El-P and Killer Mike at Fine Line, 7/5/12

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Photo by Erik Hess
El-P, Killer Mike, Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, and Despot
Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis
Thursday, July 5, 2012
El-P recently crafted two albums likely to wind up on a number of critics' best-of-the-year lists: his own solo record Cancer4Cure, and Killer Mike's R.A.P. Music, which he produced in full. If the news of Def Jux's permanent hiatus worried some about the state of independent hip-hop, the former label head's work since has been proof not only that it is alive and well but thriving in new and interesting ways. About a decade ago when Atlanta's Killer Mike was spitting verses alongside Outkast (he featured prominently on the Grammy-winning "The Whole World") and dropping an album that made it to the number 10 spot on the Billboard charts, this world of mainstream rap and the independent scene seemed to have little to no connection. Last night's Into the Wild Tour featured a cast of characters -- El-P, Killer Mike, Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, and Despot -- that provided a unique intersection between all sides of rap, and proved that it might well be more alive than ever.


Though opener Despot has yet to drop an album (a debut with production from Ratatat was promised and previewed), he's been in the game a while, though is only really now popping up alongside the crew featured on this tour. He had a Mitch Hedberg-like tone and a slight frame, and brought a sort of understated energy to a decent set of well-penned verses.

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Photo by Erik Hess

Random asides and audience aerobics added some humor and prepped the people for Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, a current blog favorite thanks to his grimy lyrics and hulking presence. Entering in a ski mask ("This is my gangsta-nerd experiment") but quickly removing it in favor of a ganked audience member's fox-head hat, he proceeded to spit his trademark dirt raps as he rubbed his potbelly for confidence.

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Photo by Erik Hess

He is definitely a sight to behold, and his rhyming seems to recall classic Brooklyn while sounding contemporary. The crowd managed to bring real energy to every performer throughout the night, which is rare on a multifaceted bill like this.

As Killer Mike entered to the drones that begin "Untitled," it was clear this was a co-headlining tour, despite most of the press attention that led up to the show focusing on El-P. The seasoned rapper's aura is kind of astounding; he seemed remarkably genuine and excited to be performing. A good chunk of R.A.P. Music was played, along with some classics from the rapper's previous albums and guest spots. His style is very focused on conveying his message, and every word he rapped seemed enunciated, projected, and felt by listeners. "I never thought nine years into my career," Killer Mike said at one point, "that I'd be just beginning"; these words summed up his set well, showcasing years of experience but the heart of an upstart.

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Photo by Erik Hess

He referred to the front section as "Gangland" and cheered them on whenever they went berserk, building off energy from powerhouse tracks like "Big Beast" and "Ric Flair" and culminating in a crunk mosh pit for the throwback "Kryptonite (I'm On It)." Political tracks like "Reagan" played incredibly well, releasing a beautiful catharsis as the whole venue raised middle fingers and screamed, "I'M GLAD REAGAN'S DEAD" at full force. An inspiring and solid set.


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