[This story contains spoilers for season four of Ozark.]
OzarkRuth Langmore has become one of television’s rarest on-screen hip-hop ambassadors, regularly listening to rappers of the ’90s. In the season four episode of “Death’s Cousin,” her favorite she fits the meta: when Ruth (Julia Garner) listens to Nas’ first LP Illusion In her headset, she clashed with genre legend Killer Mike. “I really love your bad,” she told the Run the Jewels member, part of a surprise guest appearance that left fans buzzing.
“When I got the call, I said, ‘Yes, I’m disappointed,'” said Mike, who was sitting in the kitchen. The Hollywood Reporter with her signature smile. “Finding out I was going to be playing Killer Mike and talking to Ruth, got me really excited. I am honored to be asked.”
Mike, an Atlanta native, recently returned from a warmly welcomed feat at Coachella, performing alongside his Jewels partner EI-P, (he took time between weekends to celebrate. April 20th birthday with a big party in Los Angeles). See Ozark is an activity that loves downtime; he and his wife have been loyal followers since season one, and mostly involve main characters Wendy (Laura Linney) and Marty (Jason Bateman) Byrde staying together even under the worst of circumstances .
“There are a lot of bad things about marriages,” he said. “[Wendy and Marty] Problems exist, drug syndicate attacks, friends turn enemies. It’s like that on TV, but in real life, marriage is not always easy. It takes a lot of what the Byrdes do: converse. There are many sentences, ‘I can curse you in the morning, and I will restore you by evening.’
Killer Mike, real name Michael Render, made his public debut when his mentors, Big Boi and Andre 3000 of Outkast, asked him to appear on their 2000 album. Stankonia, which is a multi-platinum culture transducer. The grammar slinger has since won a Grammy with Outkast and cemented himself as a rap icon with critically acclaimed solo works (including an official album and underground mixtape) as well as The critically acclaimed Run the Jewels record. He is also one of hip-hop’s most insightful and outspoken voices when it comes to political and social issues. He is an engaged activist who always answers calls to attack the front lines and motivates people (his 2019 documentary series Activation alert explored topics such as the education system and what he called white gang privilege).
Mike’s portfolio is a favorite of both Ozark host Chris Mundy, and series musical supervisor Gabe Hilfer, and his solo and group efforts were featured many times on the show’s soundtrack during its five-year run – notably Most notably, the track Run the Jewels “Oh La La” concludes the high-octane end of season three. (It plays out via credits that take place seconds after Navarro Cartel attorney Helen Pierce met her gruesome death, receiving a bullet to the head from her own boss.) The eighth episode of season four, in which Killer Mike is introduced, has a similar arc of violence – after the murder of her cousin Wyatt, Ruth embarks on a pilgrimage from the Ozarks to Chicago on a quest for revenge. (chilling to the bone, movie song “New York State of Mind” by Nas) and met Mike during a break at a restaurant. The rapper sat at the same table with his entourage and the two chose Nas after he asked what she was listening to.
“There was a wink at the end of the scene,” Mundy explained in an interview from the scriptwriters room of a top-secret new project. He was referring to a subtle salute to one of Nas’ most famous rap lines. In this scene, Killer Mike asks Ruth why she’s not sleeping, to which she simply replies, “You know.”
“Because ‘[sleep] is death’s cousin,” Mundy added. “That’s also the title of the episode – she lost her cousin, but it also [referencing] Nas lyrics. I want it to be a playful moment, where if you know the record, then you’ll love it. Hilfer points out that the wink is similar to the appearance of Killer Mike himself: They don’t name him in the scene. “She didn’t say, ‘I love you, Killer Mike,'” he added. “If you know, you know. She knows who it is, and she’s not trying to blow up his position. She just admitted that she was a fan.”
The rapper was also an off-camera success. “Everybody loved him,” Mundy said. “Laura Linney came to the set even though she wasn’t acting in the scene. He sent flowers to Garner and then director Amanda Marsalis. He was just the most amazing act of the class. “
“Amanda is amazing, and Julia is a great actress,” Mike beamed. “She gave me suggestions. But really, my first connection [to Ozark] It’s Laura Linney. I met her on a plane. My wife used to watch big C, and I remember talking to her just now about how much the show affected my wife. And we still keep in touch.”
Although Mike is the only rapper who has ever appeared in an acting role on Ozark, hip-hop is an important element of the series’ music scene, especially when it comes to Ruth’s playlists. Early in the show, there are moments when Ruth tries to get Tuck away from Bob Seger and switch to old-fashioned hip-hop, and then she shows up with Blue Cat in a Tupac T-shirt. Her fandom stems from discussions between Mundy and Hilfer, two self-proclaimed music enthusiasts. Mundy moved to New York in 1988, began writing for Rolling Stone not long after he arrived, and stayed for more than a decade, covering the front lines of emerging hip-hop. Hilfer is a native of the Big Apple and fondly recalls growing up and listening to city stars like Gang Starr, Big L and Wu-Tang Clan (De La Soul’s) 3 feet tall and growing was the first album he bought).
Hilfer added that Ruth often uses hip-hop music from the 80s and 90s as her “safe space”. Like countless respected music journalists and fans, he also quotes Illusion is the best rap album not only from that time slot but of all time. The episode “The Cousin of Death” is a nod to Nas and his limitless, game-changing work. And the last song Ruth ever played, before she was shot dead by Camila Navarro, the new head of the Cartel, was Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s 1992 soul-moving gem “TROY (They Reminisce Over You”) )”. That record was inspired by a tragedy – the death of producer Pete Rock’s best friend – but has since risen to become one of rap music’s greatest celebratory songs, fueled by trumpet patterns. Rock’s triumph and drumming and CL’s compelling storytelling.
“We all have people we’ve lost,” Rock said as he sat inside his studio surrounded by vinyl albums. “For me, it’s the most important record in hip-hop when it comes to that. Death affected me so much, I think that’s why God was in the room when I wrote that song. It is dear to my heart, and when I hear people who have lost others tell me what the song has done for their lives, I am moved.”
Mundy explained that once he decided Ruth would die on the show, “TROY” would be her perfect farewell: “It’s always been that song. I just keep coming back to it. It was a great moment in her life at the time; She’s happy, she doesn’t know what’s coming. Music should be upbeat, emotional but not corny, talking about family and the past. She’s going through the past of losing Wyatt and what her future holds – those two things need to come together and be as fun as possible for her final song. “
The last episodes of Ozark currently streaming on Netflix.
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