I know that I don’t comment on rap for this site too often (I feel that Dr. K has a firmer grip on rap/hip hop than I do), but I think that Killer Mike has made an album that is good enough to be looked at by any reviewer, regardless of genre. He’s made an album that stands beyond the limitations of genre, stereotype and convention.
Even the first track, which is laden with guest stars to help the listener consume a radically different message, easily showcases Mike’s angry flow and highly politicized message. There’s a line about “wanting a Jordan, but settlin for a Pippin” that sort of seals the deal, and sets the bar for the rest of the album. And for sure, this happens track by track, until the listener is hooked by “Southern Fried,” the obvious single on the album which in turn makes you want to listen to the rest of the tracks.
And the rest of the tracks are some of the most raw I’ve ever heard on a rap album, talking about how terrible the cops are (“Don’t Die”), Reagan selling arms for hostages (“Reagan”), and generally how unfair life is for someone coming from Killer Mike’s background. By the time tracks like “Ghetto Gospel” roll around, you’re fully on board with Mike and his style in terms of both music itself, and production (provided by El-P). It sounds incredibly fresh, songs changing beat and cadence halfway through and not asking Mike permission to do so. In fact, you feel Mike’s flow react to the songs instead of distracting him from staying on task. And the absence of skits makes for an album that is all muscle.
Overall, for a rap album that wasn’t on my radar at all, this is the sort of thing that can change your perception about rap as an entire genre. Check this one out for sure. I’ll give Killer Mike three and a half Halls out of five Oates.
You can preview “Reagan” here.