Is Killer Mike the Perfect Link Between Dr. Dre and MLK?
For Atlanta rapper Killer Mike, it has never been just about hip-hop. It has never been about preaching rhetoric over a beat. But his sharp-tongued lyrics and booming baritone carry enough ferocity to scare your social consciousness wide awake. It's a style that's both refreshingly informed and effortlessly gangsta.
Considering the his large profile boost in the past year--thanks to immaculate skills and invaluable co-signs from fellow A-Town rappers including T.I. and Big Boi--most of that proletariat anger should have subsided a bit. But the rapper born Michael Render says the struggle to keep his life simple is constantly being threatened by the Powers That Be.
"I just want to be free to smoke weed, go to strip clubs with my wife, not have to double pay on business taxes, and have low property taxes," the 38-year-old says. "My wants and needs are basic, but there are things every day, [and] I feel the assault--the assault on my personal freedom, the assault on my ability to make commerce in a capitalistic system--and I use rap to rant about that."
There is no better example of this merging of his activist attitude and vivid flows than his sixth full-length album, 2012's R.A.P. Music, especially its lead track, "Untitled": "You are witnessing elegance in the form of a black elephant/smoking white rhino on terraces/Will I die slain like my king by a terrorist?/Will my woman be Coretta/take my name and cherish it?"
The passion and frustration tied to his roots as a longtime community activist drives him to put his message on record. "Some artists rap about the stuff that makes them feel good, and the stuff that doesn't, they ignore. I rap about the stuff that pisses me off, and with politics, on a daily basis, there's something that pisses me off," he says, laughing.
Since he was 9 years old, Render has been rapping in some capacity. He grew up with a high-quality civics education in the classroom and a musical education courtesy of such early gangsta-rap forefathers as Scarface, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. At 15, he started working as a community organizer in his native Atlanta, and he continues that work now.