The events in Ferguson, Mo., involving 18-year-old boy Michael Brown being gunned down by officer Darren Wilson have shaken the country to its foundations. Everyone from local citizens to high-end celebrities have been a part of spreading the news and showing support. Many members of the hip-hop community have spoken on the issue, like elder statesman Chuck D, while others have taken to the streets of Ferguson, including Talib Kweli, J. Cole, and Nelly. Recently, one emcee has managed to both speak his wisdom on talk shows and even pen an op-ed for Billboard Magazine about the situation – yet he’s been spitting politics for years. That emcee would be Michael “Killer Mike” Render - and he’s killing the mic, not people.
He labels himself a “Pan-Africanist gangsta rapper,” and he doesn’t take that label lightly. Mike is a politically minded rapper from Atlanta, GA who uses his trademark booming voice to spit biting social commentary, striking a balance between social consciousness and head-banging insanity. Mike got his start as a cohort to fellow Atlanta hip-hop laureates OutKast but eventually carved out a path for himself in the hip-hop scene, having released six solo albums to date, including his most recent effort “R.A.P. Music” from 2012. He’s also one half of duo Run The Jewels, along with Brooklyn-based rapper/producer El-P, who also produced the entirety of “R.A.P. Music.” The duo released their self-titled debut with Fools Gold Records last year and will be releasing the sequel, RTJ2, on October 28th.
His political views
Being the son of a police officer, he has a lot of experience to back up his profound statements about law enforcement in America, like this one taken from his Billboard op-ed:
I have searched all night and day for new and better words that could express my feelings and fear for the people of this country. I found no new words. I have no hope-filled insight to deliver. I only have this warning to all Americans: Whatever this country is willing to do to the least of us, it will one day do to us all…these words, I hope, serve as a wake-up call to all Americans. Our rights are being violated by people we pay daily. This must end, or every American has failed.
He’s talked to both CNN and even Fox News about the Ferguson situation and, like above, draws attention to the fact that if this kind of brutality could happen to people like Brown or Eric Garner, then it could happen to anyone, and the militarization of US police forces needs to stop. Check out both the interviews below!
Mike talks a big game through his social commentary and has the experience and information to back it up, but he even goes a step further. He is a firm believer in the barber shop as a place for community togetherness and refuge and owns a barbershop in the Atlanta area called Graffiti’s SWAG (Shave, Wash, and Groom) Shop. Mike describes the shop in an interview with Black Enterprise:
Graffiti is the art element of Hip Hop. When you sit in our barber chairs you are a work of art to us. “SWAG” means Shave Wash and Groom. So for short, people just call it the SWAG Shop. My personal reasons are that I am an activist and advocate for African American culture and community as a whole and for black business. Based on what I rap about, a barbershop puts me closer to the community. I rap about what Ice Cube, Scarface and dead prez rap about, so for me there is no better earpiece to the community than a barbershop.
He got it off the ground in 2011 and business is growing. Kids who come in for a cut are given free Hot Wheels cars when they leave and the SWAG Shop has celebrity clientele that ranges from T.I. to Big Boi from OutKast to GZA from Wu-Tang Clan and beyond.
Killer Mike certainly isn’t the only politically minded rapper with his own business on the planet, but he is a shining example of this particular flavor of rapper, one who fosters good music with a positive message and is able to put his money where his mouth is.
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