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Killer Mike talks new music, entrepreneurship, Outkast and America

todayJuly 13, 2022 58 1

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On July 4, Killer Mike released “Run,” his first solo track since the 2012 album “R.A.P. Music” produced by his partner in crime from Run the Jewels, EL-P.

In an interview with HYFIN‘s own Element, Killer Mike discussed the song in depth, saying, “‘Run’ is not just educational. It’s not just instructional. ‘Run’ is a dope record full of swagger and pride. ‘Run’ is a record that Dave Chapelle intros in a most amazing way — encouraging me to get off my tuchus and make sure I stay involved in the political process and make sure that I’m a spokesman for the people.”

He had a lot more to say about the new track, Black leadership, entrepreneurship, America and how Outkast influenced — and still influences — his life. You can listen to and read the interview below.

Element:
Let’s get things started. You are a rapper, activist, actor, entrepreneur. You’ve had your own Netflix series. You have been in my living room more times than you can imagine with “Trigger Warning.” There’s a lot going on.

Killer Mike:
Thank you.

Element:
There’s a lot going on here. You have your PBS show. I want to know what is Shay putting in those greens because you are nonstop. What is she doing?

Killer Mike:
Shay made me some oxtails this week. Listen, she ain’t let me eat them with no rice, but I got a chance to eat them with salad. I could eat the green and the protein. But let me tell you something, my wife has to get a huge amount of credit for the encouragement she gives me. And not only encouragement to keep going, but the encouragement to rest, the encouragement to take good care of myself, the encouragement to say, “Hey, negro. I know the world wants you, but me and these children need you.” So I appreciate her for that, so thank you for invoking her from the beginning, because I’m truly grateful to have her.

Element:
Well, every interview that I see you have and where it feels really authentic, Shay comes up.

Killer Mike:
Yeah, that’s what —

Element:
I mean, she always comes up. So I feel like she is the invisible partner always on your shoulder, guiding you.

Killer Mike:
She is.

Element:
Yeah. I wouldn’t be doing my best self, my best service, in not invoking that sister in her absence.

Killer Mike:
I got to let her know that. I got to let her know. I appreciate you.

Element:
We are celebrating two things: the 10-year anniversary of “R.A.P Music,” so congratulations on that.

Killer Mike:
Thank you.

Element:
And we are celebrating “Run.”

Killer Mike:
Yes.

Element:
How did this happen?

Killer Mike:
Well, “R.A.P Music,” 10 years ago, was produced entirely by EL-P. “Rebellious African People’s” music. I am the rebellious African, and I make music for the people, not just Black people, but people’s music, much like Fred Hampton. I see a class struggle happening in this country and beyond, and it is important that we realize it’s always us versus them. And us meaning the proletariat versus the oligarchs, the monarchs and the people in the elite that hold power over us, so thank you for acknowledging “R.A.P Music.” “R.A.P Music” led EL-P and I to join forces and create what I feel like is the best rap group in the world today, that’s Run The Jewels. I’ve been on tour essentially for nine years dominating tours, whether it is Primavera in Spain or whether it is Coachella, Run The Jewels has shown up and done our job time and time again. And our job is burning the stage down, recognizing that real dope rap music.

Michael had an urge to say something that was unapologetically audacious and Black that was rooted in artistic freedom and that was rooted in that we make the swag dope. We’re a big part of the reason America is the greatest country in the world, that this republic is so wanted by other people to come to. We’re a big part of that reason. And whether it is Little Richard or Mama Thornton or Ray Charles, whether it is Michael Jackson or Prince, whether it is Run D.M.C. or N.W.A., we deserve the credit for making this country cool. So, “Run” is not just educational. It’s not just instructional. “Run” is a dope record full of swagger and pride. “Run” is a record that Dave Chapelle intros in a most amazing way — encouraging me to get off my tuchus and make sure I stay involved in the political process and make sure that I’m a spokesman for the people. “Run,” unfortunately, has to be a banner of free Thug now. Thug was free when he did this record.

Element:
Oh, wow!

Killer Mike:
He was free when he said, “Run, I’m going to steal this and my son [inaudible].” That makes sure his children know what generational wealth means and things of that nature. So, I got a chance to spend two weeks with him to see the man behind the myth — not just a character, but the human being, which is a big part of the reason I stand in solidarity with him and Gunna in saying, “Do not allow their lyrics that are pretend, created in a pretend world, to have people chanting they ass off, used against them in a court, where they’re supposed to be presumed innocent until found guilty.” They have not been found guilty, so I presume them innocent, and I’m saying, “Hands off Black art,” in the same way as hands off white art. I’ve seen in this country, in the past year, a white woman who actually killed her husband, they have to prove she killed her husband, but they were not allowed to use an article that was written by her to say how to kill your husband.

Element:
Oh, wow!

Killer Mike:
So, if that’s fair for her, that ought to be fair for us, too. So, not only do I have a jamming record, it’s a politically right-now record because someone on that record is being persecuted through a political process, and I’m happy that I’m free to make some noise for he and Gunna. I’m happy that we spent a couple of weeks in the studio. A Black man died for this country before any white man did. A Black man put his life on the line against the red coats, who were the Brits at the time, to say, “This republic deserves to be free.” So much like I’m from the lineage of those foundational Black Americans, I’m from the lineage of dope music making. So whether it’s Crispus Attucks or Christopher Wallace, you going to make sure you get all this Blackness on “Run.”

Element:
You going to get this Blackness.

Killer Mike:
You better believe it.

Element:
Let me ask you a question. I felt like when I was listening to the intro, I really did feel like I was listening to a private conversation between you and Dave Chapelle. Sometimes I know that artists get the tracks after a feature is on it, or maybe you give it to the feature, and then you get it back and take a listen. What did you think when he first said, “You are a leader. Lead.”? What did that make you feel like, coming from someone of Dave Chapelle’s stature?

Killer Mike:
Dave said all those things to me after I went to the Dave Chapelle show in Atlanta. And after the show, comedians don’t do like rappers. You don’t just run off and not speak to each other and go back to our collective [inaudible]. Comedians hang out together, you know? They might smoke cigarettes, smoke a little weed, drink some wine or some whiskey, talk some more trash to each other. And I got an opportunity just to sit around a bunch of comedians. And at one point, Dave just stops, and he tells me, “You got to run for governor.” And I’m like, “What? I’m not running for governor. We got a governor that’s a Black woman running for governor, and other people want to be governor. I never wanted to be governor.” 

And he gives me one of those homeboy tongue lashings like, “Hey, bruh. You need to be doing this because…” I’m like, “Man, I like weed and the Blue Flame.” I like marijuana and strip clubs more than I like political process on a daily basis. And he said, “It doesn’t matter, Mike. You’re a leader. And you have to lead.” And he reenacted that conversation for me. And so it was a very personal conversation, one of encouragement and one at a time when I was feeling kind of hopeless. Gave me a pour in my cup full of hope again and made sure that although I’m not going to run for political office in the immediate future, I’m going to continue to support those people that are qualified to be a spokesman for our people and that are prepared to do the right thing for our people. 

He made sure that he showed me that there’s a solidarity in terms of artistry and political mobilizers and organizers that’s been around, whether you talk about James Baldwin and Malcolm X, whether you talk about Sidney Poitier and Bayard Rustin. We have to make sure that as Black people, that when we are given this platform and this opportunity, we have an opportunity to make this republic a better one for us and those beyond. And I’m just not going to walk away from that opportunity. I’m going to do my best to be my best.

Element:
In our community, we have a lot of artists that could take the role of a leader in different areas. Why do you think artists shy away from that? You have never been one to shy away from that, but why do you think they do?

Killer Mike:
I’m not better than Black leaders that I’ve seen. What I am is a person who is uniquely qualified to lead in particular moments at particular times. I recognize those moments and times. I plot, plan, strategize and organize with other people. And when it’s time to mobilize, I help the mobilization. But I am in no way arrogant enough to believe that I can lead all of us somehow like Moses out of here and into the promised land.

What I am prepared to lead is a campaign of each one teach one that makes sure our literacy rates rise. I am prepared to lead as a campaign that speaks to 1 billion Black people, we need to give $10 a month, which would be $10 million a month, $120 million a year, to take care of the freedom fighters that are now elderly and old. Mutulu Shakur is sitting in a prison right now with cancer, and I see people talk about political races, and no one is talking about Mutulu Shakur. And no one is talking about allowing him to come home and die with his family with the nobility he deserves because the freedoms that he gained didn’t only gain Black people freedoms, they gave white people freedoms as well. I see no one taking care. Rosa Parks had to be taken care of by the man who owned Little Caesars. God bless his soul, he took care of her rent and mortgage late in her life, but we should have some type of fund that does that.

So what I’m interested in seeing, if there are 40 million Black people in this country, then you can get below 10%, which would be 4 million, just a quarter of that give 1 billion. Give me a quarter of 10%. Give is $10 a month. Essentially, what you would be spending $120 is what you would pay for a pair of Air Jordans. There’s no reason a million of us should not be able to take care of our own. That’s what I’d like.

Element:
Speaking of taking care of our own, you have talked immensely about the impact that Outkast has had on how you move and navigate through the industry. You talk about how they have given you jewels, literal jewels, about how to navigate as a man.

Killer Mike:
Absolutely.

Element:
As an artist. What is the biggest takeaway that you’ve gotten from Andre and what is the biggest takeaway you’ve gotten from Big Boi?

Killer Mike:

The biggest takeaway from Andre, and from Outkast as a group, is remain artistically brave. Right? Remain artistically brave. Do not allow yourself, because of comfort or because of payoff, to simply be comfortable in where you last were. Always find a new mountain to climb. That is what Outkast has given. Outkast started off as two dope rapping teenagers influenced by Tribe Called Quest. I would say individually from Dre what I’ve learned is take care of yourself. It’s OK to have limits and to say, “As dope as it is, I can’t do that because it’s not genuine. It would be me doing it for the moment.” Artistically, he has integrity like none other.

From Big Boi, I’ve learned to take care of your coin. Take care of your coin. Invest in others. So I’ve learned so much from them. Every birthday, every Father’s Day, every holiday, I call them or text them with a similar message: “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to change my life.”

Element:
You talked in one interview about how when you saw Big Boi with the kennels, and you saw him as a businessman right out the gate. You have Greenwood. You have your barber shop. You and Shay are entrepreneurs. Your children sell lemonade in front of the barbershop. You have young entrepreneurs coming up already. Why do you think it’s so important to push the message of Black entrepreneurship? In a time when people are quitting their jobs and feeling like employers aren’t supporting them in their mental-health journeys and what’s going on in the country, why do you think entrepreneurship is so important at this point?

Killer Mike:
Well, capital is important for entrepreneurship, which is why I’m proud to be a part of the Greenwood fintech company because their ultimate goal is to get capital behind successful businesses. When you look at a business like Slutty Vegan, Pinky had an amazing idea. She has amazing service. Going into those places is an amazing experience. And with that said, she gave people who were capital investors the courage to invest in a young Black American woman who graduated from Clark. And they gave her an opportunity, and she has ramped that opportunity and employs hundreds of people and helped hundreds of people and will soon help thousands as she grows and expands. That is what happens when you take full economic opportunity in this country and you have a dope idea and you have the capital to support that.

So, what I encourage is entrepreneurism, whether it is cutting grass because it’s always some grass that needs cutting. Getting out of federal prison, if they can’t do nothing but get a commercial driver’s license or a lawn mower, whether you’re driving trucks and starting a trucking company or starting a lawn-care service that’s corporate and private, you have the ability to grow capital. You have the ability to grow a business. You need to, and I think we all need to point ourselves in service-related business. Some things are sexy, some things are dope. Everyone wants to make a billion dollars off a fintech company. Who does not want to? But that fintech person still going to need that grass cut. And I’ll be damned if I don’t know how to cut grass. So I want to encourage people to figure out what their version of entrepreneurism looks like and do it. Because entrepreneurism doesn’t always mean you quit your job. It just means after I work eight hours for the man, [inaudible].

Element:
That’s right.

Killer Mike:
To work for myself.

Element:
That’s right.

Killer Mike:
You know what I mean? So, Black people during Reconstruction were amazing business people. Black people in the early 1900s in districts like Greenwood that got destroyed, or districts that survived like Auburn Avenue [inaudible] in Atlanta were amazing business people. And we can continue to be that. The only thing we’re missing is the confidence to do it and the capital behind that confidence to prove ourselves competent. So let’s continue to grow confident children so we don’t have to reap, like what Frederick Douglass said, “It’s easier to grow strong children than it is to repair broken men.” So let’s make sure we grow strong children so we do not have to spend as much time repairing ourselves from past trauma, and we can move on to the next mountain that we climb. I’m fully confident in Black people that we’re competent to be as aggressively competitive in this capitalistic system as any other group of people, but we have to think first and foremost as an individual about what is best for us. And after that individual thought, who do I partner with to make sure our community is strong economically and otherwise?

Element:
So basically, let’s continue to run.

Killer Mike:
Let’s run.

Written by: HYFIN

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