July 06, 2023

By Jonathan Landrum, Jr.

Associated Press


It might have taken Killer Mike a decade to offer a solo music project, but the rapper hailing from Atlanta has certainly kept his amplified voice active.

As a member of Run the Jewels, Killer Mike, along with producer El-P, pumped out four critically acclaimed albums. He made noise outside of music as a social-political activist who has spoken out against inequality for Black people, race relations and became a vocal supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

The Grammy-winner hosted Netflix’s “Trigger Warning with Killer Mike,” a 2019 documentary series about issues that affect the Black community. He also made an emotional plea to calm a protest against police brutality that turned violent in Atlanta.


Now, Killer Mike wants to offer an extension of his efforts with the recently released “Michael,” his first solo album since 2012. He calls his sixth studio offering an audio movie about a “prodigal son” filled with church, soul music and Southernisms.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Killer Mike talked about his grandparents’ influence, comparing himself to Logan — aka Wolverine — from X-Men, and the reason elected officials should be leaned on more than him.

The rapper is about to kick off his 19-city tour on July 10, before he and El-P goes on a four-city Run the Jewels tour to celebrate their 10th anniversary in the fall.

AP: Why compare yourself to Logan?

KILLER MIKE: Logan was gruff as a defense mechanism, and he loved hard. He went hard for his people. He could heal quickly. He was resilient. At first, it was just bones, and it was pain. That’s not all my life. But as a Black man in America, we can identify with that character. You can identify with Logan.... I was always attracted to that character. A lot of times, we get looked at as indestructible – whether it’s playing sports, being an advocate or being a martyr for a cause. I just wanted to show that I’m a human being. I’m flesh and bones under here.

AP: Why did it take more than a decade for you to release a solo album?

KILLER MIKE: You set a goal. You’re one half of what you feel could potentially be one of the greatest rap groups ever. If you see it through and you and your rap partner set a marker that in order to be an official rap group, you have to do like the groups that you looked up to — from EPMD, Outkast and Led Zeppelin. You got to put out four classic records. I think Run the Jewels accomplished that. Over the course of a decade, we forged away and created what I would say is arguably the greatest rap group active today.

AP: Where did you learn to become outspoken for important causes?

KILLER MIKE: I was shaped because my grandmother was active. I didn’t have a choice but to be active. It’s like flying home from a tour with Rage Against the Machine to testify on behalf of small Black club owners. It may seem strange. But if you grew up in Atlanta in my neighborhood, that’s what you’re supposed to do. You show up on behalf of your community.

AP: What lessons were ingrained into you?

KILLER MIKE: I’ll give you what my grandfather gave me: Take care of yourself and your sisters. Don’t embarrass yourself, me and your grandmama’s name. Build a family name that you don’t want to embarrass. Build goodwill in your community on a hyperlocal level. And lastly, he told me don’t embarrass Black people. That meant to be noble and honest. I’m sincere in the things I do. I’m not a prostitute. I’m not selling myself out for issues. I’m not selling myself out for clout. I’m sincere in the things I’m about. All I ever wanted to be was an emcee. God gave me what I wanted. Everything I’m called to be in addition to that, I consider just a repay on the promise that God gave me. It’s my way of repaying and showing thanks and gratitude for what my ancestors and God have given me.

AP: Should you be the primary voice on political and social issues?

KILLER MIKE: I’m not prostituting myself for every social campaign. We have a group of people who are qualified to do that. You have an amazing amount of people doing the work on an everyday basis that you should be following and reaching out to. I’m not here to replace them. Attorney Benjamin Crump is out there doing a noble job like Johnnie Cochran. We need to be standing with him. We don’t need to try to replace him. I am simply trying to make sure that I help to mobilize those that are actually organizing on a daily basis. We have organizers that deserve to be followed. As athletes and entertainers and common people, we should be making sure they have a platform to do that — more so trying to be the next one.

AP: Would your grandmother be proud of how far you’ve come?

KILLER MIKE: She’d be proud. She used to say “That’s my grandson, Killer Mike.” I imagine her somewhere with her ancestors or with her sweet white Jesus saying, “That’s my grandson.”

AP: What do you want people to take away from “Michael”?

KILLER MIKE: Listen to this with your eyes closed from start to finish. I guarantee you’re going to feel something. You’re going to see the characters come to life before you. You’re going to see the smell. You’re going to see the sights. I sent the album to Jay-Z about a year ago when it was still unfinished. He sent back “I loved it!!” He said it felt like I had went to my aunt’s house and watched a movie. Your aunt will let you watch the movies your momma won’t. I was very flattered by that compliment. I hope others take the chance to participate in listening.

AP: You’re a co-founder of Greenwood, a majority Black and Latinx-owned bank. How’s business been going since it launched in 2020?

Killer Mike: It’s growing with over 100,000 accounts now. I’m excited to have ventured into helping people get out of the industry of payday loans and into real accounts. I’ve been happy when I walk into a store and someone says, “Mike, I’m going to buy you a water. I’ve got my Greenwood card.” That’s absolutely amazing. From a business perspective, my wife and I want to expand. We want to expand the Swag Shop barbershop. We have three locations including one in State Farm Arena. On a homebound basis, I hope to help Frederick Douglass High School, my alma mater, to continue to be a school that produces great leaders. I want to be a cornerstone in my own community.

Category: Arts & Culture