BY CONNER BRYAN
With only the information that Killer Mike was to be speaking, I arrived at Tate Theatre on Thursday April 2, thinking he would be discussing his music to advertise his show at the Georgia Theatre on April 4 as part of the rap duo (along with rapper/producer El-P) Run the Jewels. What I heard was nothing short of one of the best, most informed lectures that I’ve ever attended.
Lasting just under 1.5 hours, Killer Mike (a.k.a. Michael Render) managed to cover educational reform, prison system inadequacies, feminism, what he called the “war machine,” race in America and rap music. He even had time for questions at the end.
Much more than just a rapper, Killer Mike cited Noam Chomsky, world history and Supreme Court cases in outlining the ideals he held most dear. These are themes such as the elimination of “team” mentality (white v. black, Christian v. Muslim, etc.) that pervades our thoughts, acknowledging women as powerful, respectable individuals and allowing for a prison system that seeks reformation instead of bondage of personal identity.
In a way, he did talk about his music with Run the Jewels. Some of the best tracks on their most recent album, Run the Jewels 2, feature such concerns.
“Early” is the anthem of a man who has experienced the harsh reality of police brutality. On “Crown,” Killer Mike grapples with the shame of having dealt cocaine to a pregnant woman. The feisty song “Lie, Cheat, Steal” calls to the masses to “lie, cheat, steal, kill, win” because “everybody’s doing it,” a tongue-in-cheek reference to joining up in the herd mentality that has led to the American “war machine.”
Despite the heavy beats and protest songs of Run the Jewels, Killer Mike is above all a man whose values are attached to family. During the lecture, both his daughter and his wife called; both times, he answered, and promised a call back later. An especially emotional moment saw him tear up at the memory of his grandfather’s personal strength.
These two projections of a man – the large, imposing rapper and the sensitive, intelligent family man – at first seem irreconcilable. However, Killer Mike the rapper is fighting for a better world for Michael Render the family man, and for everyone else, too.
This fight as well as his lecture can be summed up by a gentle, John Lennon-esque encouragement that Mike gave near the end of his lecture: “If we all drop our bullshit, it becomes fertilizer for green grass to grow.”
Image via Student Affairs Calendar