Killer Mike has become something of an enigma in today’s hip-hop landscape. The rap veteran actually has a message in his music. In a time of continued turmoil, the genre’s releases haven’t reflected the uncertainty facing the majority of people in the country, instead highlighting partying that allow listeners to indulge in escapism. The Atlanta native is back with his sixth album, R.A.P. Music—with production handled entirely by El-P—where he proves saying something doesn’t have to come at the expense of countrified good time.
R.A.P. Music starts like it ends: with Killer Mike spitting like his life’s on the line. On the LP’s opener, “Big Beast,” Mike slings rhymes furiously, refusing to be out-shined by heavyweight guests Bun B, T.I. and newcomer Trouble. “Hardcore G shit, homie I don’t play around/Ain’t shit sweet about the Peach, this Atlanta clown/Home of the dealers and the strippers and the clubs, though/Catch you coming out of Magic City with a snub, ho,” the rhymer raps—and that’s only within the first 11 seconds of the track. He then delivers 1:54 of absolute lyrical heat on “Go,” tearing up the instrumental, while “Southern Fried” has Mike taking listeners on a smooth ride through Georgia.
“Reagan” finds Bigga inspecting the way the former President’s term in office changed the landscape of politics in this country, as well as how that trickled down to Black communities and hip-hop. “It seems our people starve from lack of understanding/’Cause all we seem to give them is some ballin’ and some dancin’,” he posits on the dark track. On “Anywhere But Here,” he turns on the narrative switch, placing himself in New York City and Atlanta, recounting the struggle that some face as societal pressures close in around them.
Killer Mike’s ability to rap with a purpose while remaining tactful and balanced within his content is an engaging quality of his music, and the pairing with El-P serves his sound well. The compilation is short—12 tracks—but if fans are looking for relentless lyrics in their R.A.P. Music, this ATL MC remains a Killer on the mic. —Mark Lelinwalla