Editor: Tef Poe is an artist from St. Louis city. Through powerful imagery and complicated honesty, he has earned a reputation as one of the best rappers telling the story of St. Louis, which is about much more than one place. Poe has been featured in music publications such as XXL and Urb Magazine. His project The Hero Killer was released on January 21 and will be followed up by a full-length with DJ Burn One entitled Cheer For the Villain. Follow him on twitter @tefpoe. Get The Hero Killer here.
Last week I was thinking about an old hip-hop documentary entitled Rhyme and Reason, a classic featuring all of your favorite rappers from the '90s. I watched it when I was younger, and even though by the time I got my hands on it the film was a few years old, I still felt the need to watch it every day, if not multiple times a day.
This documentary gave me a crash course in golden era hip-hop. I studied it and let it become apart of me. The film carried the type of energy you want to feel when you press play on one of your favorite hip-hop records.
Recently I was at home alone and bored, so I watched it on Netflix and allowed the nostalgia of the moment to entertain me for the night. I noticed something about Rhyme and Reason which I had never noticed before: A lot of the MCs in the film looked older than the MCs of today. When I say this I don't say it with a negative connotation, but I mean the men and women on this film looked like adults, talked like adults, and were very much settled into their maturity. The film features interviews and appearances from almost any golden era act you can think of, from Tupac to Outkast, Wu Tang Clan, Q-Tip etc., the list goes on forever.
I could only think of a handful of acts that I'd compare to that era. I think people like Killer Mike, Danny Brown, Top Dawg Entertainment, Big Krit, Joey Badass and Rockwell Knuckles would've fit in perfectly with these types of acts. I'm sure there are more I forgot to mention but these are simply a few examples. This thought lingered in my mind for a few weeks as one of those hip-hop sticky notes stored in the subconscious of Tef Poe.
Now, it's no secret I'm a huge Killer Mike fan. I earnestly believe listening to his music motivated me to create a indie machine for myself and push the ball as far as I could. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last year, you probably know he dropped a classic hip-hop album. All of the major media publications like Time Magazine and Rolling Stone validated and stamped this body of music.
This morning I rolled over and watched his interview on the Breakfast Club. I was kind of shocked by the fact that they had him on the show, for starters. I watched the interview, and as I expected, it was one of the most amazing interviews I've watched in awhile. I think it felt like an old Ice Cube or Tupac interview, but with modernized energy. By the end, something clicked inside my head and said "this is exactly what hip-hop is supposed to be like." This is exactly what I want my favorite rappers to be. This interview, when watched through the right lens, reveals exactly why Killer Mike is so important, and his presence in the hip-hop culture today is very much needed. The man is a politically savy gangster rapper that is friends on a personal level with all your favorite rappers on both sides of the fence. The trappers and the rappers both love him. I'm a hybrid mix of both myself, so his music speaks directly to me. I sold weed and pills but I wasn't Big Meech. I was just a regular everyday kid jumping off the porch and trying to my pay light bill or buy some clean sneakers. I didn't even know what I was doing, to be honest, but I just needed some money and couldn't find a job. My little brother came over to my house one day and saw the digital scale on my table, and said "What the fuck are you doing?" I replied, "Paying rent."
My older brother is in jail for the rest of his life, but I love comic books and sci-fi references within my music. My uncle was a heroin kingpin, but I'm a total complete conspiracy theorist. I'm politically active in my community, and I'm known by many as an activist, but a few weeks ago I went to the Loft nightclub and bought a few bottles simply because I felt like shutting the club down and wanted to hear the most rachet music possible at the time. I'm a Teenagae Mutant Ninja Turtle enthusiast and I love to play throwback Sega Genesis video games. I don't do this everyday and my life is consumed by more than these things. I have real concerns and I also have moments where I simply don't give a damn.
This is what my favorite rappers are to me. They are real people that have real life concerns, but they also have hobbies and opinions that are true to their personalities. I've sat in meetings with important people in the music industry over the course of the last year, and many of them always say I need to pick a lane. My lane is life, and the totality of it.
The ability to maintain our standing as a valid product in the marketplace has started to limit our creativity. We are no longer allowed to speak our opinions in our music. We are no longer utilizing our God-given right to be human within our music. I need a rapper that can diss Ronald Reagan and also talk about selling dope out his grandmother's house in the same breathe. My grandmother's house in Wellston was basically the trap house, the family reunion spot, and the place of refuge for most of my older cousins when there was danger in the air. When Mike touches on these subjects, I relate.
I understand Killer Mike's plight, because he's being honest and sincere with his music. Hip-hop artists have always over-embellished things, but even the things he exaggerates within his music are done far more creatively than your typical rapper. Killer Mike is a real human being, making real music and speaking his real opinions and this within itself reveals the importance of Killer Mike to me as a fan of hip-hop music in 2013. Killer Mike can hop on a song with Raekwon and turn right around and do an entire album with T.I. and Young Jeezy if he wants to. He can work with Future or Gucci Mane and turn right around and work with Talib Kweli. There are no borders within his music; he is everything a rapper should be. He's respected by the likes of Puffy and also by the likes of DJ Burn One. We need more rappers to wear multiple hats and show us the multi leveled layers of their personalities if we truly intend on preserving the intriguing aspects of this artform.
I think Killer Mike might possibly be the best rapper alive because for the most part he made his situation work with very little help from the actual system. He has the ability to do everything with his talent. He has a unique fan base that is growing every day and he's a mature rapper. He connected with EL-P, one of the most respected underground producers of our era, and made a classic body of work. Powerhouses on the indie level combined their powers and actually got the results we so often wish we'd see them accomplish. The illusion of being independent is used as a marketing ploy these days by major labels to influence fans to believe in the hype machine pushing certain rappers down our throats. Through the evolution of Killer Mike, we're gifted the chance to support a rapper that has had major label push previously in his career, learned from these experiences, and started his own situation from nothing. I need you to support him, because without an artist of his magnitude paving the way, my mission statement is dead in the water. Hip Hop is all about freedom. We need more freedom to be ourselves if this artform will survive. We need freedom to market ourselves and create promotional schemes that make sense to our fans. We need more real life personas in our music. This is why Killer Mike is so important, and arguably the best rapper alive at this very moment in time.
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