MUSIC: Political and Social R.A.P.


Morahd Shawki


You would be hard-pressed to find a musician more politically aware than Killer Mike. Album cover from Williams Street Records

“You are witnessing elegance in the form of a black elephant.”—Killer Mike on the track “Untitled.”

That about sums it up.

It’s a wonder rapper Killer Mike isn’t more popular. He has an easily identifiable, deep, southern accent that spits absolute fire. In the truest sense of the word he’s hardcore. Not like your average skater or punk rocker, but like your seasoned war veteran. Killer Mike has seen things that would turn your hair gray, and it really has an impact on his music. For example, his hatred for police isn’t unfounded—his father was a cop, allowing him to recognize dirty cops when he sees them. His latest release “R.A.P. Music” sounds like a cathartic culmination of these experiences and certainly makes an impression.

To call Killer Mike a political rapper would be accurate, but it doesn’t do him justice. Killer Mike’s staggering range of topics is impressive, but he ultimately represents the people, and if that means he has to comment on politics, then so be it. On the track “Reagan,” Mike very harshly criticizes former president Ronald Reagan and his legacy. He swears allegiance to no political party, grouping in Barack Obama and Bill Clinton as liars too, instead claiming to represent the people. He touches on points of the government that seem to be too evil to be true. He believes the 13th Amendment to be the reason behind drug users’ lengthy prison terms and that slavery and free labor are illegal unless the person in question is a prisoner. It is this kind of insight that Killer Mike uses to blow the listener’s mind consistently through the album.

Mike isn’t all politics and rage though. In tracks such as “Wilie Burke Sherwood,” he details how he would prefer to spend time with his wife and two kids instead of partying like most rappers, though he makes sure to display his appreciation for a good ol’ strip club every once in awhile. He also speaks about his cousin who lost his mind and how he would give up his entire career in exchange for his cousin’s sanity. “If I could fix his brain. Take back the crack in his mind, give it all back. You can have the racks and fame. Give it all back in exchange.”

As for the actual sound of the album, the beats are just as and harsh as the lyrics. The production was done entirely by fellow underground rapper El-P, creating an underground dream-team, so to speak. El-P’s beats can speak for themselves, somehow containing just as much story as Killer Mike’s lyrics. The listener gets the sense that the two are great friends, or at least work fantastically well together. At the very beginning of the track “Jojo’s Chilling,” Killer Mike and El-P shed their pseudonymsProxy-Connection: keep-alive
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nd announce that “This album was made by Jaime and Mike” as if they are about to present an elementary school book report.

“R.A.P. Music” is at times potent and chilling, and at times fun and heartwarming. It feels like an album that encompasses an entire career. As Killer Mike himself says, it truly is his “classic album.”