I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the album that has ruled my week (and is a strong contender for my favorite album of the year so far), Killer Mike's sixth full-length, R.A.P. Music. Produced by El-P and sporting an acronym that represents Rebellious African People, the album is marked with clarity — in Mike's voice and lyrics, in its homage to the past 30 years of hip-hop, and in its agitated spirit. Chris Weingarten says it best on Spin: "It's an impossible rap record that appeals directly to 'golden era' purism (i.e., 'back when rap was good' for people aged 35 and up), but is still noisy enough to shake off the cobwebs and scare the squares. They really should put it out on cassette."
It's so raw, so funky, so furious and often so fun. "Reagan" isn't exactly a representation of the good time to be had on R.A.P. Music, but, wow, is it great to hear righteously indignant social commentary this bold in the virtually depoliticized forum of contemporary hip-hop. Reaganomics were such a scourge on the already disenfranchised that even decades later, they warrant rage — "I'll leave you with four words: I'm glad Reagan dead," is how Mike ends this, after El-P's track spends half the time brooding only to finally explode. (See also: plenty of '90s rap, gangsta and otherwise, as well as the Menace II Society commentary, in which one of the Hughes brothers talks about the way Reaganomics inspired that film.)
This is completely audacious stuff, blasting recent presidents in a line ("Why did Reagan and Obama both go after Gaddafi / We invaded sovereign soil / Goin' after oil / Taking countries is a hobby paid for by the oil lobby / Same as in Iraq, and Afghanistan / And Ahmadinejad say they coming for Iran / They only love the rich, and how they loathe the poor / If I say any more they might be at my door"). It feels risky and exciting. It's thoughtful, but broad enough to be arguable. Entirely engaging.
And he don't stop: Jayson Greene's great Killer Mike/El-P profile from this week's Village Voice allows Mike to expand on his point: "'I threw a barbecue when Reagan died,' he says. 'Straight the fuck up-a Reagan's Dead Barbecue. Kept it negro as a motherfucker.'" Tremendous.