03:00PM ET May 24th, 2011
Contributor: Hector Rose
A Rocky Williform Company
Killer Mike has long been one of the most underrated emcees in hip hop. For fans, his long and winding road of a career is well-known: entering the public conscious as an upstart rapper hanging with superstars Outkast, dropping a promising-but-mishandled debut album (Monster), joining Big Boi's Purple Ribbon only to have nothing come of it, launching a string of acclaimed underground mixtapes, finally landing on T.I.'s Grand Hustle imprint and so on.
Now finally, the man sometimes-known as Mike Bigga has released his 'official' sophomore album, and PL3DGE makes the wait seem well worth any frustration fans may have been feeling over the years. Mike's focus is sharp, his rhymes are sharper and the production from beatsmiths like Flying Lotus and The Bizness gives the thoughtful, topical and fiery rapper plenty of sonic napalm to assist in his firebombing of the status quo. And Mike takes on virtually everyone from Bill Cosby to Sean Hannity. It's easy to praise topical music in an era of gloss and superficiality, but Mike doesn't just get an 'A' for effort because he wants to say something. With PL3DGE, the man succeeds on almost every level.
On "That's Life II," Mike sounds as powerful as Fear of A Black Planet-era Chuck D and as enraged as Death Certificate-era Ice Cube as he raps "Mr. O’Reilly, Mr. Limbaugh, and Mr. Hannity/How could you sell White America your insanity?” This isn't just empty rhetoric, Mike has a clear focus and his rage is never mindless or scattershot. And "God In the Building II," the other track that serves as a sequel to one of his more celebrated underground cuts, Mike's raw honesty, wit and righteous anger coalesce into one of album's shining moments.
If there is any criticism that can be leveled at PL3DGE, its that the album sometimes slips a notch when Mike partners with his fellow ATL superstars Gucci Mane and Jeezy. Nothing wrong with lightening things up a bit--humor and relatability are what make any bit of social commentary easier to stomach--but sometimes, Mike's persona seems to sit uncomfortably alongside the trap-rap stars. It doesn't quite seem like he's found a way to channel his lighter side without it sounding a bit contrived.
But again--that's a small criticism.
Another album highlight is the honest and humorous "Ric Flair," in which Mike pays homage to the legendary wrestler and credits him for helping ot develop his persona. Mike is not a rapper bereft of ideas, and his wit makes almost every rhyme quotable and his perspective always riveting.
Killer Mike/Mike Bigga may never become the superstar he deserves to be. But that says more about the record-buying public than it does his talent. But his abilities as a rapper, and his command of his artform and gift for crafting stellar albums, will ensure that, regardless of what the charts say, Mike will always be one of the best in the genre. And for his die-hard fans, that's a fact that's been well-known for almost a decade. He's just getting started.