When it comes to music, the Mitt Romney campaign has had a rough go of it. Artists like Silversun Pickups, Twisted Sister, K’Naan, and Al Green have already prohibited the Republican ticket from using their songs based on various reasons, mostly ideological. But Romney isn’t the only musical pariah in politics. Over the course of his two successful campaigns, George W. Bush faced lawsuits from artists such as Tom Petty, John Hall, and Sting while John McCain received backlash from the likes of John Cougar Mellenkamp, ABBA, Jackson Browne, and The Foo Fighters. In fact, the only Democrat to ever be asked not to use a song was Barrack Obama in 2008 when Sam Moore asked him to not use his song “Hold On, I’m Coming,” but even in that instance, Moore insisted he was excited about Obama’s campaign. The recent request made by Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider to Paul Ryan had me asking a simple question: why do musicians hate the GOP?
[Williams Street; 2012]
To open the final track on “R.A.P. Music,” Killer Mike lays out his mission statement: “I’ve never had a religious experience in a religious place. The closest I’ve ever come to seeing or feeling God is listening to rap music. Rap music is my religion.” The song goes on to pay tribute to the history and power of hip-hop, and while it makes for an epic finish, it could easily serve as a prologue to an album that is from start to finish a sermon on how rap music could (and should) be an influential force, enlightening the listener rather than promoting ones self. Mike follows this statement with a flow that reveals the care put into each and every word he spouts: “What I say might save a life / what I speak might save a street.”
Over his ten-year career that began via collaborations with Outkast, Killer Mike has always approached his lyrics with a vicious drive that is fueled by both passion and intellect (a style he describes as “elegance in the form of a black elephant”), but on “R.A.P. Music” his diatribes take on an even more menacing shape. Last year, I thoroughly enjoyed his album “Pl3dge,” but whenever I listened to it, I always felt it just needed a little something more to make it really pop. It seems that Mike has found that secret ingredient in the form of producer El-P. On this full-length collaboration, the duo combine their talents to create an album that is packed with emotional hills and valleys that will take you through the landscape of rap music over the past three decades.