Category Archives: Killer Mike

Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music

Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music

4/5

2012

Killer Mike has always been an impressive, socially conscious rapper, but R.A.P. Music benefits from the ambitious goals he sets for himself this time. He aims not only to pay respect to the musical and racial heritage that brought hip-hop to where it is today but to provide a template for what rap should be going into the future. By all accounts, something like this should collapse under its own weight and go down as a well-meaning, if pretentious, footnote in hip-hop history. The astonishing thing is—as if we should have ever doubted him—that the album just about fulfills its promise. Even more, it’s light on its feet, filled with energy and life even as Mike goes on extended political diatribes like on “Reagan,” a scathing critique of economic policies and presidential administrations running from Ronald straight through to Obama.  That anger and skepticism manifests itself in other places too, whether it be the unflattering portraits of Atlanta and New York on “Anywhere But Here” or “Don’t Die”‘s tale of corrupt policemen, the latter of which directly recalls (and stands with) the classic anti-authoritarian rants of N.W.A and Ice Cube. He also has some choice words for the state of hip-hop these days, describing it as “fiction that is sold by conglomerates,” and instead wishes to elevate the genre, comparing rap music to a spiritual epiphany on the title track, which could easily serve as Mike’s thesis. Again, this sort of stuff doesn’t sounds like it should make for easy listening, but Mike raps thoughtfully and gracefully throughout, so listening is never a chore. Plus, even when R.A.P. Music stays away from big themes, it’s easy to just get caught up in his dexterous rapping skills, showcased in the rat-a-tat interjection “Go!” and “Untitled,” where he manages to rhyme “John Gotti” with “Dali,” then “Basquiat” with “Pac.”

And working with legendary underground producer El-P proves to be the masterstroke here, since he deftly mixes the old and the new, looking back to the past while pushing to the future. See, just like Mike, he seeks to celebrate the hip-hop’s golden age too, looking to prime Bomb Squad and Prince Paul for reference without sacrificing his own unique voice. Check how the propulsive beat and squelching synths mirror the stressful, kinetic energy of the erupting riot on “Don’t Die” or how he writes the manual on creating classic old-school boom bap with “JoJo’s Chillin.”  Top to bottom, the production is superb, with effortless slices of lively, gnarled funk around every corner, suiting the intelligence and humor in Mike’s words perfectly. Yeah, R.A.P. Music could stand to be a little hookier and more memorable in places, but even if it isn’t a true classic, it definitely stands as one of the year’s most urgent rap records. On the title track, Mike isn’t lying when he says “it’s what my people need and the opposite of bullshit.”

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