Album Review — 03 September 2009

killa mikeBy shelz.

Everyone has their favorite city to point to when discussing the reign of southern Hip-Hop, but Atlanta is seen by most as the epicenter. The city is home to some of the industry’s most well-known artists and has ruled the bottom’s rap roost with Braves fitteds and slow,winding drawls for some time.  However, per Killer Mike,there is still a burgeoning Atlanta underbelly that has yet to creep into the national consciousness and he feels it’s time the listening public got to know them.

Killer Mike Presents Underground Atlanta is an introduction to that lesser known talent, as they go song for song with established industry vets like T.I., Gucci Mane, Khujo, Pastor Troy and of course Killer Mike. It’s a lovely sentiment, but as you wade through the 32 track album, you realize why the vets are the vets and the rest have not been elevated to the upper echelon of the Hip-Hop stratosphere.

While there are a few songs helmed by the underground artists on this album that stand well without an assist from Mike, the majority need him to stay afloat.  Killer Mike is featured on 12 of the songs and the intro. In some cases he literally swoops in like Under Dog to save the day.  In others, even his aid can’t help the track from taking on water.  Mike is a powerful emcee who adds to each song, but the bad company he keeps on many of these tracks simply outweighs his good intentions.

The album starts off smartly enough with an intro that pours out some southern hubris, provides some strip club etiquette and tosses in some shout outs and a moment of silence for the closed subsidized housing that used to dot the city’s SW landscape.  It’s a bit busy but sets a hype tone for the lengthy journey you are about to face.

Getting the bounce party started is “Imma Fool With It,” an energetic back patting fest that pitts Mike against Big Kuntry King. The pair blaze through the track relating tales of ballerific proportions including and generally limited to big rides, bigger diamonds and the even bigger asses that those fiscal attributes will get you. After that though you are in for a relatively long string of mediocre tracks that incorporate these same topics but don’t live up to the hype of the intro.

Champ Squad’s “Charge It” provides a break from the trap tedium with some thoughtful anti-hustle lyrics as does Prynce Cyhi’s “Don’t Go Outside.”  B.o.B extols the joys of straying off the beaten path on “Generation Lost” and we get Killer Mike all by his lonely on “So Fly” as he recounts his run in with a female player of the highest caliber. However, most of the rest is D&A, drugs and ass.  The swag surf is in full effect as folks stack bricks, break off chicks and party all night long on that purp with big chains dangling from their necks.

The production is repetitive throughout the 32 tracks as well, minus a couple of stabs at originality.  An overwhelming synth over a simple drum works at times, but not in bulk.  That pattern is all there is in some songs. Others have layered vocals and awkward instrumentation thrown on top that make the tracks too hectic.  A happy medium is reached on Khujo’s “Comin True,” “The Eastside” by Da Backwudz and Killer Mikes twice released “2 Sides” with Shawty Lo, but that balance in production is uncommon on the double disc. In addition that lack of balance is compounded on some of the songs because it’s accompanied by poor lyricism.

The entirety of “Bunkin” is as confusing as the title.  Gangsta Pill raps a lot, but you’ll have no clue what he said afterwards.  Killer Mike makes an appearance on the predictable “In the Kitchen” attempting to save the song from the Dr. Seuss inspired lyricism of OJ Da Juiceman (Trap trap trap, all I do is trapWrap wrap wrap, yeah my bricks is in a wrap) but even The Cat in the Hat couldnt have saved that. The Rich Kidz “Bowlin” is unnervingly loud and  hard on the ears.  Then there is “Freaky Girls.”  Its Travis Porter’s interpolation of Raheem the Dream’s interpolation of Prince’s “Most Beautiful Girl in the World” and the third generation copy is a dud.

The biggest issue with this album is its monotony.  There are welcomed bright spots, but in 32 songs it’s hard to believe such a small grouping of subjects is broached.  Everyone is a trap star.  They all push weight. They all bang hoes and have plenty of cheese.  That formula over and over again on a single disc is bothersome; on a double disc it becomes tedious.

Even some of the veterans’ performances are less than stellar as T.I. and Gucci Mane sound like they phoned in their verses right after a long nap.  Bun B (yes, I know he’s not from Atlanta) is the lone Texas representer and represent he does.  Considering all this awesome Atlanta talent, it’s a shame one of the best verses on the album had to migrate from a different time zone.

The bottom line is Killer Mike is a refreshing 16 on the songs he’s on but he’s a small part of the overall project.  The rest of the squad drops the ball regularly.  That leaves the listener wondering if this is some reverse psychology move actually built to show how much better Killer Mike is than the rest of his homies. Well that probably wasn’t his intention and that creates the great irony of this album, because that’s exactly what he did.

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