Killer Mike has been on the scene for a decade, but only gained large-scale recognition with the release of R.A.P. Music last year. Produced by New Yorker EL-P, the album received critical acclaim and was noted particularly for its stand-out track Reagan, which takes swipes at gangster rap and the police, as well as comparing Ronald Reagan to Obama. Shocking! I must confess, he only hit my radar with this latest album and most people I spoke to said the same thing.
So on a rainy Sunday night in February, it’s testament to his growing popularity that The Haunt in Brighton was packed full with an energetic and enthusiastic crowd. Gi3mo and Ceezlin from local hip hop outift, Rum Committee kicked things off with beats provided by DJ Ideal. These boys seem to be at every hip hop gig in town these days, bringing their rowdy brew of head nodding tunes to a familiar and appreciative audience.
After a marginally too long interlude, Killer Mike suddenly appeared on stage, larger than life with only his DJ for support. With a rather hoarse voice, he repeatedly told us how happy he was to be in the UK. I for one, was thinking ‘really? why?’ For a big bloke, he was surprisingly energetic, hanging off the pillar and pumping his fists in the air. His passion overcame him more than once with him announcing ‘you guys made me cry – twice!’ Whether this was part of his act or genuine emotion was hard to tell, but he certainly seemed to be feeding off the love from the crowd.
After a few tracks, including Go!, he gave us the one we’d all be waiting for; Reagan didn’t disappoint with the DJ strutting across the stage wearing a Rubber Reagan mask, while after a reference to Margaret Thatcher, Killer Mike got a call and response of ‘fuck Reagan’ going. He then introduced us to his wife with an anecdote that went something like this: she’s from the American deep south, where they say things like ‘mind your business’, she got into an elevator in England, which had a sign saying ‘mind the door’, turned to Mike and said, ‘so Americans just speak fucked up English!’ This was followed by Southern Fried, a track about frequenting strip clubs with his wife, which I wasn’t quite sure what to make of!
The track that brought him to tears was really quite a moving piece about his grandfather called Willie Burke Sherwood. He spoke very fondly of his grandparents, who raised him and clearly had a huge influence on his life. The second track that got him all choked up was God in the Building with Mike proclaiming that he ‘definitely felt god in the building tonight’. But he pulled himself together again to introduce the next track, ‘if you really think about it, the goal of everyone’s life comes down to two words: Don’t Die‘, which refers to police corruption and collusion in the death of Trayvon Martin and other black men in the US.
After a couple of encore tunes, Killer Mike climbed off stage and got down with the crowds to finish off in unique style, while his wife took photos from the stage, clad in her wellies (obviously came prepared for the dire English weather). He was more than happy to sign albums and have his picture taken afterwards, so I took the opportunity to introduce myself. He said, ‘I hope I didn’t disappoint’. He certainly didn’t.