Killer Mike knows what it takes to succeed now. Mike and El-P are 10 years deep in Run The Jewels, hitting the road later this year to celebrate their success as a duo, and Mike is preparing to release his first solo album since 2012, Michael.
As the latest cover star of Spin, the Atlanta-bred artist and activist reflected on being signed to Columbia Records early in his career.
“My first record deal damaged me,” Killer Mike told the publication. “It made me afraid, it pulled me back. I hadn’t done terribly on the major. I just, you know, I came out the same year as 50 [Cent] selling 10 million f*cking records. I sold, you know, 500,000.”
Writer Khari Nixon contextualized that as “lukewarm at best” in 2003 because Killer Mike had just won a Grammy as a contributor to Outkast’s Stankonia album, even though 500,000 album units represents the higher end of the spectrum in today’s music landscape.
Killer Mike’s experience on Columbia crystalized for him that he belonged “in independent circles,” and his actions backed up his verbal commitment to life as an independent artist, as revealed elsewhere in the cover story:
“It wasn’t before long that [Cuz] Lightyear had an official job title on the project: A&R. With that job came a salary. Killer Mike paid it out of pocket. By the time they’d brought the project to No ID to transform it from mixtape to album, Mike was over a quarter-million dollars in the hole. As things developed, that number ballooned to over a half-million. This type of bill would normally place an artist in hot water with their label. At the time, Killer Mike was a free agent. He would eventually strike a deal with Loma Vista Records, which has distributed records by Denzel Curry and Action Bronson, to distribute Michael upon release. The advance from that deal would reimburse Mike for the money he’d invested into making the album.”
Michael was officially announced in late April. Killer Mike has released singles “Don’t Let The Devil” alongside El-P and “Motherless” featuring Eryn Allen Kane. He’s also teased “Scientists & Engineers” featuring André 3000 and Kane, which almost didn’t make the tracklist.
Mike will support the album this summer with a solo headlining North American trek, The High & Holy Tour. See all the dates here.
Michael is out 6/16 via Loma Vista Recordings. Find more information here.