Killer Mike, one of today’s most revered rappers, thanks in part to his Grammy-winning early work with Outkast and being one-half of infamous rap duo Run the Jewels (alongside long-time collaborator EL-P), emerged from the backstage of the historic Ace Theatre in Downtown LA with his signature, awe-inspiring presence.
Mike’s booming baritone voice pushed out the lyrics to “Down by Law,” the riveting opening track which lays the groundwork for Michael, his first solo outing in over a decade, with forthright ferocity. His no-holds-barred attitude remained prominent throughout the performance, yet with the help of his backing troupe The Midnight Revival - complete with choir, organist, and turntablist - he made it clear to the audience that his past to present influences from gospel, funk, and soul to hip-hop, rap, and trap would be front and center. Moreover, it would be Michael Render providing the musical and lyrical narrative, delivering the storyline of how he became Killer Mike, the superhero emcee.
Michael continued to push the show forward with a finely-tuned blend of rap and gospel songs from his self-titled work including, “Shed Tears” with a guest appearance by gospel singer Lena Byrd Miles, “Run” with the introductory voiceover provided by Dave Chappelle, before moving into “NRICH” featuring R&B vocalist Eryn Allen Kane. Miles and Kane provided some of the most breathtaking highlights of the night, their voices cutting through the air and old walls of the theater. Songs such as “Slummer” and “Scientists & Engineers” ended the first set before Killer Mike decided to take a brief break from his “book of Michael” for a retrospective of collaborative hits including “Kill Jill” with Big Boi and Jeezy, “Kryptonite,” with the Purple Ribbon All-Stars, and “Never Scared” with Bone Crusher and T. I.
Moving into the last segment of the show, Michael presented some of the most poignant and emotional moments for the audience to tap in to: “Something for Junkies,” a touching familial story of substance abuse conveyed with gentle reverence, and “Motherless,” Mike’s tribute to his mother Denise who he credits as being a “badass” and a legacy – the latter delivered as a eulogy for the audience to partake in, complete with an In Memorium photograph and service.
The show ended with “High &Holy” and “Thank You Lord,” Mike clutching a necklace with his mother’s image and imploring “Thank you all for being here…and no matter what don’t ever give up” as powerful parting words.
Check out Michael, and keep an eye out for hints of another Run The Jewels album in the future.
Down By Law
Teaser bit of the song Ready Set Go
TALK’N THAT SHIT
Scientists & Engineers
Kryptonite (I’m on it) Purple Ribbon All-Stars
Kill Jill -Big Boi
Never Scared - Bone Crusher and TI.
Something for Junkies
Don’t let the Devil
High & Holy
Thank You Lord