Killer Mike: I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II

Killer Mike cut down on the promotional posse-cuts that took up half of his last album, thus rendering the second installment of his I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind series his most essential album, a fully realized example of his incredible promise.

Killer Mike

I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II

Label: SMC
First date: 2008-07-08
US Release Date: 2008-07-08
UK Release Date: 2008-10-29

The first installment of Killer Mike’s I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind series, released in 2006, felt like a classic album scattered among a bunch of promotional posse cuts from Mike’s Grind Time Rap Gang. His disciples were not bad by any means. His solo tracks were just so strong. Killer Mike’s presence on record is so commanding that guest verses only leave listeners salivating for his return. When guests contribute about half the raps for an album bearing his name as the principal artist, that’s a lot of yearning for a listener to endure. That issue must have been acknowledged, because I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II feels much more like a true Killer Mike solo album than its predecessor did. His emceeing is also as potent as ever and guest verses have been kept to a level at which they only complement his power. The result is yet another great album in very promising summer for hip-hop.

Killer Mike is to the Atlanta trap what Ice Cube was to West Coast gang-banging and the Notorious B.I.G. was to the New York street hustle. Like those artists, Mike uses street narratives, based on real-life experience, in a viciously candid manner, showing incredible insight into the societal issues controlling his brutal environment. Like Ice Cube – who guests on “Pressure” in somewhat of a passing-of-the-torch moment – Killer Mike has a flair for militant politics. But his philosophies, rational and compassionate, can be most closely identified with those adopted by Malcolm X in the 10 short months between his Mecca pilgrimage, after breaking ties with the Nation of Islam, and his assassination. I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II is mature, thought-out, intellectual D-Boy rap which, like Biggie or Cube at their best, can sound irresponsible and dangerous to the naive ear. If, at any point however, one of his raps seemingly contradicts his preaching, he returns to justify – often in spoken-word, moral-of-the-story song-outros – its inclusion and how it incorporates into the formation of a larger message.

Lyrical substance is not the only thing I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II has going for it. Like any great politically minded emcee, Killer Mike understands that the most important aspect in getting any message across through rap is a forum of legitimately entertaining music. Sample-wise, this album generally sticks to the classic Southern aesthetic (dark organ and synthesizer chords, booming 808s, bouncing bass, screwed vocals, etc.) with occasional, generally successful forays into vocoded Euro-pop (“Can You Hear Me?”), hard West Coast piano keys (“Pressure”), and other styles. Varying drum patterns throughout the album allow Mike to showcase his exceptional ability, like his former mentor Big Boi, to adapt his flow to virtually any beat. Cadence-wise, I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II has Mike switching between Southern double-time; New York 4:4; blunted, slow, West-Coast flow; and several other styles, all seemingly with ease.

Above all, what makes Killer Mike so powerful is his extraordinary presence as a public speaker. Combine his loud, commanding voice, extraordinary skills as an emcee, as well as the ability to objectively analyze his harsh upbringing, and what you have is a man who managed to find the perfect avenue to get his point across in the form of hip-hop music. This album is virtually devoid of pretension. While Mike possesses worlds of confidence, he is not self-righteous. He is able to acknowledge his flaws. He incorporates enough humor and accessibility into his music that one not looking for preaching can enjoy this record while completely ignoring his message. I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II is quite easily the fullest realization and most essential example of Killer Mike’s overwhelming promise thus far. I can’t think of a better record to play for backpackers who perpetually deny the contributions of the South to rap music, for those who thought hip-hop died with Biggie Smalls, and for those who thought the genre's integrity left the building with Public Enemy as they walked away from Def Jam.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.