby, Oprah, Obama, Diddy and Jay-Z, and that’s just the first verse. Life is my desert island track, the one song off the album I would take with me if I was stranded on a desert island, mostly because it’s so rare to hear an emcee with so much spit like he’s got nothing to lose. That sense that Mike is a dangerous outsider, a man not beholden to the usual trappings of the industry, pervades the album. From the religion-focused God in the Building II to the inspirational Follow Your Dreams, in a day and age where real has never sounded so fake, Killer Mike delivers some of the realest rap we’ve heard in years.
While the difference between the modes isn’t stark, or conflicting, Pl3dge does have two distinctly different modes. We’ll call mode one revolutionary grind (see the paragraph above), and mode two just plain grinding. Example one, the aforementioned Ready, Set, Go, the album’s most successful single, a record with a hypnotizing beat and Mike in full battle rap mode. But Ready, Set, Go is relatively mellow compared to the album’s more aggressive offerings, most notably, of course, Animal, a banger that checks off every box in the trap music list. Lex Luger-esque beat? Check. Chantable hook? Check. Guest verse from Gucci Mane? Check and check. While for some Animal will be a welcome opportunity to switch off their brain, I can’t help but wish Mike gave us some more human in place of some Animal, but it’s a small complaint in the midst of an otherwise rock steady sequencing. Hell, even the track for the ladies, Lullaby, works, allowing Mike and Twista to get romantic without stooping to radio ready clichés. It’s just a different kind of grinding…if you’re picking up what I’m putting down. I’m talking about f**king.
While other artists have struggled to contain both their lofty ambitions and animal instincts on the same album (see also, David Banner), and while it does have its low points and high points, Pl3dge sounds remarkably cohesive. I can listen to the Jeezy assisted Go Out on the Town and the deeply constructed American Dream and hear the same man, the same artist, at their center. Killer Mike. Mike Bigga. Killa Kill. Grind Time official, bang, bang, bang. Indeed.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 05/24/11
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First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Look Back At It ft. Killer Mike" (2008)
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