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Best artist overall: Killer Mike

Staff Pick

Killer Mike remembers when he and his friends first heard N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton. "We were waiting for this record we'd heard about that had cursing on it - cussing, as we say in the South." On Killer Mike's latest album, R.A.P. Music, the Adamsville rapper terrorizes like his childhood Jheri curl-wearing idols and inspires like his late grandmother, who was a civil rights activist. He plummets through a lyrical reunion with T.I. and Bun B while aided by his own battle cry: "POW, motherfucker!" He confronts his own mortality: "Will my woman be Coretta, take my name and cherish it?" He paces through the aftermath of Ronald Reagan's presidency, the Iran-Contra affair, and the resulting '80s crack epidemic that gave N.W.A. so much attitude. He cusses, sputters, and preaches. R.A.P. Music is Killer Mike's pi├Ęce de résistance - a collection of stories pieced together from cassettes, headlines, and a lifetime spent in Atlanta, as told by a drawl that airs out like gun smoke.

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