Sin and salvation: R.A.P. Music

I didn’t listen to PL3DGE until last December. It belonged to one of the elect: a “new” album I had no energy to review but whose strengths buoyed me while I dispatched other offerings. In 2010 the elect included Diddy Dirty Money’s Last Train to Paris and R. Kelly’s Love Letter, both of which landed in my top twenty of 2011, so there’s a chance PL3DGE will join R.A.P. Music, the latest in Killer Mike’s dizzying release schedule.

Produced entirely by EL-P, R.A.P. Music collects remembrances of ATL past unyellowed by nostalgia and documents an anger at political figures ranging from Ronald Reagan (honored with his own song here) to Barack Hussein Obama himself for separating the rich from poor. The rage is there in opener “Big Beast,” which apart from allowing a wide-awake T.I. (a fact we shouldn’t sneeze at) to bite down hard assimilates the rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street: “We some money hungry wolves and we’re down to eat the rich.” Angry but clear-eyed, Mike won’t spare his own community either — “we should be indicted for bullshit we incited,” he reminds listeners on “Reagan.” Minor shit still nettles him; I could accept the motormouthed account of enjoying lobster tails and rib eyes on “Southern Friend” if it didn’t include call-outs to stripper hoes. But when he ignores his mama’s counsel and buys a gun instead of relying on prayer beads on “Ghetto Gospel” EL-P uses a string section sample as counterpoint, to undergird the rue. Coming in at less than an hour, R.A.P. Music is aptly titled: as conflicted as the genre itself in 2012. The sin comes easy. Salvation is the hard part.

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