Killer Mike had been round. Since being taken underneath OutKast’s wing and making his debut on their legendary Stankonia, the person in any other case referred to as Michael Render had struck out on his personal and launched a string of solo albums that, whereas garnering him his fervent supporters, didn’t ever fairly click on. The imaginative and prescient or execution had by no means fully cohered for an album-length assertion. Mike was falling into a type of lanes the place he was a clearly formidable rapper with goodwill surrounding him, however not making the form of nice masterwork that centered him within the dialog. In 2012, as he was teetering into his late thirties, that modified. When R.A.P. Music arrived, 10 years in the past yesterday, it felt like a end result of all of the potential folks had seen in Killer Mike, but in addition one thing new. That, in flip, set it as much as grow to be an important turning level for Mike.
The origins of R.A.P. Music are primarily based on a collection of unlikely conferences. Within the late ’00s, Killer Mike had befriended Grownup Swim’s Jason DeMarco, one of many folks behind Grownup Swim’s net of music releases. Some years later, Mike informed DeMarco he needed to make one thing he couldn’t make elsewhere, citing Ice Dice’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wished as a serious affect. As DeMarco recalled whereas talking to Rolling Stone in 2014, Mike put it like this: “I wish to make information like that — it was enjoyable and funky, it was dope as shit and severe and had messages.” DeMarco had a specific advice in thoughts: the Brooklyn producer El-P, an underground luminary identified for his warped apocalyptic beats — music that existed in a lineage straight tied again to the old-school period Mike was citing, however took it right into a melted future.
Initially, El-P was meant to be one in all many producers engaged on Mike’s forthcoming album. He already had beats from a bunch of various sources, lots of them of-the-moment and extra well-known than El. However after El-P got here right down to Atlanta for a pair days, one thing else animated Mike. He known as him time and again, understanding now that he wanted El to supply the whole lot of the album.
In the identical manner that AmeriKKKa’s Most Wished marked a brief alliance between East and West Coast by having Ice Dice rap over Bomb Squad manufacturing, R.A.P. Music was, on the time, a deeply implausible hybrid. Although crossover success eluded him, Mike had primarily been working in a extra mainstream rap vein — or, on the very least, a deeply Southern vein. El was simply as deeply New York and definitively located in an underground fashion that managed to mix classicism and avant-garde. A lot was made from how their partnership wore down boundaries in rap music, territorial traces that have been already eroding because of the contractions of the music business. In a manner, Killer Mike and El-P teaming up additionally felt like a product of the web period, a chunk of music derived from its regional identities however colliding into one thing distinctive and never fully traceable.
However first, all that mattered was that the collaboration turned out to be wildly impressed. Killer Mike wasn’t incorrect in realizing that there was one thing in El-P’s manufacturing that introduced out the perfect in him. R.A.P. Music turned 12 tracks of virtually utterly unrelenting depth. Mike’s supply was at all times naturally percussive and cannon-like, however it felt much more amplified above El-P’s brash, caustic beats.
From the very starting, it was clear this album was a take-no-prisoners affair. “Huge Beast” was a ferocious head-cave-in of an opener, Mike charging out the gates like a person who’s simply lastly realized his personal energy. All through the track, he used El-P’s backdrop to grow to be extra himself than ever. “Huge Beast” featured southern icons T.I. and Bun B, in two of R.A.P. Music’s few visitor appearances. “Ain’t shit candy bout the peach — this Atlanta, clown/ Residence of the sellers and the strippers and the golf equipment, although,” Mike proclaimed. Then, a manifesto for the album to comply with: “I don’t make dance music, that is R.A.P./ Reverse of the sucker shit they play on TV.”
What adopted was a hardened, visceral album, Mike fired up practically all through. The blasted atmospherics and grit of R.A.P. Music have been acceptable, with Mike grappling with all method of social ills and political themes. The album’s centerpiece was a sprawling doc of the Reagan period, police brutality, America’s meddling in overseas affairs whereas subjugating its personal Black residents, and, ultimately, Mike’s conclusion that Reagan was only a mechanism of bigger, extra actively pernicious energy buildings — identical to another president. It’s the grim coronary heart on the core of the album, and a lot of the remainder of R.A.P. Music travels equally desolate streets.
It’s solely in the direction of the tip the place Mike softens in any respect, for the extra mournful and wistful “Wherever However Right here” — an oddly haunting and fairly second amongst the wreckage surrounding it. Then there’s the album’s nearer and title monitor, a kind of reply to all the things that got here earlier than. When Mike roared, “Pow, motherfucker, pow!” on “Huge Beast,” it was a gap salvo. However by the tip, this isn’t dance music, however a complete lot of different issues, as Mike presents a brand new mission assertion: “That is jazz, that is funk, that is soul, that is gospel… That is church, entrance pew, amen, pulpit/ What my folks want and the alternative of bullshit.” Killer Mike had lastly made his assertion, and it resounded.
However concurrently R.A.P. Music’s runaway acclaim signaled the long-awaited triumph of Killer Mike, it might additionally transform each a conclusion of his solo period and the start of one thing new. Originally of “JoJo’s Chillin,” one other essential mission assertion arrived: “This album was created fully by Jaime and Mike.” You’ve heard variations of that phrase since, however it was only a trace in 2012. Along with producing the complete album, we received one occasion of really listening to Mike and El-P commerce verses, on “Butane (Champion’s Anthem).” Then, Mike returned the favor and appeared on El-P’s Most cancers 4 Treatment, launched only a week after R.A.P. Music. The 2 toured collectively, they usually stored realizing they’d some new spark of their collaboration and friendship. They determined to kind a duo and name it Run The Jewels.