Killer Mike started out as one of the umpteenth members of The Dungeon Family – a Native Toungesque collective formed around Outkast and The Goodie Mob. No offense to the rest of the crew, but many of them have had a hard time carving out successful solo careers or building solid fanbases for themselves. Maybe that’s why Mike felt the need to depart from the Dungeon Fam/Purple Ribbon Allstars some years back, seeking reinvention with his Grind Time series of street albums/mixtapes – perhaps the best move his career. Since having reconciled with Big Boi, Mike released Pl3dge to great critical acclaim, a mere appetizer for R.A.P. (Rebellious African People’s) Music, produced entirely by Def Jux frontman, El-P.
From the moment you hit “play” on R.A.P. Music, the album bludgeons you with a fist full of hardcore G-shit with it’s opening track, “Big Beast”, carving out a new genre of retro-future hip-hop, as each Mike, T.I., and Bun B bum rush El’s production with ease. The combination of Killer Mike’s southern drawl and El’s heavy beats present a unique combination not heard on any previous release thus far. “Untitled”, featuring Scar, finds Mike explaining his life philosophies over a wobbly dancehall rhythm as Scar sings the hook, while Mike channels UGK on the pimped out “Southern Fried”.
Mike uses his 12-song podium to great extent, rather than wasting time talking about the requisite subjects covered by every other rapper. While the light-hearted “JoJo’s Chillin’” finds him in fictional Slick Rick storytellin’ mode, he pulls back the curtain and gets autobiographical on “Willie Burke Sherwood”. “Reagan” finds him re-examining the effect the War-On-Drugs had on the Black community, leading directly into “Don’t Die”, a tale of him going up against a pack of dirty cops.
While El has made a career out of producing for more off-kilter, experimental emcees, seeing his production with a more grounded voice like Killer Mike reinvents his whole sound. This is the Bomb Squad producing Amerikkka’s Most Wanted all over again – an unexpected collaboration of two equally dope acts bringing out the best in one another, and restoring our faith in rap music.
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