Rapper and activist Killer Mike went mainstream this year when he appeared next to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in the wake of the horrific George Floyd killing. As cities were burning and the country was hurting, he stood up and in an emotional, powerful plea, urged for calm. As the son of an Atlanta police officer and with cousins on the force, he didn’t want to see anyone ambush police officers, or tear up the community, and he also wanted accountability for the powers that be. It was a layered message, and he was the right person to deliver it. He was the adult in the room.
That moment was, in essence, his introduction to the world outside of hip-hop and the greater Atlanta area, where he is a patron saint of sorts.
I’ve always known what kind of person Mike truly is. He is a positive, “joy seeking” man who is full of witticisms and wisdom, like your grandma would dish out. He told me on this week’s podcast that he is endlessly optimistic, even in these hard times. “If I am a 10-year-old boy, and I walk into a room full of horses–t, I am looking for the pony.”
I’ve been a fan of his music for years. Run the Jewels, a collaboration between him and New York native El-P make high-impact, intellectual music. They aren’t fast-food, takeout-in-a-tin-box kinda rap. We are talking Michelin star tasting menu, paired with the finest bottle of Burgundy, sort of hip-hop.
Run the Jewels are doing it not to climb the charts or to sell records, but for the high purpose of art, and they produce the music themselves. This year they released their fourth album, “RTJ4.”
“We’re two 15-year-old boys in a rap off. We have essentially two 15-year-old minds locked in a room making the hardest s–t they possibly can . . . If you need a pick-me-up, a wake-me-up, runner’s music . . . Run the Jewels is it. It is punch-you- in-the-face, dope-ass rap music,” he said.
And I have to agree. You feel “Walking in the Snow” or “Pulling the Pin” in your bones. And their music has the kind of crossover appeal that is unique these days.
Self-deprecating and funny enough to hang with the Kings of Comedy, Mike talked about his rap origins, which go back to the sixth grade. He said he started rhyming because he was “too chubby to breakdance.” Growing up, his childhood best friends were excellent athletes: Cameron Dollar played hoops at UCLA and Robert Hicks played for the Buffalo Bills. He knew he needed to find his own niche and become great at something, so with a gift for wordplay, he started rapping. But while he was honing his craft, he was figuring out the business world. He mowed lawns to afford a pair of Shell Toe Adidas. He then worked at Chuck E. Cheese, where his first check was $ 120. Now, he owns a bunch of barbershops in the ATL.
He’s used his music platform to do so much good in the community. A lot of people want to talk about problems, but Killer Mike is a solutions-oriented guy. On the podcast, we talked about Greenwood, his digital banking system that is targeted to blacks and Latinos. Named after the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma — which was then known as Black Wall Street and destroyed in a race massacre in 1921 — it is a way to reclaim the resources and wealth for our community and keep investing in ourselves. More than 200,000 people have signed up for it so far.
Killer Mike doesn’t shy away from a fight or an uphill battle, but he is smart enough to admit he doesn’t have all of the answers. He is dogged enough to find them, and tap the best minds, even if they don’t necessarily share the same political leanings. He is the type of guy who reaches across the aisle.
He also knows how to reach for some good wings. And he appreciates the ones at Magic City, Atlanta’s premiere strip club. In fact, during our “Gone in 60 Seconds” segment, he gives them a rating of 4 out of 5.
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.