Michael Render Made A Monster
After almost ten years in the business, Killer Mike's newest full length, "R.A.P. Music" is his strongest work yet.
Just a few days ago, a couple of friends and I were looking at a promo copy of Killer Mike’s great new elpee, “R.A.P. Music.” A thin piece of paper was attached to the jewel box. Some label shill banged out this rhetorical question: “Haven’t you been asking yerself why there hasn’t been a hip-hop artist with the strength and gravitas of Public Enemy?”
Since then, I dunno. Maybe it’s me getting old, but I lost interest in rap music as it grew popular and filled out with its own galaxy of stars. Simplified, anemic beats, the obsession with money, material wealth and name-brands–who cares? The genre has been stagnated since the mid 90s. Some artists have won my attention since: the buzzdrunk, jazz-based Basehead in the mid 90s; Wu Tang Clan and their multitude of solo project;, motor-mouthed, anti-bling queen Missy Elliot; the undeniably great Eminem; Eve (I’ve had a crush on her forever); and the joyful, vibrant Outkast (of course).
Then there’s Killer Mike. He appeared on Outkast’s Stankonia in 2000. He released his debut elpee, “Monster,” in 2003. The record seemed to have it all: great beats, songwriting less about shopping and more about the importance of the black community holding itself together, a rapper with the most commanding voice since Public Enemy’s Chuck D., and even some star power help from Mike’s friends and Atlanta neighbors, Outkast. Still, it disappointed. The elpeez he’s released since have had their moments, but none were bulletproof.
Like this week’s comic says, Killer Mike finally has a masterpiece. This music hits you hard and feels as real and as a gun going off next to yer head. It’s not a party in the Hamptons with Kanye and Kim Kardashian. Producer El-P brings simmering, Bomb Squad-style sound-scenery for Killer Mike to chew up and spit out in furious staccato rhymes. “R.A.P. Music” splits its time between NYC and Atlanta, chronicling the dangers of being black in both cities in such chilly, ominous tracks like “Untitled”, “Anywhere But Here.” He goes national with the epic track “Reagan.” Killer Mike notes the effects of Reaganomics on the black community by creating a contextual timeline from the late 80’s that continues right up to today. Killer Mike spares no one in any position of power, not even Barack Obama.
What Mike does best is deliver rapid-fire rhymes with authority, especially on “Go”, where his flow is just impossibly quick. Likewise for “Southern Fried”, where Mike refers to himself as “That fat black motherfuckin’ guy with the way with words, I tell ya he can rap, boy”. In the chorus, he winds a sly, fresh and clean nod to his pals in Outkast, grooving in a most deliciously smooth Curtis Mayfield style. It is classic, addictive stuff.
On his 2003 debut, Killer Mike spit out this line: “K-I-L-L, this is the name that came to alter the game.” In the summer of 2012, he just might actually do it. Let’s hope enough people give Michael Render the credit he deserves, even though he’d probably be content to run his Atlanta barber shop just the same.