How Killer Mike Sparked a Wave of New Politically Engaged Hip-Hop

Killer Mike of Run The Jewels performs onstage during the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival
Roger Kisby/Getty Images

Killer Mike of Run The Jewels performs onstage during the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival at Union Park on July 21, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. 

Killer Mike is touted as heralding the return of politically engaged rap in a new story by the New Republic that looks back over his career and examines how he's come to rise as one of the most prominent, outspoken rappers today. 

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"I just try my best, man, to say something about the shit I see," the Run the Jewels star told the New Republic. "Because I don't want to go crazy. I don't want to be walking around angry and feeling rage. You say something, and you organize what you can." 

The article paints Mike's speech onstage in St. Louis last year the night a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., announced it had declined to indict the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown as a pivotal point in the rapper's ascent to this sort of figurehead position. After that speech was picked up by a broad swath of news outlets, Mike's voice became one the public turned to, as he wrote op-eds for Billboard and other publications, gave interviews to broadcast outlets, and lectured at a number of universities. 

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"The way you start to break down systemic racism, is to start building individual relationships with people who are not like you," he said in the piece, explaining how he approaches often primarily white university audiences. "It's a totally different spiel when I talk at Morehouse. But when I'm talking at MIT? At the University of Cincinnati? I'm telling white people: In order to stop systemic racism, you must first befriend, become a colleague of, get to know intimately, put yourself culturally in the framework of someone who doesn't look like you. And it sounds so simple. But when you do it, it becomes such a feat. Because it forces you, on an individual level, to challenge every preconceived thing your team has ordained as OK."

Systemic racism, he said, will never end in America until "the supposed progressives, or the passively liberal whites that I speak to at these universities, get angry enough to join forces with the people who are also fighting the same systems."

Read the full article here


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