Just in time for the cool, cruel autumn, Jean Grae has released a track from her upcoming album Gotham Down, and it is something! Set to a scary minimalist beat and featuring some of the densest wordplay I have ever heard in my life, Kill Screen is a must for fans of rappity-rap, 80’s video games, ultraviolence, or all three.
The song was inspired partially by King of Kong, the 2007 documentary about world Donkey Kong champ Billy Mitchell and challenger to the throne Steve Wiebe (to whom, even aligned with the underdog, Jean subtitles the song.) The titular kill screen is the song’s central metaphor: the final frontier of a supposedly infinite video game like Kong or Pac Man, the level the programmers didn’t actually finish as no one ever expected anyone to reach it.
The song runs through a litany of cultural references at psychopathically calm whiplash speed, from the Oedipus complex to MC Escher to the “Skarsgaard hotties” of True Blood. Extended metaphors, rhythmic complexity and quadruple entendres abound. It’s funny, it’s exciting, it’s brilliant, and, if you are like me, it is supremely motivating. If you are trying to stay on track to achieve a goal and have had a very hard day, this is exactly the song for you. Listen now, thank me later.