Conflict is nothing new in the Outkast family. Despite what was once a reputation as being one of the tightest and down to earth click’s in the game, Outkast and their surrounding family have been showing more and more cracks. First the Goodie Mob split up and I’m still not sure what happened to Witchdoctor or Cool Breeze. Then there was the whole Aquemini label that never really put out a proper release. Finally, Big Boi and Dre have obviously been suffering big time creative differences. With Big Boi’s Purple Ribbon label it seemed things were back on track and we’d finally get to see Killer Mike’s sophomore album. Well, it’s almost 2007 and we still haven’t seen the follow up to the superb “Monster” and it seems that Killer Mike and Purple Ribbon have more problems than can be solved. Killer Mike has always been the one to stand up for Outkast and the Dungeon Family as his fierce rhymes on the “Purple Ribbon Allstars” album showed, but it seems even he has had enough of the quarreling and album delays. “I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind” is Killer Mike’s bootleg album and at 2 CDs it gives listeners enough material to hold them over for the official album and allows Mike to vent out and explain why he feels the way he does.
Killer Mike starts out with the same furious energy that commanded attention when we first heard him on Outkast’s “The Whole World” as he explains what this album is all about on “The Pledge.” “Comin’ Home Atlanta” is the first song on the album and Mike smooths things out as he talks about his beloved hometown. “The Juggernaut” finds Mike lyrically murdering his enemies over an energetic beat and showcases his mix of battle/street rhymes. “Fuck You Pay Me” is a hood anthem that reminds us that despite running with the rap game’s most creative duo Killer Mike is still from the streets of Atlanta. “H.N.I.C.” introduces Killer Mike’s Grind Time Rap Gang into the mix and the hook flips a popular line from “Kryptonite.” Lyrically, Rock D the Legend, S.L. Jones, and Gangsta Pill can hang with Killer Mike but when it comes to energy they can’t match their mentor. “One More Gram” is evidence of the bootleg nature of the album as Killer Mike flips Biggie’s “One More Chance.” A worthy inclusion on the album is the “Hot 107.9 Interview” which is an interview where Killer Mike explains the beef he has. It stems from Killer Mike not being able to make it to Big Boi’s birthday bash and one of the members of the Dungeon Family declaring that “one monkey don’t stop the show” in reference to Mike. Mike follows this up immediately with “Promise I Will Not Lose” where he disses said member back and reveals that the beef ends up being one where members of the same label/crew have stepped over the line from competitiveness to jealousy.
The second disk of the album contains equally dope songs. “That’s Life” opens up with an intro from Killer Mike’s son and finds Mike declaring that he went to Morehouse and made something of himself. You can’t hate on that and you can’t hate on Mike for asking why so-called leaders like Oprah find it easy to criticize rappers but don’t do anything for the hood themselves:
“The fat bitch sing and show over in opera
Leader of the crack rat pack, I Sinatra
They say I dissed Oprah, I’m like so what?
I’ll never get to jump up and down on a sofa
Now watch me as I cruise like Tom through the slums
Where the education’s poor and the children growing dumb
In the section of the city where sadiddies don’t come
Where Mr. Cosby and Ms. Oprah won’t come
Unless it’s a hurricane and FEMA don’t come
I’m live from the city where the dreamer came from
I’m standing on the same corners that he stood upon
Got violence in my waste band, death in my palm
Ask Sam, Am I a bad guy? You god damn right!
I done seen how you do a nigga when he doing right
The dream died at a balcony, standing at a hotel
Now niggas whip it, coke, jail, and a hotel
We desegregated, but black with the white
No longer marching for rights, they sparking a pipe
Pipe dreams, crack fiends, cars look like ice crea
Kids see the bling bling and they want them nice things
All cuz of tennis shoes, our kids drop out of school
They said be like Mike, so ball nigga, ‘That’s life'”
The rest of the track drops so much knowledge it’d take the rest of this review to address but it’s definitely a must peep track of 2006. You know that one track makes this album a must purchase but we still got 11 more tracks on the second disk alone. “Dueces Wild” is a story telling track which I assume takes after the movie of the same name which I haven’t watched. “Sags and Flags” is a gangsta’s anthem that works well and showcases the Grind Time Rap Gang again. “Gorilla Pimpin'” features the only outside appearances as 8Ball and MJG show up and drop quality verses. The album ends with a bonus track in the form to a remix of “Kryptonite” that is unique in the fact it screws the verses but instead of screwing the beat it provides an entirely new beat that is slower than the original but gives the track a nice feel. It’s a technique I’d never heard before and the results are so dope I hope Mike keeps it up in the future.
“I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind” was a surprising album. It’s not that I didn’t expect dope music from Killer Mike, but I figured that a 2 Disk street album wouldn’t reach the quality of a retail album. I was wrong as Mike comes through with quality tracks throughout. It isn’t perfect as few tracks sound a little generic and the Grind Time Rap Gang don’t bring the energy Killer Mike possesses, but overall it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. From beef to politics to street rap, Mike drops all the right ingredients that should get people listening and talking. Furthermore, this “street” album only leaves wondering just how dope his Purple Ribbon debut is going to be.