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Killer Mike, Venerable Rapper/Activist, Talks New Album, Drug War, and Maybe Running for Office

The OutKast affiliate and longtime Atlanta figurehead speaks on the eve of his new album, "R.A.P. Music," aka "Rebellious African Peoples' Music."

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KM: I think so, too. I know I’m Killer Mike and he’s El-P. We bring our respective audiences and our respective legend to this, but what I most enjoyed about this project was for the first time in my musical life, I didn’t have to hunt beats. I didn’t have to figure out what was next. I recorded Pl3dge, really, in a good place, but with RAP Music, I don’t think I wrote three lines per song. Jaime [Meline, aka El-P] would put the beat on and I’d stand in front of the microphone and shit just came out. That’s the entire record. And that’s not, “Yeah, I don’t write. I wanna be Jay-Z.” That’s me saying that it’s almost, to be totally corny, it was an Avatar moment. He and I just plugged in together and the vibe was there without question. It was just pure instinct.

Killer Mike and El-P are two legendary rap guys who have made their mark, but Jaime and Mike are two kids who fell in love with rap at about the same time at about the same age and they grew up on totally different parts of the East Coast, but have been influenced by similar things and that mash up. I don’t think anyone else going to be able to compare with that. 

JES: Do you think working outside of Atlanta jogged your memory and history?

KM: I think for me what it did was, it brought rap back to where rap just really supposed to be. Rap is just supposed to be a dope-ass rapper, a dope-ass producer, doing dope-ass shit, and that’s it. I don’t think I was out of my element, I think I was in my element. I was out of my element for 10 years, because the music I grew up loving was for the messages, the rebellion, the almost punk aesthetic. Then it became homogenized and commercialized. The music that I grew up loving has become a subsidiary of pop bullshit. Hip-hop is not pop. I think I was actually in my element making RAP Music and that’s just being in the studio with Jaime doing shit. Without thoughts of Is this gonna be on radio? Or, Will they play it? None of those thoughts. We’re just gonna make the dopest shit possible.

JES: Did having the title help shape the project?

KM: Well, it did, because Rebellious African Peoples' Music doesn’t refer particularly to black people, believe it or not, but it doesn’t just refer to rap music or hip-hop, but all peoples' music. That’s not even a question. But what I meant by "Rebellious African Peoples' Music" was just the time after that African Americans have landed here and there, music has been our greatest help. It’s helped other cultures understand us, it helps us talk in an encoded way, it helps progress the people whether you’re talking about gospel, jazz, rock ‘n roll, soul, funk and you know, you’ve heard the record, you know the title track, I’m naming all of those. Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Sade, Too $hort. Who names Too $hort after Sade? But those are people who have made incredible American music marks here in this country, so I gave it up to all my influences on this record. That’s what Rebellious African Peoples' Music is about. It's just about us being on our own shit.

JES: I know that you’ve been a force in politics especially as of late with Trayvon Martin, Troy Davis and Occupy. As someone with a lot of cultural influence, do you also feel it’s important for you to be involved in politics, or at least outspoken about them?