I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind Vol. 2
(SMC Recordings; 2008)
By Colin McGowan | 26 July 2008
Killer Mike invests a lot of words into convincing us he is the next Jay Hova. God MC, that is. “God In The Building,” I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind Vol. 2‘s most insistent mission statement (and there are a lot of them here) is a scorcherous sermon, and Atlanta’s native son accentuates that point: “It’s hot like Hell in the South / Feel like we in the devil’s mouth in the South.” Beautiful blasphemy ensues over a glorious choir’s ululations: “Take the king’s english paint pictures so vivid / That the listener will swear to God they lived it / If that ain’t God in motion, nigga tell me what is it?” He’s very persuasive: I Pledge Allegiance is his most convincing argument yet for the imaginary, heavily-sought-after “best rapper alive” crown.
But while the shit-talking here is thick, Killer Mike would probably prefer liberation as opposed to some innocuous title belt; the political overtones that have permeated his back catalogue are amplified here, most notably on “Pressure,” his collaboration with Ice Cube, which revels in a brutal dissatisfaction with race relations unseen since… well, Killer Mike’s phenomenal indictment of just about everyone on “That’s Life.” And brutal is the most applicable word (“They hate you and the pussy that you came through”)—it’s a furiously indignant number that feels surprisingly out of place, especially with its deliberate pianos on a record so subsumed by synths. Perhaps a bit dated, but the intent is clear: it reasserts the Atlantan’s status as the definitive political rapper of the decade, or at least as he furiously sees it. In a time when every relevant rapper is shouting out Obama, he’s dropping vitriol-encased bombs.
On “Can You Hear Me,” Mike hints at a bitterness that would seem to be the root of the majority of the album’s wrath, as he almost vulnerably delivers the dart “we took the crack / And put it in rap / Now your kids is high off that.” This line comes in the context of an extended rant about the necessity of drug-dealing and how Black America has been backed into a corner from which it cannot legally extricate itself. This isn’t rationalization, it’s blatant, terrifying truth: the seed that harbors the motivation behind this expansive collection of brilliant diatribes.
The reason this is Killer Mike’s greatest triumph, though, regardless of content, is his eloquent bombast. On “Bang!” he lurches along a sparse electronic creep, emphasis on every fraction of a syllable: “God in the buildin’, nigga / Ain’t no comparison / I don’t need swagger / I’m just arrogant” He pronounces “God” like “Gawd!” all Southern drawl as sonic boom. It’s the most palpably awesome moment on a record filled with them. And while the braggadocio wears thin over the course of nearly 80 (!) minutes, the numerous highlights overwhelm the running time.
Killer Mike bares his proud, ugly chest for nearly the entire duration of his second entry into the I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind series, fists-clenched, determined ferocity permeating his authoritative growl. It’s easy to cull a bevy of charmingly boastful quotes from his sixteen-bar testaments but, while that’s an entertaining, frequently invigorating exercise, Killa Kill isn’t an intriguing, desperately necessary figure. He’s a foil, of sorts, to Weezy’s punchline propensity: Wayne’s got King Kong in the trunk; Mike is fucking King Kong, and not because he’s simply filling a role left vacant by Ice Cube some fifteen years ago, but because he’s placed a different face behind the Angry, Intelligent Black Man archetype popularized as a necessity of the genre over a decade before, pushing verve and vigor back into what that means today.