The music industry is no plantation, Killer Mike offered. But he did compare it to the share-cropping structure that replaced illegal slave labor.
Armed with sharp analogies to examine society, Killer Mike held forth at M.I.T.’s Hip-Hop Speaker Series last week, pulling few punches in his critique of modern class lines. The event was for M.I.T. students, but videos with Mike’s words are beginning to appear.
“There should not be a municipality in these United States that has over 60 to 70% African Americans living in that municipality and that’s not reflected on the police force,” he said. “There shouldn’t be a municipality in these United States where 50% of the municipality is women and that’s not reflected on the police force, that affected on the politics. We’re f*cking up because we’re voting for the wrong people locally and state-wise.”
The speaker series is a forum for rap artists, but it also gives voice to hip-hop culture and some of the now-diminished concerns of regular people who enjoy it. As the nation approaches issues of race, law enforcement, and the wealth gap, Killer Mike’s incisive language is a strong guide to sorting prickly issues.
Beyond that, he made the personal political and touched on his own life, family, and even spoke on his drug use, saying, “I smoke weed every single day of my life. And I’m probably gonna go out like Willie Nelson.”
Killer Mike is especially poignant when drawing on these anecdotes from his eclectic experience as a global artist. Here’s his complex take on the issue of cultural appropriation:
I’ve never spoken on this publicly. To be frank, Iggy Azalea is in a business deal with one of my friends. T.I. is my friend. That’s his artist. He makes money. He’s my friend. He’ll lend me some money. I ain’t talking against my friend. But I understand where the anger comes from. I was in Australia when [Azealia Banks] did the Hot 97 interview. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Well I’m in Australia, I’ve been here for two weeks, and not one person has talked about Iggy Azalea. And I’m at a music festival. Not one person. The person that everyone was talking about in Australia was a black girl, her name was TK-something.* I saw her perform and she rocked the house. So I was like ‘So here I am in Australia, and the biggest star here is a pie-faced girl with a round nose and beautiful cocoa brown skin. That’s a compliment in my community too, y’all. Having a round face and a round nose is beautiful. So I was like ‘Oh sh*t, I’m in America and people are asking me to be angry about cultural appropriation from a white woman in Australia who just grew up liking hip-hop. She doesn’t understand as much as she needs to — and one day she will — but while I’m angry and raging about that because I believe the whole world is America…in Australia, those white people are jamming like hell to a black girl…and she’s actually saying stuff when she raps.
He won’t shy away from delving into his contradictions, so the audience is receptive to his humbled humor, working with him to unravel the knots of systemic inequity. That’s the most appealing part of hearing from Killer Mike; his declarative stance is offset by a genuine curiosity to learn more and engage with what he may not know, as well.
*The artist Killer Mike may have been referring to is Tkay Maidza, who performed at the Falls Festival in Australia.
Check out more videos from the lecture here:
(Via Consequence of Sound)