Below is part one of an interview that was done with Killer Mike Sunday morning while he was on tour overseas. In part one of our epic conversation we tackle the social activist side of Killer Mike. We openly and unapologetically discuss religion, HBCU’s, the black community and plenty of other things. So take a seat, pause what you’re listening to and take the time to read and enjoy this gem. Part two coming soon.
Ghost: Thank you for your time. You’re currently on tour in Paris correct?
Killer Mike: Yea, we got an off day.
G: For those who are not aware, who is Killer Mike? We know on your twitter you’re listed as a pan African gangster rapper…
KM: The whole bio is a little more accurate, I’ll read it, it’s um, my twitter bio has been the interest of several people. It says “I am one half of #RunTheJewels I like my woman, my kids, weed, Polo and politics. I am a Pan Africanist Gangster Rapper, civic leader, & activist. Honor me.”
G: Can we explain that last part, Pan Africanist on forth for those that aren’t aware?
KM: When I say I’m a Pan Africanist, um, even though it’s laced with some sarcasm, in my twitter volume, I’m very serious in that my first thoughts and concerns are with the diaspora of people of African descent, on the continent and off the continent of Africa and this especially includes the people who have been placed in the northern or north western or the western hemisphere due to the Atlantic slave trade. But my thoughts and concerns are with African people throughout the entire world. And that is more than just a mild thinking about them and wishing for the best, you know, my political thoughts are with Africans in Africa and Africans in the United States. My spiritual thoughts are I reject all three Abrahamic religions, I think they’re based on African spirituality so my life-long mission is to get closer to that and further away from the remix religions that are given to us. So I’m a Pan Africanist in the same way the W. E. B. Dubois was, in the same way that Marcus Garvey, in the same way Dr. Asa Hilliard was, Dr. John Henry Clark, Dr. Chancellor Williams, or any of these other great men.
G: While we’re on the subject, the activism and things of that nature. Anybody that has a remote clue of who you are, has followed you, has known that you’re very outspoken when it comes to things like this. Like the recent Grand Jury indictments, or lack thereof. How do you feel looking at that as, A, a black man, and B, a father?
KM: Right now but even before I get to the black man or a father, I’m ashamed of America right now, not that I expect a lot, but I expect more than these last two Grand Jury decisions. As a father, I’m just afraid. I’m a father to two boys and I hold the same fears that my father holds. My father, to this day, my father’s approaching 60 years old. My father will call me and say “son, please don’t talk about marijuana so much. You’re a target.” You know what I mean? The drug war is used as a system of slavery to funnel black men into jails but even with the progression of marijuana laws in this country, he still doesn’t think it’s safe for a black man to talk about it. You know? And those fears come from oppression, you know, and I don’t mean some vague idea of “the man is against me.” I mean I don’t know a black man that doesn’t get nervous when the police pull behind him, and that’s from 18 to 80 years old. That’s my 20 year-old son and that’s Dick Gregory who’s 80 years old. So, you know, I’m very shameful that people try to forgive a Holocaust that still endures, you know? But with that said, I’m hopeful because I know the only thing needed to overcome this oppression is self-reliance, self-perseverance and the thoughts and concerns you keep on yourself, and let all others take care of they selves. I think Garvey said, “Think Black, act Black, be Black, buy Black, and let everything else take care of itself.” So that’s what I’m in the process of doing. Trying to be the best black man, father, and human being I can and hopefully the rest can take care of itself. I advocate and I’m an activist around matters that matter, but more than preaching and protesting on a daily basis, I try to do things that add to the business of black people, try to do things that add to the intellectual capacity of black people, I try to do things to add to the spiritual relevance of black people by acknowledging who we are.
G: You mentioned the whole, “think Black, buy Black, rely on ourselves.” I actually have Sports Center on in the background and they mentioned the Heisman. Do you think part of the problem is that blacks don’t go to HBCUs as athletes?
KM: Well, that can only be part of the problem. No, it’s not a part of the problem. The problem with black athletes not going to HBCUs is not the problem. The problem with black people period not going to Historical Black Colleges and Universities is the problem, you know, so it’s less about the 52 young men that might be playing football, and it’s more about institutions like Morris Brown shouldn’t be allowed to close because mismanagement and mishandling of monies. Institutions like Morris Brown should be producing black doctors and black lawyers. Tuskegee University should be producing black intellectuals and black tradesmen like it did 100 years ago. And if we’re not doing that, then we have to fix the bigger problem. The Atlanta University Center shouldn’t be 3 colleges anymore, shouldn’t be 4 colleges, it should be one big university center. The main university center used to have a sports training facility that could rival the sports training facilities of the top SEC schools in the nation. That big black campus that could exist in the middle of Atlanta could become a part of the South Eastern Conference and become competitive with schools like Georgia and Alabama academically. It could have a bigger TV contract, they could continue to produce the types of scholars that Morehouse has produced, the type of business men and media people that Clark has produced, the type of dynamic leadership in women that Spelman has produced. This only happens when we’re willing to forego our egos and who we are separately, and willing to come together. And that’s just my take on it. Not saying I’m totally right, but the way we’ve been doing it is not been working for the overall culture the way it should.
G: So eventually once you realized it’s not working you have to make a change to something.
KM: Absolutely. Absolutely.
G: When there was nothing else we had our own universities that was literally the only option for us to go to.
KM: Absolutely, FAMU was an ass kicking school back in the days, Grambling was an ass kicking school. Bear Bryant saw what was going and said “man you gotta get me some of them boys in Alabama.” ya know. I’m more worried that our boys that are going to white universities and state schools athletically are not returning truly educated. I’m even more concerned that our boys that make it to the level of pros and get money like real money and have the opportunity to change and transform their community are not doing so. I’m encouraged by Jamal Mashburn. This young man now is….everybody loved Jamal coming up. Hell of a basketball player. Everybody doesn’t know Jamal is one of the largest restaurant franchisers in the United States. He owns over 83 restaurants. I think we need to stop telling the story of why AI has failed and Mashburn has succeeded.
G: Doesn’t Mashburn own about 10 car dealerships or somewhere along that number?
KM: Yea, I don’t know if it’s 10 but he owns a lot. Not every athlete is gonna own as much as him. If you take a moderate athlete who maybe have a few million dollar contracts he can open gas stations and convenience stores in his community. You can begin to push people who are not from your community who now hold merchant class in your community out of your community and you can retake your community. That isn’t against anyone else. That isn’t talking down on people. That isn’t saying I don’t like people. That’s simply saying if you don’t control finance and merchant class in your community, you don’t have a community.
G: Gotta take care of home first
G: You mention giving back and being part of the community. You have the SWAG Shop right? Graffitis?
KM: Yea it’s just the swag shop right now, Shave Wash and Groom. We have one location. We’re in the process of opening another location. Our goal is in the next three years to have 5-10 locations.
G: You went through a lot of hell to get the first one open, correct? In Atlanta, in a predominately black area?
KM: Yea, went aren’t mentored in business. Not even me. My first accountant was a white Jewish man. Who didn’t get his haircut every week. So he didn’t get the concept of why we would even want a barbershop. My current one is an Afro-Latino woman and she totally gets it. She wouldn’t be my accountant unless my wife was in it too. That’s an important part of the process. Wherever a woman’s mind is in that household you’re gonna find that’s where that household is. My woman is a business minded woman. Her and my accountant are all about it. One shop, two shop, three shop, four. We can get ten let’s get some more. She’s Afro-Latina, my accountant, she understands that these guys get their haircut every week. She understands with the 14-16% unemployment rate black boys, black men, Latin men, Latin boys need jobs. This makes us a job provider and I’m happy to be that. I’ve learned to trust my own expertise. We went through a lot from getting a license from the county to a break in. Had to do it the old fashioned way and go the neighborhood of the guy who broke in and explain to him, “Yall can’t do this. This isn’t something we can accept.” I’m offering something better as an alternative to what you have now. Barbershops have become such a seedy place now. My barbershop is not that. `That’s what we wish to give to the community and that’s what we’re gonna give to the community.
G: While on the subject matter of social things, your verse on “DDFH” do you feel like we’ll reach a point where that verse isn’t gonna apply to black kids in America?
KM: I think it’s possible. Now are we gonna reach it in my lifetime? I don’t know. I never thought I’d see a black president either. I’m not one of those “oh we got a black president everything is solved” person. I just thought America would never allow you that. We’d never be progressive enough to do that. With that said we have a black president who’s biracial. The jury’s still out on you know if a brother my color, my depth of melanin would get Harry Reed’s face in the same way. I don’t know if there will ever be this post racial America until America is really willing to have the honest conversation and say “Well I benefit from slavery still.” A lot of people who tend to say the things I’m saying tend to only refer to black scholars and black intellectuals. Honestly, too many of them refer to black non scholar and intellectuals. People who are just rambling. I’m talking about…I’m watching an interview with Noam Chomsky. He’s saying to you that Reagan was a racist and that the drug war was something used to categorize and villian-ize black boys. In order to use them as fodder for the prison industrial system. He’s telling that because it’s the truth. Until white America as a whole is allowed to see these truths and allowed to say “Ok. This is what the truth is.” This is why companies that are on Wall Street now never gave that cotton money back. They never gave that slave money back and they’re never going to. If we’re all not willing to get to that place of truth then nah it’ll never get there. I’m less concerned with will America get to a post racial place and more concerned with will black people ever learn from others who have been a minority and will they construct themselves as a society within a society. Our Jewish counterparts have been very successful at keeping their heritage and keeping their culture alive yet playing a major part in the economy in this country and how this country creates them. We should look at them in turns of culture preservation.
G: There any ideas or anything of that nature that could be used towards our self-preservation?
KM: We have to learn from other cultures on what to do to be successful. Dr. John Henry Clarke said that we’re not prepared to be a nation. And we’re not. In order to be a nation within a nation you have to produce something. I remember a newscaster in Atlanta years ago who was married to a guy who had a soda company like a Jamaican soda. I bought it. It was good soda but it didn’t catch on. The moment he dropped that soda we should’ve stopped drinking Coco-Cola and that’s the absolute truth. As cool as they’ve been they’re not a black soda company. We should’ve done everything we could to make it was Coke, Pepsi, & that black guy. We gonna have to make some of those hard decisions. Dr. John Henry Clark said, “Who told you you can’t make a car?” The Japanese bought a train and tore that thing apart and had their engineers reverse engineer everything on that train and now you can’t find someone who makes a better train. Nigerian kids have the same capacity, kids in Rwanda have the same capacity, kids in Chicago, Compton, and Atlanta have the same capacity. But what is our goal? If your goal is to simply assimilate then you’re gonna stay stuck in this caste system at the bottom. If your goal is to become a nation within a nation then you’re gonna use the best of you to create the best for you.
G: I feel like the blacks don’t support blacks thing comes from this ass backward mentality of blacks looking up to entertainers and these entertainers are promoting Pepsi, Coke, Beats By Dre. I feel that’s the problem and there’s not enough yous, Chuck D’s, & David Banner to make that statement of go support your own. The “go fuck with the shit down the street cause bruh man makes it and it’s a good product not just cause bruh man makes it.”
KM: I’ll take some Coke money, some Vitamin Water money. With that said when I buy Coke I try to buy it from a gas station owned by a black mom. When I go to a restaurant and order my Coke I try to make sure that restaurant is owned and operated by a black family. You’re a part of the general population, you’re gonna earn and spend money just like the rest. The question is when you buy Nike’s who are you buying them from? There’s black kids with clothing boutiques and sneaker shops. You should be trying to give as many of your dollars to them as possible. It’s about creating the next Foot Locker not sustaining the current one. If you’re gonna shop with the general population that’s fine but Mayor Jackson, the first black mayor in Atlanta, had the precedent that in order to do business with Atlanta at least 29% of your company had to be black. Blacks need to adapt that again. You’re gonna buy bread from the store but you gotta ask what’s that store interest in the black community.
G: Would you rather go buy the bread from Walmart or the local corner store down the street owned by the black mother?
KM: Exactly. When people try to tell me it’s more expensive than Walmart I respond “You shop at Family Dollar now. What’s the difference?” When I buy a Hot Wheels at Walmart its 80-90 cents. The Family Dollar next to my shop used to be a dollar then with the extra popularity of Hot Wheels from my barbershop they raised the price to a $1.20 and I told my people to stop buying them from there they’re not gonna exploit our customers. So if you willing to go to Family Dollar to spend those extra cents be willing to go to Ms. Willie May store and spend those extra 15 cents.
G: Yet for some reason we as a people don’t see it that way.
KM: Who are the directors in our community? Who directs black people to do stuff? The clergy. Who’s your black church in bed with? I don’t know but you better start asking that question. When I went to church with my grandma as a kid we would often leave with instructions on who to support. When I go to the Jewish synagogue with my Jewish friends there would be business cards at the back so you could support a Jewish business. It’s done quietly so it doesn’t have to be a big public thing. We need to expect our (redacted) and (redacted) to do the same thing and if they’re not going to do the same thing then we can’t support these same people. So my question to the black churches is what are doing to uplift the community other than telling them Jesus is coming? What are you doing to uplift from an economic standpoint? What is your jobs program? What are you requiring the federal government to give you besides pre-k money?
This concludes part one of my interview with Killer Mike. Check back later this week for part two where we discuss Scarface, Outkast, Run The Jewels and plenty of other interesting questions. Definitely don’t want to miss it.