While he touches on several subjects, Atlanta’s Killer Mike is mostly known for the sociopolitical commentary in his lyrics and is often referred to as his generation’s Ice Cube.
Not the Are We There Yet Ice Cube, but the Amerikkka’s Most Wanted Ice Cube.
So when I heard he was doing an album produced entirely by NY rapper/producer El-P, I immediately thought of Amerikka’s Most Wanted, Cube’s first solo album which was produced by The Bomb Squad, and seen as an East-meets-West hybrid.
Conversely, this would be North-South collaboration.
The first track, “Big Beast,” starts the R.A.P. Music off with a bang. Featuring T.I., Bun B and Trouble on the hook, banger is the only way to describe it. (Yeah, I hate the word “banger” too. But it really does bang. No William Hung.) Adding Trouble was a bit unnecessary. With heavyweights like Killer Mike, Bun B and T.I. on the track, a rapped hook by a lesser rapper seems pointless. (Blogger’s note: What do I know? I’m typing this from my mother’s couch.) El-P mixes Yo! Bum Rush The Show-era Bomb Squad production with his usual lo-fi synth-heavy style. Also on “Big Beast,” Killer Mike sums up the entire album with the verse: I don’t make dance music, this is R.A.P./Opposite of the sucker shit you see on T.V.
One of the more commentary-dense tracks is “Reagan,” a scathing history lesson on the destructive impact Ronald Reagan had on America between Reaganomics, crack and Iran-Contra. It starts with all the preposterous claims made in rap music: We brag on having bread, but none of us are bakers. It could be argued that the wealth-based bragging increased when former drug dealers started rapping. It also tackles how prison labor is virtually slave labor. And how all this happened during the Reagan Era
Overall, this is one of the best records I’ve heard all year.
Killer Mike’s vivid rhymes and El-P’s bombastic beats felt like hearing Public Enemy for the first time. In today’s music landscape, not many rappers team with producers for entire albums.