Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
(produced by El-P)
This album has blown me away so much that I’m mad at myself for taking so long to listen to it. No one I know is/was talking about it so I had to discover it on my own, but even once I got it I took months to actually listen to it. Lemme explain why…
Ever since his head-hunting verse on Snappin And Trappin off Outkast’s Stankonia, I knew Killer Mike was someone to pay attention to. He continued to steal the show on Jay-z’s Poppin Tags, Outkast’s The Whole World, and a song on Big Boi’s Speakerboxxx whose name I can’t remember. Sometime during this era he dropped an album of his own, Monster, which had two great singles: A.D.I.D.A.S. showed a calmer, maybe even fun-loving Mike, and Akshon had his usual energy over a matching beat. Somehow I never listened to the rest of the album, that’s a shortcoming that I need to fix post-haste.
After all this I guess Mike got disenchanted with the major label machine and went indie. That would have been cool, but he also seemed to get into some beef with his homey/mentor, Big Boi. In the fallout from this beef, the Dungeon Family influence fell to the wayside. and created a hole in his music. Some people loved his new music, especially the never-say-anything-negative “journalists” at hiphopdx. But on his new material, without those “southern hip-hop YET very creative” beats from the Dungeon Family to draw some energy from, Mike sounded listless, like an average southern rapper on a boring southern beat. Sure he still had good topics, but the sound of the songs, IE what you hear before the lyrical meaning even registers, was all wrong. Damn near everything that made me want to pay attention to him was gone. So I stopped. He dropped something like 5 mixtapes/street albums but besides a song here or there to confirm my continued distaste, I listened to none of it.
Along comes R.A.P. Music, and I gotta admit that I copped it mainly off the strength of El-P’s name. But that still wasn’t enough to get me to immediately give it a listen. But once I did finally play it, WOW! Turns out Mr. Producto was exactly the kick in the ass that Mike needed! I’m a firm believer in the power of good beats to make wack rappers do ok and good rappers reach amazing heights, and this album is proof! Not to mention the fact that El-P is known to be a control freak who brings out the best in people. Shit just listen to Cannibal Ox’s El-P-helmed The Cold Vein and then listen to Vast Aire and Vordul Mega’s later El-P-less solo albums. Guess which era of music falls flat…
But that’s a tangent for another day. In hindsight, it makes perfect sense that El-P could bring Killer Mike’s fire back. His beats meld electronica, Public Enemy, and classic NYC boom-bap so well, it should have been obvious that Mike’s once-energetic flow would match them perfectly. In case you can’t tell, I like the energetic songs on here the most, but not every song is a 4-minute sprint and I don’t mind one bit. Every song on here is good, no must-skips.
I’d like to think that these two will do this again, since it turned out so well as neither has major label red tape to get in the way. Lately these “two semi-random indie artists make an album together” releases have been one-time excursions. We’ve been waiting for Madvillainy 2 for how fuckin long? Feels like a damn decade! I’m interested to see if Killer Mike will now realize what he needs to be at his best. Hopefully he’ll never fall back into sounding like anything less than the monster (see what I did there?) that he is. For now I’m just enjoying R.A.P. Music as loud as possible and hoping my eardrums can take the punishment. Even the more calm songs demand high volumes.
In case you got caught slippin like me, here are two songs that should give you a good taste of what you’re missing. At the bottom is the video for Big Beast. I embedded both the song by itself and the video since the video has some movie stuff on top of the song audio. It’s a cool experience but the song has to be heard by itself too.
Big Beast ft Bun B and TI
Anywhere But Here
Big Beast Official Video