The story of Killer Mike’s career is the story of non-fu*k giving. When Mike first came onto the national stage Snappin & Trappin alongside Outkast he had the cojones to call his own verse a classic, a move some considered arrogant, but he didn’t give a fu*k. He called it like he saw it. As he fought to establish a solo career he could have caved to the pressure to simplify his music, to either be a “street” rapper or a political rapper, but Killer Mike is more complicated than that. He’s both a reader … ...Read the full album review
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The story of Killer Mike’s career is the story of non-fu*k giving. When Mike first came onto the national stage Snappin & Trappin alongside Outkast he had the cojones to call his own verse a classic, a move some considered arrogant, but he didn’t give a fu*k. He called it like he saw it. As he fought to establish a solo career he could have caved to the pressure to simplify his music, to either be a “street” rapper or a political rapper, but Killer Mike is more complicated than that. He’s both a reader of the books and leader of the crooks, so nary a fu*k was given. Mike could look at the success of his last album, Pl3dge, and do his best to replicate it…but that would be something a fu*k-giver would do. Instead, he linked up with Def Jux founder and post-apocalyptic producer El-P, in his own right a man with a long history of non-fu*k giving, to create R.A.P. Music, a project that’s the best of his career precisely because it’s the complete and total absence of a fu*k given.
Make no mistake, Killer Mike absolutely cares what you think, there might not be another rapper alive as vocal in responding to both the media and public, but that doesn’t mean he lets the world influence his music. Perhaps the presence of consummate outsider El-P pushed him even, perhaps Mike has simply reached the point in his life where he’s completely confident in his abilities and ideas, perhaps both, but R.A.P. Music sounds like exactly no other album to come out this year. It’s a project that’s simultaneously heavily historic and recklessly progressive, a project that’s both a street fight and college lecture. In other words, if you prefer your racks stacked up on other racks, you might want to look elsewhere.
We might as well start with the street fight portion of the program. Scratch that, Big Beast isn’t so much a street fight as it is a riot. In addition to one of the best T.I. verses we’ve heard in a minute and Bun B‘s as solid as ever, Big Beast is Mike at his biggest and baddest, an emcee who can weave Boogie Down Productions and old school Def Jam references into aggressively uppercut flows. Southern Fried also finds itself on the “turn the volume up” side of the spectrum showcasing Mike’s ability to really ride a flow, as does the aptly titled Go!, which ups the tempo and goes heavy once again on the rap references. And while unlike Big Beast and Go! it demands some more serious mental energy to follow, JoJo’s Chillin is one of the more impressive exercises in storytelling rap you’re going to here. No doubt about it, the man can rap.
But we’ve known about Mike’s ability to First 48 a mic since the Akshon days. Where R.A.P. Music really makes its mark is in its ability to touch on both global politics and the effect those international decisions have on the average block. Don’t Die uses heavy narration to explore race and police brutality with a depth we almost never get – not all cops are bad, but the ones that are can end your life – and Ghetto Gospel is an intensely personal track that takes its cuts at everything from religion to the justice system. But it’s Reagan that stands out the most. Rarely, if ever, do we hear an emcee blame both himself and the world’s most powerful men for the plethora of ills plaguing our communities, but on Reagan Killer Mike gives us: “…all we seem to give them is some balling and some dancing / And some talking about our car and imaginary mansions / We should be indicted for bullshit we inciting / Hand the children death and pretend that its exciting.” Yeah, you’re gonn have to think that sh*t over, and that’s exactly the point.
Those who measure the worth of an album on copies sold will likely dismiss and discredit R.A.P. Music, but in doing so they’d be dismissing one of the braver hip-hop albums we’ve heard in years. Actually, on second thought, maybe it’s not brave at all. Maybe when you don’t give a fu*k making an album like this is easy. Frankly I don’t know, I’m still prone to giving a fu*k what others think about my work (on occasion). But with R.A.P. as my guide, maybe someday I too can learn to simply speak the truth at all times, regardless of the consequences.
Listen to More: Killer Mike Written by Nathan S.
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Look Back At It ft. Killer Mike" (2008)
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