February 4, 2017


Future Black History Month: Killer Mike's Crucial Voice

Kieran Frost/Redferns
Kieran Frost/Redferns

Fuse is once again celebrating an extended Black History Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future Black History before our very eyes. Today we've got Atlanta's/Run the JewelsKiller Mike, who's been at this for more than 15 years but in the last few has become one of hip-hop's loudest voices for social action.

Debuting on the Outkast track "Snappin' & Trappin'" in 2000 and shortly after winning a GRAMMY for collaborating with the duo on "The Whole World," Mr. Michael Render dropped his first LP, Monster, in '03. In 2012, the year after part three of his I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind album series, Mike had Brooklyn producer/rapper/fellow born-in-1975-er El-P serve the beats for the entirety of R.A.P. Music, an acronym for Rebellious African People Music. It was far from his first political moment, but it was the first time we heard this:

The track samples a couple shifty, contradictory Ronald Reagan speeches; Mike systematically outlines the Republican two-term president's harmful, racially motivated policies and actions with lines like, "They declared the war on drugs like a war on terror / But it really did was let the police terrorize whoever." After worrying the government might have him killed for his words, Mike goes nuclear for his closer: "I leave you with four words: I'm glad Reagan dead." 

Killer Mike and El-P formed Run the Jewels the year after, in 2013, and their sociopolitical commentary—potent, coming in tandem from an African-American dad and a woke white dude—has steadily cranked up the volume. Mike started showing up on CNN, in prominent publications' editorials, in Atlanta barbershops (Mike owns a few, by the way) with presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, who counted the rapper as one of his biggest celebrity supporters, and on his own Beats 1 radio show with El-P.

In America's landscape in 2017 and well beyond, Killer Mike's voice—and Run the Jewels', as a unit—will be one we'll turn to again and again. Because when something happens like the police officer who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson breezing through life without an indictment, Mike can deliver words, in an RTJ concert hours later, like this:

"He was a young man when they killed him, but I can promise you today: If I die when I walk off this stage tomorrow, I'mma let you know this. It is not about race. It is not about class. It is not about color. It is about what they killed him for. It is about poverty. It is about greed. It is about a war machine. It is about a war machine that uses you as a battery. So I might go tomorrow, I might go the day after, but the one thing I want you to know is it is us against the motherfucking machine. Let's go."

Flash back to 2012 to see how Killer Mike planned to follow R.A.P. Music—which didn't then include the formation/world takeover of Run the Jewels:

We're celebrating Future Black History all month long, including a music video block on Fuse today, Feb. 4, from 3-4pm, featuring Anderson .Paak, SolangeYoung M.AKehlani and Dave East. Find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder, and come back to Fuse.tv every day for profiles, videos and more.