Back in the early 90’s westcoast hip-hop gave us one of the most ferocious and politically-charged rappers the industry has ever seen. That man was Ice Cube and his seminal LP’s AmeriKKKas Most Wanted and Death Certificate will always be considered amongst the greatest albums in hip-hop history. Why? Because those albums were full of such intensity and passion that the social commentary defining Cube’s lyrics had a profound impact on many listeners worldwide – oh yeah, and the songs gave us nothing but quality.
The sound that Cube gave us back then is rarely ever recaptured by modern hip-hop but every so often someone comes along and embodies the same kind of intensity that hip-hop fans long for – Killer Mike is that someone.
When OutKast released their hit "The Whole World" the world didn’t know much about guest rapper Killer Mike. Mike went on to gain some commercial success with songs like "A.D.I.D.A.S" and ‘My Chrome’ but has remained underground (and underappreciated) for much of his career. The underrating of the Atlanta-based emcee is set to change dramatically with R.A.P Music (Rebellious African People Music), Killer Mike’s sixth studio album, produced entirely by acclaimed producer/rapper El-P.
El-P obviously wasn’t content on giving Mike anything but the best, and he sure does his thing on "Big Beast." The opening track, which also features southern heavyweights T.I and Bun-B, brings elements of early 90’s hip-hop productions (think Rick Rubin) and melts them into a typical southern rap, 808-heavy beat, emerging as one of the most creative sounds the genre has heard all year. Killer Mike’s performance on the track is undeniable, getting more intense as the song continues and pulling off the rare feat that is outshining both Bun-B and T.I.
Second track ‘Untitled’ tones down the ferocity so Mike can make one thing clear: he won’t back down for anybody, even if his often extreme views may put him in harm’s way.
The political and social commentary on this album is at times overwhelming, but even if you disagree with his many well-articulated views, it’s hard to deny the passion with which Mike attacks El-P’s productions.
Not even Ronald Reagan is safe from Mike’s rage, already-controversial track "Reagan" plays out as one of the highlights of the album and a vicious commentary on not only Reagan and other presidents but institutionalised racism and poverty, concluding with the hard-hitting line “I’m glad Reagan dead.”
It makes sense to follow up with "Don’t Die," another highlight and surely the closest we’ll ever get to N.W.A’s immortal "Fuck the Police." Killer Mike shows of his impeccable ability to put together a memorable narrative that is sure to propel this song (and album) to classic status.
El-P shows up to spit a verse on the excellent "Butane"; "JoJos Chillin" recalls Cube’s "Once Upon a Time in the Projects"; "Southern Fried" has Mike showing off some nice vocals as he sings the hook; and "Willie Burke Sherwood" gives us a look into Mike’s childhood, playing out as a heart-felt tribute to his late grandparent.
By the time the album wraps up with the epic title track, it’s clear that R.A.P Music has the potential to impact hip-hop in a way that no album has in the past decade. It’s really not hard to see why R.A.P Music is receiving a massive amount of praise from critics worldwide.
Even with heavily anticipated releases from promising rookies Kendrick Lamar and Big K.R.I.T fast approaching, it’s going to be near impossible for anyone to top Killer Mike this year.
Review Score: 9.7 out of 10