Review Summary: A fine example of the wonders a producer's input can do for an album.
The amount of records in straight-up hip hop that showcase the benefits of a strong collaborative chemistry between MC and producer have dwindled to a handful in the recent century. Most stand alone rappers prefer self-producing their records and making their own beats to match a vision that’s all about them and them alone.
Of course it a matter of whether or not a rapper is more talented and able by showing he can do everything on his own, it’s just that a different producer can bring creative and stylistic input that brings out the strengths of the MC and the producer himself, and this effort of two minds can really shine when the contrast is defined enough and compliments one another equally.
R.A.P. Music showcases this exact strength in all its glory of having the input and influence of a producer’s definitive ambition factoring into a record, and Killer Mike has brought El-P in for the inspiration he has to offer, to pack the force of an impact that makes Mike hit harder than he ever has on any effort before.
El-P was a wise choice for a producer for 2 main reasons, the first being that this album has such a comfortable chemistry that feels like a tight friendship as opposed to a strictly professional relationship, because El-P is known mostly in the underground, and them, both being on the same level of fame works in the favor of this impression because one doesn’t outshine the other in terms of recognition.
The second reason El-P is such a good choice for a producer is because El-P’s style of hip hop has a very heavy emphasis on electronic backing beats, which is the station a producer mans the most. El-P brings his signature heavy, glitchy, powerful blasts of raw, and dirty digital booms that make this album pack an especially hard punch, and since heavily electronic beats grab the ears attention the most already, this takes it to a level of forcefully pulling the ear-drum out and yelling into it through a megaphone.
Though El-P mans his station accordingly and doesn’t attempt mutiny on the captain. He sticks to his percentage of the project he was employed to do, and stays in the background just enough to be noticed and prevalent, but make this feel like this album is 50/50 between the to or anything less than a Killer Mike album all the way through.
Mike’s flow and delivery of his spits is complimented greatly from beats that are anything but underwhelming. The consistency of the production and attitude of this album has this continuous flow of power as a constant that never lets up anywhere in the record to such a firm point, that often times listeners will find themselves so immersed in the record that the seamlessly smooth transitions into other tracks frequently almost go unnoticed.
In terms of style and subject matter, Mike’s personality couldn’t be a more proud deception of himself. He is able to tackle themes such as corrupt politics, the law, heartbreak, violence in rap feuds, and black music traditions and history, without having to change the mood or slow down the pace. Instead of having varying emotive styles, Mike is able to cover and handle it all in a performance that is proud, remorseful, angry, reminiscent, hurt, but never wavering from its constant state of strength, style, cool, energy, that all clearly stems from his honest self.
It’s great to hear a modern hip hop record that is actually this hip, and at the same time seriousness, but doesn’t have to change a face to be convincing or powerful in its themes. What’s impressive is that Mike can really cover it all by being vulnerable and open, but never weak and without pride. And it doesn’t hurt that it all comes with beats that gets you more pumped up than most modern records by solo rappers. Making it a solid joy to listen to this journey into past values, all the way displaying Mike’s idea of what the impact of classic golden age hip hop should be through modern sounds.
Though the true great benefit about a strong input from producers into a rappers record is that light sense of adventure and taking a chance to see if a collaboration between two styles will work out the best for everyone involved, and for the music itself, it’s always refreshing to have subtle instances of growing, and exploring new avenues in hip hop. And this is especially highlighted by the fact that Mike doesn’t make himself out to be someone who completely overhauls himself on each album. This shows how Mike is true to his roots and what he’s accustomed too, but is always looking to do something new and experiment slightly enough to not loose himself at the same time.