w/ Busdriver, Nocando, and Open Mike Eagle
February 21, 2012
Better than: John Rocker
Killer Mike is conscious without being boring, a street preacher rapper who knows that no one will listen to your message if your beats aren't dope. He's an obvious heir to the OutKast throne and in fact was the heir to the OutKast throne, winning a Grammy with the duo for “The Whole World” in 2003. But he and Big Boi squabbled, and the Atlanta-based Mike never really gained mainstream traction. Now, sadly, he's mostly known as the guy whom underground rap fans adore and everyone else has never heard of.
This reputation will be solidified with his new album, R.A.P. Music, a collaboration with Definitive Jux founder El-P due out in May. Under the auspices of Adult Swim, it's a beast of a project, combing Mike's bombastic southern shit with El's armageddon and lasers shit. Mike performed a bit of it last night, at the Echoplex before a very small crowd of 50 or 60 people. He followed Open Mike Eagle, Nocando and then Busdriver, who went captivatingly bezerk in his rhymes and beats, many of which were created right there on stage. He is an absolute pleasure to watch.
Mike is a more refined performer, if such a thing can be said of a colossal man capable of looking you in the eye and telling you you're full of shit, and at this point he's surely used to playing smaller rooms. He came out in a Braves hat and pea coat, which he never got around to taking off. That's not to say he didn't get fired up; he remains one of the only rappers willing to loudly diss Obama, which never gets old for some reason. “Seems a nigga can't get a job, but can get arrested/ Thought shit was changing with this black president shit.”
Then later “I don't make dance music, this is R-A-P/ The opposite of that sucka shit they play on TV.” (Surely MTV's Sucker Free countdown had to be exempt, right?)
He also ran through his not-unsubstantial catalog of hits, including collaborations with T.I., OutKast, and Young Jeezy. But it was all over very quickly, and one couldn't help get the feeling that if the room were filled to the rafters with Mike devotees we would have gotten a sermon, rather than just a homily.
The crowd: Stoned boys and the women who tolerate them.
Critical bias: Mike appeared on a panel I put together in Atlanta during my book tour. He's good people.
Random notebook dump: His idea of enlightened hip-hop is different than we tend to find round here; videos of gyrating butts and strippers on poles played in the background.