In part three of my conversation with Killer Mike we discuss his interaction with his fans, the split from Outkast, why people identify with Pledge 2 so much and much. If you missed part one where we discussed the black community, HBCU’s, and other social matters click here. If you missed part two where we discussed the formation and success of Run The Jewels and his respect and relation with Scarface click here. Without further ado here’s part three of our conversation.
We made mention of ego earlier. You’re one of the most humble rappers off of wax that we’ve seen in a while. Just looking at how you interact with your supporters because the grind doesn’t have fans it has supporters.
Absolutely. I’m one of you. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you. Humility doesn’t equate to weakness. A lot of times we assume that. My kung-fu instructor, God bless the dead, was one of the most humble individuals I’ve ever met in my life. I remember Big Boi had a bodyguard that was a former professional wrestler. He saw him (my instructor) standing about 5’6 with drawn on eyebrows. Big’s bodyguard had the nerve to say let’s try something out, thirty seconds later he’s fucked up. That’s what humility is about, knowing your true strength and not having to exercise it to show it. Humility is understanding the power you have is a responsibility. If I don’t engage people in a humble way then what does that say about me? In martial arts there’s the old saying, “You have to have a poet to balance your warrior.”
I’m sitting here thinking how many rappers are really this interactive with their fans
I mean they made me. When I left Outkast I was on a fucking desert island. No one gave a fuck about me. Except this core group of kids, this is when Myspace was popping off. A 17 year old kid hit me and said, “Mike, I don’t wanna not like Outkast but if you saying don’t fuck with them then I’m not fucking with them no more. I just wanted to know straight from you.” This was after we dropped the first Pledge. I was so moved. Not that I thought that I could destroy any legacy or any of that dumb rap thought. Just that there’s a kid that my music that I created with SL Jones, Pill, Big Slim, Bill Collector, Chaos. I was amazed that this music affected with him in such a powerful way that he was willing to disconnect from a group that affected me in such a powerful way. I remember typing back “Na, we gonna work that out. You can like both of us.” Til this day that kid follows me. He has grown into a man himself. He has his own family now and he’s still a die hard Grind Time/Killer Mike supporter. That’s the responsibility of leadership.
Me having to grow up as angry as I was that I felt like I was being overlooked at the time they had Aquemini/Purple Ribbon Records. How insurmountable must it had been for Big Boi for his rap partner to retire and leave him with the responsibility of running a label and maintaining a legacy. I had to take myself out of my own personal pain and understand that others are suffering their own personal pains. So every decision might not have been the right decision but they made the best decision they possibly could make. I had to forgive and was forgiven. In that forgiveness Big and I have become stronger friends and collaborators. We’ve toured together and done music together. Our friendship is deeper and better than it’s ever been. My relationship with Dre has been repaired. We speak and have a genuine friendship again. I had to grow up. I’m not saying it’s my fault I had to grow up. I had to grow up and understand as a man what it took. I couldn’t put Jones & Pill in the position I wanted to. I understood how painful it must’ve been for Big to not be able to put me in the position he wanted to.
It’s only when you do that self analysis that you understand the concept of forgiveness. I’m glad to went through the process and to another side of the process. To proudly say I was part of the Outkast 20 year reunion. The only person essentially from that label that was part of the reunion. That speaks to the work I been able to do post Outkast.
Can we discuss that time frame of your career. If you don’t mind.
I don’t mind
I remember on the Purple Ribbon album you had the line on “Dungeon Family Dedication” “All I know is Big here, Dre gone moved on.” Then next thing you know we look up and you’re gone. It’s just Big out here by himself randomly popping up here and there. As a fan I’m like “What the hell just happened” and then here comes the first Pledge and I’m like wow.
The whole Outkast vs. You situation was like big brother vs little brother. It kinda reaches that point where you inevitably fight. Kinda like little brother is saying “Hey, I’m just as good as you.”
Yea, not just as good as you as in like I want to be equal to you. I have something to offer that’s distinctly mine and if i’m only your little brother then I can never be the man I’m supposed to be. The problem is at first you’re shouting it but you’re shouting it from your brother’s platform. So you gotta go through the journey of leaving that platform, stepping down and drudging the same stuff your big brother had to drudge. That’s why Big and Dre are so proud of me right now. Dre popped up at a Run The Jewels show in Canada. Unasked he just showed up. That says to me that he’s proud of what I’ve accomplished. Big supports me and my career….man you couldn’t pay for the type of support he gives me and Run The Jewels. What I understood before them I think is that the time of one rapper putting on another rapper had passed. Cause post G-Unit, post Nelly & St. Lunatics what you started to get was a resentment from fans of them feeling like you’re selling them your partner and what has he done to earn (our respect and support). I just had to get out there and earn.
I’m thankful for it in retrospect. It helped shape and form my fortitude to become who I am. The independent grind isn’t an easy grind and it’s not for everyone. If you don’t have a dead set attitude you’re not gonna make it. If you don’t have an opponent you gotta create one. Separating from essentially my musical big brothers gave me a point to prove. My opponent was having to out doing myself. People are saying “Well his best days are behind him. His best music created was with Outkast.” That was Outkast music, that wasn’t my music. You hadn’t heard my music yet. I had to use that as motivation to set myself up.
All I ever really wanted was what I wanted in the fourth grade. That was to be a rapper rocking shows in front of thousands of people. I didn’t want Phantoms and cars. I don’t really understand the concept of that shit now. I love muscle cars. I wanna be able to take care of my children. I want my wife to still drive her German cars and carry Italian purses and shit. You know that’s cool but I wear Nikes and drive a pickup truck. I like a very working class life but I had to understand in order to have my own legacy I had to get out there and do it myself. I’m glad people afforded me the opportunity. I’m glad kids like you in high school discovered me and supported me. I’m glad that other kids jumped on. I’m glad that Run The Jewels and R.A.P. Music in particular finally gave me…Pledge is the foundation that I stand on. That Pledge series is what I stand on today. R.A.P. Music was the building that came on top of that foundation and made people say “Oh my fucking God. That’s what this has been about.” Run The Jewels is just now multiple skyscrapers going up. Like the real legacy is about to be defined in the next 8-10 years.
So do you feel like you’ll be more defined as Run The Jewels, Pledge Killer Mike, or Dungeon Family I hate saying this Outkast Killer Mike?
But that’s what it is. You can’t run away from what you are. I don’t know what my eulogy will read like but they will say here lies a great man.
That’s a fair statement and honest statement. Speaking of the Pledge series are any projects that aren’t just produced by El and no one gonna happen?
Absolutely. I don’t have a timeline but it’s gonna happen. If my idols, if my direct rap idols you hear me rap about them are Scarface and Bun B in particular you gotta look at the length of their careers. I’m only 11 years in.
Is it only 11?
Not counting the Stankonia appearance?
I dropped a solo record in 2003 (Monster). I’ve only been a solo artist for 11 years. So I got just to get up with Scarface what? 16 more years. At about 15 (years) I’ll start contemplating (my legacy). Right now I gotta work. I’m in Europe right now skyping with my wife. Telling her that I love her and miss her and hope she comes to Australia cause right now I won’t be home til the middle of January.
How is that tour life? Cause you make mention that when you’re on tour your wife is usually with you.
Yea she usually is. Now, she’s not cause the business of being at home is important. We own and operate a (barber)shop and own several other interests. My wife is just a brilliant business mind and she doesn’t like Europe in the winter so I knew she wasn’t gonna come to Europe. She did come out to the North American tour and spend a couple weeks with me. She knows when her husband misses her and she’ll come out and be a great wife and friend. That’s who I really miss, my friend. It’s difficult not being around her and the kids. It really is. Thank God for stuff like Skype and FaceTime. I don’t waste my time with women and wine. I do waste some time with weed.
It’s really difficult tho. You do harbor some guilt but my children they get it. They’re being afforded a different opp0rtunity than I was afforded. My grandmother and grandparents period let me know that the most essential thing you can have on a child is time. So I try my best that when i’m home to be home and to be a dad to them.
You mention you’re grandmother which brings me back to church and religion, which brings me to music and two of my favorite records of yours. How good are you at remembering your lyrics if someone spit a random bar of yours to you?
*laughs* Not very good at all. I smoke marijuana all the time.
I was gonna spit the opening bars of” Speak Lord”. That and the first “God In The Building” if you ask anybody that follows you they’ll say those two are the most important records to them along with “That’s Life” and “That’s Life 2”. The first “God In The Building” and “Speak Lord” of those two which one means the most to you?
Ah man that’s like asking which child is your favorite. *proceeds to speak the first verse of “Speak Lord”*. All these songs to me are beloved to me at different times for different reasons. I can honestly say “Speak Lord” has a special place in my heart cause I wrote it shortly after my grandfather passed. My grandmother died and if you listen to “Crown” off Run The Jewels 2 that whole first verse is inspired by one of her favorite hymns. Well the last line. That verse is inspired by a guilt I carried around forever. My grandmothers favorite hymn was “Lay Your Burdens Down”. If you hear songs like “Speak Lord” or the verse on “Crown” or “That’s Life” that’s me literally laying my burdens down. If you’re sensitive to what’s going on in your own life to the capacity that I am it may drive you insane if you don’t get it out. I was raised in a devoutly Christian household with my grandmother. My grandparents, it’s difficult to talk about them without weeping, they were 44 & 54 when I was born. They were about to enter the part of their life where they are in joy and they get to kick it and vacation. What they ended up doing was raising their daughter’s three children.To sacrifice all your life for rearing children is an amazing sacrifice. An amazing sacrifice. So for me and I say this with tears in my eyes “Speak Lord” is so precious. Now that they’re gone all I have is the memory of them through my records. “Speak Lord”, “Willie Burke Sherwood” those records just mean the world to me.
Didn’t mean to choke you up there.
Na you good. I just miss my parents. My grandmother was 79 years old and til the day she died she said she missed her momma. I never understood what she meant til these days here.
Robin Williams, his suicide that shocked a lot of people on the outside. You’re in the entertainment industry, from you’re point of view it’s kinda like a common thing that comedians and musicians all suffer from depression and drug addiction. Eminem is a poster child for it. Do you feel like that’s an accurate statement and why do you feel like it’s such a problem.
When you think about comedians in particular, my grandmother used to say “You gotta laugh when you wanna cry.” Old southern saying. Comedians bring us some of the hardest and most brutal truth in the most palatable way. We never think about what it feels like to have to come to that truth and then try to make that truth palatable and funny to people. I don’t even Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock. I don’t envy Bill Hicks or Richard Pryor. Cause these people told and tell the truth man. With that truth people supposed to snicker and laugh at it. So I understand the weight. I don’t know if I would call the weight depression for everybody. Cause depression’s a mean disease.
As an entertainer that raps about the things I do there’s a real weight I carry. You go do the shows and that exhilarating then you go back to the hotel and you’re alone. It’s just you and your thoughts. That ain’t always pretty man. That ain’t always nice. When a kid comes up to you crying saying you changed their life. That’s a hell of a responsibility to hear. People don’t understand what that means.
When I wrote Pledge 2 like you just said to you that’s my greatest record. I was in my darkest and most depressed stage ever. After I did it, I couldn’t even listen to it for a while. People say this fucking record’s a classic and I couldn’t even listen to it. When I do “Can You Hear Me” or the “Intro”, I’m trying to motivate me out of a depression. Trying to motivate me out of killing myself. I was out in the streets philandering with women. Embarrassing myself and family. I had lost a major record deal. I was perceived as a fall off. A failure. That was just a hard hard time for me.
I look at it now having come out of that situation triumphantly I love that record cause it’s a pinpoint. It shows this is where you chose not to die in spirit, mind and body. This is where you chose to endure and not simply endure but to push on and overcome. So shit I get why people connect to it. It had to pull me out of my thing. So i’m very sympathetic to comedians and entertainers. For a lack of better word, we are the clowns and jesters for people to forget their own problems. We absorb so much of that energy and it’s difficult to let that go.
I have a cousin, if you look at my twitter avi, when I say “I’ll give it all back to have my cousin Jimmy back” on “Willie Burke Sherwood”. My cousin’s skitzo. If you imagine your Jay Z that’s my Dame Dash. He was the first guy to think about some of the marketing tips of Pledge. Now I have to go find my cousin and just sit with him and talk in his diluted state. That just rides me. I look up to the skies like “Why God? Why isn’t my cousin here”. Am I gonna do the world a disservice or am I gonna stand up on behalf of me and men like my cousin. I’ve chosen to stand up.
It’s that pressure that creates that feeling and weight. You ever thought that there’s a way to relieve it if it can be?
For me, I have to stay working. I’m most depressed when I’m not working man. My people are from the rural south. My grandparents man they WORKED. That all they did but they WORKED. I have to stay working. I have to stay productive. If not I’m gonna slip into a dark place.
This concludes part three of our conversation. Be sure to check back for part four of our conversation where we discuss radio and the status of Grind Time Official.