Killer Mike’s Pledge trilogy has finally come full circle with his last installment, Pl3dge. In expected Bigga fashion, he bound a myriad of subjects to his grind vow, but still managed cohesion over that extensive breadth. Socio-political rhetoric abounds with a definite militant lean. His disdain for organized religion and concern about the actions of black leaders are tackled, but he still finds time to shout out the wifey, those scandalous side pieces and the folks doing dirt in the streets.
It’s always interesting to hear the dichotomy of a self-realized man on wax. Plenty of rappers have attempted to be their full, albeit conflicted, selves in their art. Few have pulled it off sincerely and unfortunately, while Pl3dge bumps with some really great music, the overall vibe feels more like a contrived attempt at exposing all that is in Mike’s heart than an actual peek inside. Don’t let the hypothesizing fool you though, this album is worth a listen.
The Pl3dge starts with Killer Mike’s statement of identity. “So Glorious” goes into the duality over some bouncy keys and churning strings. He’s an educated villain, a book reader, a gang leader and he embraces it all. The singer wailing in the background gives you the inkling that Mike might be trying to take you to church on this album, and you’re right.
He slides into the topic on the next song, “That’s Life 2.” Crooked church folks that touch not only your money but your kids, impotent leaders who shrink from hot button topics and Eddie Long’s toupee are all put up for critical examination. Chunky atmospherics are surrounded by layers of percussion on the track that add a bit of anxiety to the overall feel. Well done.
Mikes first feature, Grand Hustle bossman T.I., appears on “Ready Set Go,” an eerie minimal track with an unintelligible but nicely used looped vocal sample. The song is a warning to dudes with more bark than bite to steer clear of the real. Clifford is quietly relegated to the hook, but the hushed growl is menacing. “Burn” is a picture of frustration boiled over into mayhem, a sonic black fist punching straight through your speakers. The anger is cold and controlled enough to ice over that blaze Killer just set. “God in the Building 2” continues with the idea of Mike’s personality polarity, selling both hope and dope.
At this point, the album takes a turn for the meh. “Players Lullaby” is a generic I’m-screwing-another-dudes-chick piece of rap erotica. The lyrics don’t serve Mike, Twista or Roc D the Legend very well and the sexy thug deliveries are staid. “Animal” has the obligatory Gucci feature, full of sophomoric bars and problems finding the beat. The hook is animal kingdom meets urban jungle, and not in a good way. Mike’s animal metaphors are hard on the ears. He takes his lady to the mall twice in “Everything” a song reminiscent of The Supremes “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” It’s an ode to loving the special one, but hopefully Mike is aware there’s more to women than Neiman’s.
There is some redemption on the rear end though. “American Dream” spreads some real thought about the dark side of American history over a slow, funky track bursting with 70’s horn schemes, claps, guitars, strings and choir wailing. “Follow Your Dreams” is a you-can-do-it piece that teeters on after school special corniness but never falls in the trap. It’s a sincere and necessary message.
With Pl3dge, Killer Mike has closed down a brand and for the most part, bids the concept adieu with a good release. However, the missteps not only detract from the greatness of the album, but also the greatness of Mike’s intentions. It’s too late to say dig deeper and think more critically and the album is still a sonic success. However, it speaks volumes of Mike not only as a rapper, but as a man that we wish he would have provided more of an emotional flow, because we know he can make the masterpiece he believed Pl3dge to be.
3.5 Out of 5