Tonight, one of Atlanta’s favorite sons, Killer Mike, plays with Wu-Tang Clansman GZA at Irving Plaza. In many respects, this has been a banner year for Mike, whose El-P produced album R.A.P. Music has given him the most accolades of his career, as well as his work touring with the Into the Wild tour that’s seen him bring his swaggering bulldozer of a stage show across the country.
– Live: Killer Mike Rolls Hard At Brooklyn Bowl
– Q&A: GZA On Wrestling, His Hip-Hop Beginnings, Chess Metaphors, And The Chances of a Wu-Tang Kung Fu Flick
While he’s rightfully being praised for his recent work, it’s easy to forget that, for over a decade, he’s been responsible for some of the most memorable guest appearances and underground singles the rap world’s heard. So, as a quick refresher course before tonight’s concert, here’s our timeline of how Killer Mike’s been one of the greatest things hip-hop’s had going.
Outkast feat. Killer Mike – “The Whole World” 2001
Mike’s referred to his appearance on “The Whole World” as the verse that changed his life, and even today it holds up as one of the strongest debut appearances in the genre’s history. Not many artists can boast winning a Grammy off the strength of their very first song, but when you consider Mike’s mastery, flowing in a 6/8 time signature while successfully outshining BOTH members of Outkast, it’s an instant star-maker.
Bone Crusher feat. T.I. & Killer Mike “Never Scared” 2003
Speaking of debuts, Killer Mike had another memorable cameo on Bone Crusher’s monster first single “Never Scared.” Also joined by T.I., who made his first Top-40 chart appearance on the track, the three artists perfectly set the brooding atmosphere with style-defining verses over a beat that accentuated their strengths perfectly.
Bubba Sparxxx feat. Killer Mike & Cool Breeze – “Claremont Lounge” 2005
At a time when the rift in Outkast was still a relatively new rumor, Big Boi assembled a supergroup, the Purple Ribbon All Stars, for two Got Purp? compilations. While most remembered for the “Kryptonite (I’m On It)” single, the second installment gave us the “Claremont Lounge” collaboration between Mike, Bubba Sparxxx and first-generation Dungeon Family member Cool Breeze. Produced by Organized Noise, the track captures all three artists’ very different but equally captivating knacks for storytelling through conveying the environment of one of Atlanta’s most notorious clubs. Killer Mike – “That’s Life” 2006
With his sophomore album in permanent label limbo, Mike took to the underground to begin a regular output of some of his most visceral, confrontational work. “That’s Life” was the lead single off his I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind underground album, reflecting both his frustrations with the industry, as well as his unfiltered rage with the double-standard hypocrisy of a post-Katrina media as well as the absence of “black leaders” from his communities. This is the genesis of the oft-repeated parallels between Killer Mike and early Ice Cube.
Killer Mike – “God in the Building” 2008
While much of Mike’s reputation since his resurgence has focused on his unfiltered call-it-as-he-sees-it approach to explaining the injustice around him, one of his most poignant works, “God in the Building,” is among his most personal and volatile. Beginning with the Hell-ish aspects of his home, Mike zooms-in on how he carries himself, finding religious imagery and subtly explaining its significance in the most sinful of environments.