Georgia rapper offers stark examination of societal ills on his sixth LP.
Marcus J. Moore 2012
"This album was created entirely by Jaime and Mike." Jaime (Meline) being El-P, the iconoclastic producer from Brooklyn, and Mike being Killer Mike (aka Michael Render), the brash MC from Atlanta, Georgia. With all the force captured on R.A.P. Music — window-shattering bass lines, dizzying drum breaks and acerbic lyricism — one would think a militia recorded this album, Killer Mike’s sixth solo offering. But through all this heart-stopping activity, it really comes down to just two people: Jaime and Mike.
Here, they’ve crafted an abrasive pièce de résistance that grows more agitated as it plays, condemning crooked police officers and the American justice system, among other things. This music declares war: face-punching, heart-stomping, no-holds-barred conflict for your ears and mind. It’s an all-out assault on pop culture and its worldly accessories.
Mike doesn’t waste time, either. "Hardcore G s***, homie, I don’t play around / Ain’t s*** sweet ‘bout the peach, this Atlanta, clown," he exclaims at the top of Big Beast, the album’s energetic opener. From the onset, it’s clear that R.A.P. Music will live beyond mainstream music’s popular notions: you don’t dance (easily) to El-P’s beats and Mike doesn’t (usually) rap about his clothes. This isn’t easy listening — no overly sensitive bellyaching and no hollow wordplay. Instead, this album might make you feel uncomfortable, but it’s supposed to.
Reagan is a case in point, a condemning piece focusing its ire on a certain actor turned US President. Over an ominous blend of sullen piano keys and deep synths, Mike is candid: "Thanks to Reaganomics, prison turned to profits / ‘Cause free labour’s the cornerstone of US economics." The mood gets even darker on Don’t Die, which denounces rogue cops and the federal government. On Anywhere but Here, Mike ponders the sordid histories of New York City and Atlanta.
Killer Mike and El-P are equally important to R.A.P. Music’s vitality. Sonically, these compositions — East Coast boom bap with Southern crunk — writhe with restless urgency and hold your attention for the album’s 45 minutes. Lyrically, Mike’s social commentary is refreshingly honest, his words painting an elaborate portrait of despair. R.A.P. Music is a diary for the oppressed. It’s a battle cry for change and a call-to-arms for the socially disadvantaged. That’s quite the feat for its two protagonists: Jaime and Mike.