We called up Killer Mike back in June and to our surprise he was in the studio, already working diligently on music. Mike is taking a “no days off” mentality to his rap career, despite the unanimous praise and success that's come from his collaborative record with El-P entitled R.A.P. Music. The album is rightfully being compared to Ice Cube's Amerikkka's Most Wanted record, which he made with the Bomb Squad. Such accolades are well and dandy to Mike, but are no reason to settle and admire from afar. He's got a summer tour and the next two records to hammer out. The following is our discussion with Mike, while he directed things from the studio. Things were kept brief, in order to not interrupt the productivity that will lead to what we hope will be Mike's Death Certificate and Lethal Injection records.
So you’re already back in the studio, is it possible to disclose what you’re working on?
I’m working on the next two albums.
How deep are you into this process?
My album process is to make as many ideas as I can. Go back and a lot of ideas will work for this project, this will work for that project, and other projects down the line. I just need to get the ideas out.
Does this mean more work with El-P?
Yeah. More stuff with El. I’ve got some other stuff coming, but honestly what I’m most excited about is me and El doing another project.
If it’s not broke, you know…
Don’t fucking fix it.
I am hoping you can give me a little bit further insight to your familiarity with his work. Like when Jason DeMarco of William Street suggested him, did you have a “who?” moment?
I knew of him in the peripheral.
[At this point, Mike halts the interview to send a message to El-P letting him know “he’s sending over some new songs.” I remained on the line. Mike could be overheard saying “Put ‘From Mike’ in the header.”]
Alright, so yeah, I knew of El as a member of Company Flow and from the Def Jux stuff. But, I hadn’t followed him that close. It was the same way for him. He knew I’d done things with Cee-Lo. But really, within spending 25-minutes together I was like I’m making an album with you. All it took was the first few days we did at Patchwerk down here. After that I was just battering him like “you got to do this whole record”.
Did Jason [DeMarco] play you any of El-P’s music to help you see that possibility?
Jason’s my friend. Jason is one of those people that we became friends from working on music. You’ve got to trust your home boys. And… I just trusted him. It just came out of love. Once [El-P and I] started working together it just blossomed. It was bro-mance, as corny as that shit sounds.
Did you two talk about sound direction?
Once I heard what I could do over his tracks, it instantly felt to me like this was the progression of the music I grew up to every morning when I tied my shoes and went to high school. It was loud and obnoxious, but with spirit and soul and vigor. I feel like this is the record that rap music is supposed to progress to. Rap is not pop, if you call it that just stop.
I feel like once the album was out all the reviews seemed to be very aware of that too.
A famous DJ came up to me last night and was like “man, if there was just three more dudes doing what you’re doing it would set rap back on its course”. But my thing is I really think there’s dudes out there doing it. I admire what El does. I admire what Immortal Technique does. I like what Kendrick [Lamar] does. There are a lot of guys out there to different extremes.
With some of those MCs you named, and maybe you think about this or maybe you don’t, but do you feel as though the focus on the album is coming back into rap?
Well, I guess that’s there. But if you listen to The Pledge, that’s been my goal the whole series, to increasingly make better albums. I wasn’t afforded the ability to be a radio whore, I mean, a radio artist. Ha, just throwing shade.
On a serious note, I wasn’t blessed with the opportunity. Some artists are just more commercially viable. The freedom I’ve been given, like I just dropped a 9-minute mini-movie with Tip and Bun today. No one does that after putting out albums independently. But, it’s real rewarding when you can say I have an album that is a whole body of work.
Did you feel as though there was less pressure to be about seeking a single?
Yeah, because you’re dealing with TV. When you’re fucking with TV, they don’t give a fuck. They just wanted us to make something cool and dope.
Yeah, it clicked with me today that this album being on William Street had to play a small role in it sounding the way it does, since there’s nobody saying shit like “Where’s the single?”.
One of the first thoughts I had watching the Big Beast video and seeing the Dia De Los Muertos strippers eating flesh was: I wonder what Mike’s thoughts are on this zombie apocalypse situation?
Oh man, I’m all down with voodoo. I’m down with zombies and shit. Bring that shit on.
I don’t know man, I don’t have any thoughts on it because I don’t think it’s real. But, it was way cool in my video [Laughs].
It was odd to me that the government went so far as to release a statement.
I think the government realizes that through mad scientists and lore, and even through some social studies and physics that they’ve managed to raise a society of people that believe in zombies. From watching shit like Walking Dead and shit, they now have to inform people that some stuff is just a TV plot. God bless the American education system, man.
While the album was being conceived there were studio shots floating around, one of which was of you, El and Big Boi in the studio, but he wasn’t on the record. Did he work on a song with you? Or was he just in kicking it?
I think he’s going to be on the “Big Beast Remix” or “Untitled” or one of them. He was just getting fucked up on his record and he was really heavy on the touring schedule then. That’s only reason he didn’t make the record. Literally he was supposed to be on “Big Beast”, but we had to turn it in. It was always going to be me, Tip and Bun, but he just chimed in and tried to get on, but it was literally the day we had to turn it in to get it mastered. But, he’s on the remix.
You’re about to head out on the Into The Wild tour. Are you close or at least familiar with your tour mates Mr. MFN eXquire and Despot?
I’ve worked with Despot. We hung out a lot last summer when I was up in New York. I think he has one of the most amazing voices in rap. His voice is like my size, but he’s a little guy. That’s dope.
And then, eXquire is wild as fuck. He’s as proficient as a Biggie, as nasty and wild as a Phife or a 2 Live Crew, and as funny as Biz Markie. He’s an absolutely amazing artist too. I’m happy to be part of that lineup.
El-P talked about a lot of new opportunities coming his way as a result of this record. How’s your phone been ringing?
How’s my phone been ringing? People calling and asking for El [Laughs].
Naw, my phone’s been ringing, man. I’m happy to have it. You know though, I’m saying, man, I’ve been knocking this Pledge series out for the last few years. With each album it seems like a greater increase of interest. It seems like El and I perfected a formula, so just look forward to more of it. Hopefully the phones keep ringing.
Killer Mike's R.A.P. Music is out now on Williams Street.