R.A.P. Music

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Steeped in tradition but always looking for a better tomorrow, rapper Killer Mike already had an incredibly strong discography before R.A.P. Music landed, but here he hits harder than any of his fans could have hoped. The album was released by the Adult Swim-associated label Williams Street and was produced by the dirty beatmaker and underground favorite El-P, and even if these bullet points are interesting and exciting, they are not the reason this is a vital piece of work. El-P plays a major part, as his funky, murky work has obviously inspired the stone-cold Killer -- and the shout-out that begins "Jojo's Chillin'" sounds like pure pride in his producer -- but those initials stand for Rebellious African People Music, and Mike seeks to honor "every music that's been born on this continent from a group of people that were brought here in chains." Heavy words, and yet Mike delivers, not by giving a genre history lesson or delivering a linear concept album, but by joining a cause that stretches from Ellington to Nas, where pride isn't squandered and the struggles of your ancestors are always respected. As such, old friends T.I. and Bun B are brought back (remember the "Re-Akshon" remix from 2003?) for the opening monster dubbed "Big Beast" ("we some money hungry wolves and we're down to eat the rich") while "Go!" worships the West Coast and its legacy, all while kicking off with a startling sample that will welcome old-school heads. "Reagan" is pure politics, rallying against the President's legacy, while "Anywhere But Here" loves rolling through Atlanta and Harlem, but the memories there are the extreme definition of bittersweet as Mike relays the sights passing by the window (that's where I grew up, that's where Sean Bell got shot). While the strange, winding siren of "Untitled" is classic, prime El-P, for the rapper, the track is a new, insightful, intelligent high point, plus the first time (John) Gotti and (Salvador) Dali have been rhymed successfully. That last bit can't be stressed enough, and while R.A.P. Music is filled with all the heartbreak, pain, anger, and earnestness praised above, it's also an incredibly fly and fun record, filled with that prime MC/producer chemistry while striking that perfect balance of persuasive and powerful. Revolutionary stuff and absolutely no fluff, R.A.P. Music is outstanding.

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