Killer Mike: MICHAEL (Deluxe) (Loma Vista) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024  

Killer Mike

MICHAEL (Deluxe)

Loma Vista

Oct 26, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Back in June, Killer Mike released MICHAEL, the long awaited follow-up to R.A.P. Music, which was his career-making 2012 solo album, and the collaboration that led to Run the Jewels, his now decade-long, four-album (and counting) acclaimed collaboration with El-P. However, there are several notable differences. In that time, Run the Jewels have opened for Jack White and Mike has opened a barbershop, started a bank(!), and has also become a bit of a TV star as well, most notably appearing as himself on his 2019 Netflix show Trigger Warning with Killer Mike and his more recent appearance as himself on the Hulu series Dave. Therefore, he’s determined to show that success hasn’t spoiled him (yet), and this album features many observations on what life as a successful rapper is like and how it’s affected his life.

And so what does this king of all media do for this first solo album in over a decade (and sixth overall)? Well, for starters, his long-time collaborator El-P is on only one track here, with a diverse crew (helmed by producer No ID), DJ Paul, Beat Butcha, and Andre 3000 of Outkast among them also producing individual tracks. Instead of this making the album feel disjointed or a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, however, this deeply personal work flows as smoothly as Rakim’s heyday in the late ’80s and has something for just about everyone.

While Mike has said that he desired to make a less political album this time around, his socio-political consciousness is, as always, ever-present here, from the prominent Last Poets sample in “Nrich” to “Talkin’ that Shit,” where he decries his haters and reminds them of his lifelong activism. In addition to all of the featured producers, the opening track “Down by Law” features vocals from Cee-Lo Green (another Atlanta legend like Andre 3000 and Mike himself) and “Run” features a vocal turn from Young Thug. This is just a partial list of the album’s guest stars, but all in all, this is still very much Mike’s show and as mentioned, it gets deeply personal.

The clear highlight and emotional core of the album, however, is “Slummer,” a teenage love story that’s both heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. It’s almost uncomfortable to listen to something so harrowing, like you’re wandering in on a private conversation you’re not meant to hear, but it is incredibly moving, as you feel the r’n’b group Jagged Edge taking you to church on the hook/chorus. This is followed seamlessly by “Scientists & Engineers” (featuring Future) and “Two Days,” which features Ty Dolla $ign, one of two tracks with the latter on vocals here.

Elsewhere, “Motherless” (a tribute to his late mother, as the title implies) samples the traditional folk song “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” and is as deeply personal as “Slumming.”

Overall, Mike’s unique mix of toughness, vulnerability, and a brutal honesty that can be disarming for those not used to it, is something to marvel at. I hope he keeps making albums like this as long as possible before he’s enticed to run for office or some such thing given all that he has already achieved.

The new deluxe edition was just released last month and features four bonus tracks from the same sessions that didn’t make the cut the first time around. Don’t let that dissuade you from listening, though, as these songs are all just as good as most of what was already on the regular version and it was only space and thematic concerns (not quality) that made them be excluded in the first place. Mike has even stated that these are some of his favorite songs from the sessions. “Maynard Vignette” features guest appearances by T.I., JID, and Jacquees and “Act Up” features Young Nudy, thus reflecting the collaborative nature of the rest of the album as well. (www.killermike.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10



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