Killer Mike- of Run the Jewels fame- is re-introducing himself. The heavy-hitting hip hop artist, accompanied by The Midnight Revival gospel choir, took The Van Buren to church on The High & Holy Tour this week. The Atlanta MC and activist (real name Michael Render) focused on his latest album, MICHAEL, to show fans the real down South hip hop side of his music making skills.
The stage was set like a Southern-style church, flower arrangements meticulously placed and the pulpit perfectly centered as The Midnight Revival quintet raised the roof with their intro. Killer Mike swaggered onstage in all white with the confidence of a veteran performer and the cheers to match his prolific career.
For almost 10 songs, the spotlight was on his new album and the audience had the words ready to shout back at the MC. Mike, for his part, let his rhymes do the work- backed by his DJ and choir, there was no room for filler in the set. Mid-way through the first act, Mike informed the crowd that this was the hip hop of his home and he performed each song with passion and soul.
Mike also injected some well-placed covers into the middle of the set, including Purple Ribbon All-Stars’ “Kryptonite (I’m On It) and Bone Crusher’s “Never Scared”- a song that had a familiar audience chanting the chorus at top volume.
With another chant denouncing the late President Ronald Reagan before “REAGAN”, Mike kept a balance of joy and rage in the set. Mike’s happiness at being onstage was obvious and infectious and there were plenty of smiles through “Ready Set Go” and “TWO DAYS”, but “REAGAN” was a return to the angry side of Mike’s music. He used that segue to move seamlessly into speaking out about the failed war on drugs, their impact on the community and the anguish represented in the lyrics of “SOMETHING FOR JUNKIES”.
At this point, the room was steaming from the Arizona heat so Mike took us home with “Ric Flair”, HIGH & HOLY” and the closing number “THANK YOU LORD”. It was a setlist that burned less intensely than Killer Mike’s usual onstage activism, instead igniting a new kind of fire in himself and the longtime fans in the audience. Standing at his pulpit and backed by his choir, The High & Holy Tour spread Killer Mike’s good word and will continue to do so across the country this summer.
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Story and photos by Olivia Khiel