Artist: Killer Mike
Album: R.A.P. Music
Label: Williams Street Records
R.A.P. Music is a collaborative album from an unexpected duo: Atlanta rapper Killer Mike and producer El-P of Brooklyn, NY. Although the title, R.A.P. Music, may seem simple and straight forward, there is more to it than meets the eye. R.A.P. Music, in this sense, stands for “Rebellious African People’s Music” and features influences from jazz, rock, gospel, and soul music. Over a decade into the game, at 37 years-old, with six studio albums and an impressive list of artists he has worked with under his belt, Killer Mike decided to “put everything into this record” and say everything he wanted to say. As the title suggests, the album addresses such topics as politics, racism and the socioeconomic state of today’s society.
The Grammy-Award winning Killer Mike enlists the help of Bun B, T.I. and Trouble for the lead-off track “Big Beast” which is designed to start the album off with a bang. From there, the subject matter greatly varies across each track. “Untitled” featuring Scar is inspired by Killer Mike’s wife and his worry about not being able to provide for her. “Go!” is basically a freestyle packed with references to the West Coast. “Southern Fried” is, as the title may suggest, approached from a southern perspective. “Jojo’s Chillin” is a prime example of Killer Mike’s adventurous and imaginative storytelling ability which he likens to that of Biggie and Slick Rick in his album commentary. The character of Jojo is representative of people in Killer Mike’s life in the form of a wanted felon. “Reagan” discusses oppression within our government and breaks down what life what like during the Reagan era. “Don’t Die” is about what drives the passion of those struggling and the importance of knowledge of history and culture but the track retains the personal nature and unfiltered honesty Killer Mike set out to base this album on with lines like “my dad was a cop, you don’t think I know a dirty a** cop when I see one?”
“Butane” featuring El-P blends the two rappers with two different styles from two different regions, and it just so happens to work well. “Anywhere But Here” is about escape from a physical location or hometown as well as escape from an emotion or figurative place in life and social stature. “Willie Burke Sherwood” is a personal record named after Killer Mike’s grandfather who raised him and passed away around the time Killer Mike released his first studio album about 9 years ago. “R.A.P. Music” is a dedication to those who came before Killer Mike and an expression of his appreciation for their actions. Killer Mike’s powerful perspective of music shines through on the closing track as he states “the closest I’ve ever come to seeing or feeling God is listening to rap music. Rap music is my religion. Amen”
The album is both personal and emotional. It is lyrical and also demonstrates excellent storytelling. Although the number of tracks with features was kept to a minimum the assisting artists, including the project’s sole producer, held their own. The topics Killer Mike addresses on the album evoke an inspiring passion from him. The somewhat revolutionary combination of a southern rapper and Brooklyn producer for a full album combines cultures and pushes the boundary of what we usually hear. It was a risk but worked well. El-P’s production compliments and highlights Killer Mike’s verses. El-P blends his style to meet Killer Mikes with the use of southern samples mixed with his style of production. Together El-P and Killer Mike borrow from several styles of hip-hop to a make a release that’s truly the definition of R.A.P. Music.