“Born black. That’s dead on arrival” – Killer Mike
I wasn’t impressed. Honestly. My introduction to Killer Mike was on Outkast’s 2001 single, “The Whole World”. Ehhhhh. Then on Jay-Z’s “Poppin’ Tags”… that was cool. Cool wasn’t good enough to standout next to Jay Z. I knew he could rap based off of that verse, but could he move me. So those two impressions didn’t inspire me to go look for more music. I honestly felt like Killer Mike was just another “crunk” rapper, that was that era. But that wasn’t my “cup of tea”. I was always about the metaphors. I was about the spirit of rap. I was about defiance. Wordplay and flow means a lot, but only when it’s matched with impactful rap. “Poppin Tags” wasn’t that, wasn’t supposed to be either, but it made me unconsciously believe Killer Mike couldn’t give me that. BOY WAS I WRONG!
Fast Forward to 2008, I stumble across the first entry of Killer’s “Sunday Morning Massacre” on Onsmash.com. The conceptual marketing series was Killer’s weekly release to warm up his album’s buzz!
“My rap dirty like the piss pissed out by white men on celebrity rehab, but this ain’t rehab, so when Danny Bondaduce check out of rehab, I’ma be right there, fat sack of crack saying ‘First hit’s on me, here go a free gram’”
Well that was vivid!!! Ok Killer Mike might be doper than I thought. I was hooked for at least another week. Every week got better. Even when, a beef we don’t have to discuss, seeped into it. The beauty of it for me was in the duality of how Killer was using the bible stories to describe the atmosphere of the streets. He also was doing “Jackin’ for Beats” type freestyles which I loved. This was my reintroduction to Killer Mike. His mission had been accomplished, I had to hear the album. That album was I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II. Still one of my favorite albums of all time.
Run The Jewels. Say that in any hip-hop circle and you’ll undoubtedly get the same reaction, “Yo you heard the new album? That s*** is crazy!!!”. Even if you asked in 2013, after the first love child of Killer Mike and El-P or asked after their most recent opus, Run The Jewels 3. If you ask me, this new phenomenon that is the Run The Jewels rap group, comprised of Killer Mike and Brooklyn legendary MC El-P, is the world’s reintroduction to Killer Mike. It’s a testament, in its purest form, about how rounded Hip-Hop is. Also, it is a testament to the 10,000 hours it takes to be an overnight success. In no way am I saying Mike hasn’t been successful in his solo career, but this current era of his story is reaching magnitudes he’s never personally seen. Run The Jewels is a socially conscious, weed smoking, gun toting, blatant political and unapologetic duo of MCs that attack all topics the way they attack every hard beat… with fury! Mike and El-P provide such a balance it’s almost unbelievable. Their similarities are probably more difficult to recognize but their differences, which are really their strengths, show! For the best view of both in one place, see “A Christmas Fucking Miracle” off of their first LP. Which happens to be my favorite Killer Mike verse of all time.
I’m the Nelson Mandela of Atlanta dope sellers. Michael Render, better known as Killer Mike, is the son of a police officer and also a former drug dealer in Atlanta. Complexities exude from the microphone killer. Rapping about the hardest and harshest realities of street life isn’t a new lane for MCs. It’s the foundation. But we haven’t seen a rapper mix the street tales with political literacy and still make that “hard s***” this well since Ice Cube. But Ice Cube wasn’t a dope dealer, he didn’t necessarily deal in the pits of street life as much as he grew up and in a bad environment and told the story of what he seen and was subjected to as a matter of that. Killer Kill from the ‘Ville romanticizes in a beautiful way his love and disdain for his former career. The allure and intoxicating rush of it all while also letting you know it was something he wish he didn’t have to do. In expressing that he’s taken his aggression to Capitol Hill. Getting so active in the political process that premier candidate in last year’s Democratic Primaries, Bernie Sanders, enlisted Killer’s endorsement and tutelage. Bernie Sanders embrace Mike’s perspectives, not in a pandering way, but in a real way. Anyone who has engaged in or viewed a conversation with him can see the mountains of intellect that Mike possesses. He went on tours and even brought Senator Sanders to his barbershop in the heart of Atlanta. Holding court like a true King should. Mike represented Hip-Hop well. But he also represented Black People well. He represented the possibilities even when you start with a bad hand. Even when you make certain less desirable choices you can still be conscious. Mike made such an impression and strong points that I’m sure there’s a group of people that would vote him into office. He’s proven to be just as potent outside the vocal booth as he is in it. Leadership is a rare talent, but it’s not invisible. Like the rest of the world who’s bore witness, Mike recognizes his power and potential to help reeducate a generation of misguided and mistreated. Hence the opening line of this paragraph that comes from standout track “Everybody Stay Calm” from Run The Jewels latest LP, Run The Jewels 3.
“And I refuse to kill another human being in the name of the government, cuz I don’t study war no more, I don’t hate the poor no more”
With words like that I think Mike will stay outside of Congress, I could be wrong. But what I do know is Killer has cemented his legacy in Hip-Hop. A legacy he keeps brilliantly adding to into his 40’s. They used to say rap was a young man’s game. At 41 years young, Killer Mike is one half of the best group out. Who’s rapping harder than him? I’ll wait on your answer for another time, right now I just want the focus to be on appreciating this diamond in the rough. Give him the respect he deserves. Thank you Killer. Bang Bang Bang!!!
– Travis Cochran