Killer Mike has always been a passionate rapper, but with his sixth studio album, R.A.P. Music, he's gone next-level. "I put everything into this record. I said I was going to do everything I wanna do and say everything I wanna say," said Mike, as we chatted at a small Italian restaurant on Manhattan's Lower East Side.
The album, produced entirely by noise-rap stalwart El-P, goes harder than hard with chest-caving 808s and fiery political rhetoric. As we say in the lead review of our May/June "Loud Issue": "A child of the '80s, and a student of the Internet, Killer Mike is as exciting and wildly unclassifiable as hip-hop gets: New York noise and country shit, nods to when rap was punk and crunk was pop, Ice Cube before he needed hooks, David Banner before he needed to whisper, and Willie D before he needed anybody."
Sipping a Coca-Cola at the bar, Mike broke down each track from the new album, getting intensely worked up as he explained what went in to creating this intense, timeless new masterwork. Listen to a full album stream while reading Mike's commentary.
We're sorry, this is no longer available.
"Big Beast feat. Bun B, T.I., and Trouble"
"This is some that punch you in the face shit. I made 'Re-Akshon' ten years ago [which also featured T.I. and Bun B] and we never got a chance to shoot that video. Now after ten years, I have this record to validate that time of me not giving up. It may be one of my favorite records ever. I mean, no one gets kicked out of the NBA and then ten years later gets to come back and slam dunk on the their first shot. For me, to start the album off with it, I just wanted a banging-ass track!"
"Untitled feat. Scar"
"That woman down there [points to end of bar], that's my wife. A lot of the things I say, people have been killed before for saying. It challenges people and that's not always appreciated or liked. It could get your ass an FBI file. It's something I worry about but not something I fret about. What I do worry about, I don't want to die a day early on [my wife]. I want to be with her the rest of my life and I don't want that to be a short life.That first verse is me saying what I feel, that I have the emotion of a Dr. King, as in wanting to do what is right but selfishly not wanting to die. I don't want that woman living in a shack you know, it's the fear of my own mortality."
"Man, 'Go!' is sick. It's just a long-ass freestyle. This one just poured out of me. There's a ton of West Coast references in there and the West Coast influenced me so much and played a huge role in my life. I had to put those in there. This one is an All Star game, it's not about defense. This is all offense. It's about how lyrically what I can take and master and do with words and make sense. A lot of people sound good with words but don't make sense. It's just a bunch of shit that might sound good. This is my ability to show off and be technically proficient in rap but more than anything show how much I love the art form."
"This is some funky shit, a country-rap tune. It's hip-hop but from the perspective of a Southerner. That's me singing on the hook too. I had never done that. I was like, 'Why not?' If I'm taking the mentality that every record is my last record why not do everything I want to do?"
"Anybody familiar with my catalog knows I'm a proficient storyteller. I'm a storyteller on the Biggie and Slick Rick level. Jojo is a combination of people I know. Jojo is a little off, he's a little complex, and as I'm rapping I can see Jojo and I wanna know what happens next. I just wanted to take people on an adventure."
"A lot of people try to peg me as a political rapper and I'm not. I'm a social commentator and at times people have politicized the things I say, but I don't care too much for any political party. I care about people. Under Reagan, drugs were allowed to flood our community and wipe out two to three generations of people that could have kept my community growing and I take exception to that. I threw a BBQ when Reagan died. It's not a vehement hate though, I'm not gonna spit on his grave. I wanted to break down what the Reagan era was really like."
"This song talks about what propels the passion of the street. History is being lost about the suppression and oppression of ideas in America. I watched this Gloria Steinem documentary the other night and never realized how violently feminism was opposed. I never realized these things because true history gets suppressed."
"Butane feat. El-P"
"Man, El Got it off on that, he went in! We both went in man. I was so country on the hook he didn't understand what I was saying at first. It's like, butane is that fire and it's just two rappers from two different regions going in."
"Anywhere But Here"
"There is no better place for a black man in the world than Atlanta and there's no better place with more opportunity for kids than New York. Yet, both of these cities have oppression. You don't find a whole lot of native Atlantans in Atlanta and same in New York because they're trying to escape. It's about that mentality. Like 'Jojo,' both songs start with guys doing reasonably well but there is something unfulfilled and they just need to get out of their city. It's about an emotion — where I've been and all I've gained is not good enough, and i'm supposed to be somewhere else."
"Willie Burke Sherwood"
"That's my granddad. That's my man. My grandma just died and my granddad died nine yard ago. With them I lost my parents because they raised me. This is probably the most personal song on [the album] because I'm talking about me. I was insecure when I was young, and this record, just listening to it allows people to know me. I had spent so much time being defiant that I had become someone I felt people couldn't know. I was so torn and worn that I became like an iron man and I need to show people myself. It's hard for me to listen to this song without weeping."
"The natural assumption you have about a song called "R.A.P. Music" is that it will all be about hip-hop, well it's not. I'm talking about every music that's been born on this continent from a group of people that were brought here in chains. That music that gave them hope. It gave them a way of communicating. It gave them laughter. It gave them passion. My people have given a great amount to the culture of this country and I wanted my predecessors to know how much I appreciate them. That's what R.A.P. Music is."
Killer Mike Tour Dates With El-P, Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, and Despot (check local listings!):
June 19 - Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
June 20 - New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
June 21 - Dallas, TX @ Granada
June 22 - Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live
June 23 - Austin, TX @ Mohawk
June 25 - Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent
June 26 - San Diego, CA @ Casbah
June 28 - Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex
June 29 - San Francisco, CA @ Regency
June 30 - Portland, OR @ Hawthorne
July 1 - Seattle, WA @ Neumo's
July 2 - Vancouver, British Columbia @ Fortune
July 5 - Minneapolis, MN @ Fineline
July 6 - Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge
July 7 - Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
July 8 - Ann Arbor, MI @ Blind Pig
July 9 - Toronto, Ontario @ Hoxton
July 11 - Boston, MA @ Paradise
July 12 - Providence, RI @ The Met
July 14 - Philadelphia, PA @ Trocadero
July 15 - Washington, DC @ Rock and Roll Hotel