Killer Mike is the epitome of independence. After his sophomore album, Ghetto Extraordinaire, got shelved, the self-proclaimed “outcast of OutKast” forced a release from Big Boi’s Purple Ribbon label. The ATLien went on to drop the widely regarded I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind on his own in 2006. Now, with his long-awaited follow-up, Mike proves ain’t a damn thing changed.

Leading with “10 G’s,” Killer lures listeners in with an epic ode to clocking dollars, over a percussive knock and chopped-and-screwed Biggie hook. Serving as an example of hood success, he boasts, “Did 10 shows last month and bought another home/Quarter-million dollars, dropped that shit like a microphone.” With the airy “Can You Hear Me,” Mike continues to offer inspiration for the downtrodden, over a spirited rework of Mike and the Mechanics’ 1985 single “Silent Running.” On the trunk-rattling “Pressure,” Killer teams with Ice Cube for a double-pronged attack on everyone from corrupt politicians to crooked cops. The Grind Time General saves the brunt of his anger for Sean Bell’s murderers, spewing, “I hope it’s five degrees hotter for yo’ ass in hell.”

Despite all of its political mindedness, Grind II offers balance on the female-friendly “Woke Up This Morning” and the Al Green–sampled “Super Clean,” featuring 8Ball & MJG. However, the album’s crowning jewel is “God Is in the Building,” where Killer emphatically rattles heaven’s gates, preaching, “You can never walk the water if you still fear the sea/If Jesus came back, mother, where you think he’d be?/Probably in these streets with me.”

Aside from the questionable placement of the dated mixtape cut “I’m the Shit,” the album is a near-flawless effort. With nary a blemish on his record, Killer Mike offers rap fans bangin’ beats and powerful raps. Equally heartfelt and aggressive, Grind II gives thugs the proper motivation for success against all odds. --Maurice G. Garland