Since first popping up over a decade ago as one of the most potent voices on Outkast’s Purple Ribbon Records, Killer Mike has steadily built a dedicated, largely underground following. In the last two years however, thanks in large part to his beastly 2012 solo album, R.A.P. Music, and last summer’s Run the Jewels, a hard-hitting team-up between him and longtime friend/collaborator El-P, the Atlanta MC has never been more visible.
“It’s all working out,” the 38-year-old tells Rolling Stone with a laugh. “The world is a funny place. I’m just a lucky bastard to be living off rap.”
Twenty-fourteen should be Killer Mike’s most prolific year yet: The rapper has regrouped with El-P in Crazy studios in upstate New York, and the two have begun work on Run the Jewels 2, after which he’ll turn his attention to a slew of solo efforts.
“I’d say we’re probably going to have Run The Jewels 2 in the bag by spring,” Mike declares. “It really jumped off well,” he adds of his and El-P’s jelling as a duo. “The question became, ‘Hey, do you want to go ahead and continue with the group?’ And the fans and El-[P] solidly answered yes. So we’re gonna do it again.”
The group’s second effort, Mike says, is “much darker and much harder than I thought it would be. It’s pushed me into some darker crevices of my personality.
“We’re knee-deep in creating,” he adds “Throwing flows and patterns out, just picking beats we like. It’s all pretty instinctual. We’re just in there rapping like rapid dogs right now. Neither one of us are resting on our laurels.”
Mike also plans to drop a much-anticipated sequel to R.A.P. Music later in the year, saying it should hit shelves sometime late 2014. “Fall is pretty much the cut-off,” he says. “If it’s not out by the fall, I’d start to worry.
“R.A.P. Music is very personal,” he adds. “It’s that child that discovered rap about eight or nine years old. And he is attempting the Herculean task of becoming one of those greats.” He says a solo album like R.A.P. Music allows fans to “fully understand me as a human and as an entertainer.”
Killer Mike is also currently working on two additional projects: an LP tentatively titled The Elegant Elephant — which he describes as “new and fresh and weird and wild and wonderful and dynamic” — and I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind IV, the fourth installment in his mixtape series of the same name.
“The Pledge series” – which began with 2006’s I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind, released in the wake of his leaving Outkast’s Purple Ribbon Records – he says, “is a marker for my career. It’s about this mantra: you can get rich independently; you can decide who you are; you can decide what you’re about. In a way it’s an extension of the ego. I’m trying to build a better me, a better human being, a better business.”
Part of the challenge for Mike, who regularly records at Big Boi’s Stankonia Studios in Atlanta, and says he plans to link up with acclaimed Chicago producer No I.D. (Kanye West, Common) any day now, is in knowing which raps and beats work best for each of his respective projects. “The record kind of tells me where shit should go and what it should be for” he says. He references a recent session in Denmark with electro-pop outfit When Saints Go Machine that resulted in one beat perfect for Pledge IV and another tailor-made for The Elegant Elephant.
Reflecting on his mammoth few years, the MC says he is nothing if not utterly thankful for his hard-earned increased visibility in the rap game.
“I’m terribly excited to be a new discovery for people,” he says. “It pushes me to be creative. It pushes me to figure out how to keep on reinventing myself. I won’t ever look as rap as a job.”