Rapper Mike Render, better known by his stage name, Killer Mike, has transcended the usual borders of hip hop music and culture, and is making a name for himself as an activist, one whose opinions are valued by major news publications and prestigious universities.
The 40-year-old will be in attendance at Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner as a guest for The Huffington Post, just a day after he lectured a group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Friday, the rapper addressed MIT students about race relations in America, as part of the ongoing MIT Hip Hop Speaker Series.
In August, Killer Mike made headlines when he wrote in an op-ed in Billboard magazine, “There is no reason that Mike Brown and also Eric Garner are dead today–except bad policing, excessive force and the hunt-and-capture-prey mentality many thrill-seeking cops have adapted.”
Friday, he spoke to students about everything from rap music and political advocacy, to what he claims is abuse at the hands of corporations. “No Child Left Behind left a lot of kids behind,” he said, before exclaiming of big business, “They are users and abusers of us all, but you have to make them work for you.”
He also thinks hip-hop should be taught in schools. According to Billboard, he feels curriculum should move from “old school onward, and not the other way around.”
Concerning bland hip hoppers, void of political messages, he told the MIT pupils, along with a group of journalists, “Dumb rappers should just shut the f–k up and make dumb music that I hear on the radio in the middle of the day.”
Render was also light in his criticism of Washington when given a chance to address national politics, and according to Billboard, he reasoned, “I’m not concerned with fixing politicians–I’m concerned about the proletariat. To say there is a bogeyman means we don’t have to change the lightbulb.”
The son of an Atlanta-area police officer, Killer Mike has garnered a reputation for blending his social advocacy with his music, and is often critical of law enforcement and Republican politicians, so it comes as no surprise he will join HuffPo at Saturday night’s main event in D.C. One of his more popular tracks is titled “Reagan,” and he blames the former President for the state of inter-city black communities.
A sample of “Reagan,” from 2012’s R.A.P. Music:
I guess that that’s the privilege of policing for some profit
But thanks to Reaganomics, prisons turned to profits
‘Cause free labor is the cornerstone of U.S. economics
‘Cause slavery was abolished, unless you are in prison
You think I am bulls–tting, then read the 13th Amendment
Involuntary servitude and slavery it prohibits
That’s why they giving drug offenders time in double digits
Ronald Reagan was an actor, not at all a factor …
I’m dropping off the grid before they pump the lead
I leave you with four words: I’m glad Reagan dead
When asked by an MIT student why rapper Gangsta Boo, the only female guest on his latest album, only rapped about sex, Mike said, “Gangsta Boo talks about f—ing better than Barack Obama talks about politics.”
The rapper/civil rights activist might have seemed an unlikely guest at the WHCA dinner at one point, but as Bustle points out, he’s got big fans at the Huffington Post. The leftwing site has covered his every move over the last year or so, generally in a positive light.
While he may be an advocate for civil rights, one could make the argument Killer Mike’s music is no different than hip hop as a whole in regards to viewing women as objects. To quote the rapper in the 2003 track “A.D.I.D.A.S.”:
I don’t screw them hoes I drill, I’ve been cuttin’ cute lil’ coochies since before the record deal, catch me daydreamin’ ’bout them, thick, medium, or slim, doctors call the thing vagina, in the hood we call it trim, white boys call it snatch, Puerto Ricans call it choch, Nathaniel likes his white, I like mine dark as cola, it’s the first thing on my mind in the morn’ when I roll over, all men young or old in the end it’s what we after.
The civil rights activist will be in attendance at a major event with President Obama Saturday night as a guest of the most “forward thinking” hard news site on the net.
Ain’t that progressive?
Arianna Huffington’s guests Saturday will also include YouTube star Bethany Mota, journalist Sarah Koenig of the viral radio program Serial, Napster founder Sean Parker, Vine stars Nash Grier and Marcus Johns, blogger Heather Armstrong, Snapchat star Jerome Jarre, and YouTube activist Tyler Oakley.
Check out the music video below for “Close Your Eyes” by Killer Mike’s rap duo Run the Jewels, featuring Zack de la Rocha, formerly of Rage Against the Machine. The video demonstrates a young black man grappling with a white police officer: