Killer Mike Explains Why The Trap Does Not Make Dollars Or Sense (Video)
One of the pivotal records of Killer Mike’s career was his appearance on Outkast’s “Snappin’ & Trappin’.” Right as the mainstream erupted around 2000’s Stankonia release, Mike came in with a song that celebrated the street-life of Atlanta, Georgia and its surrounding hoods.
Sixteen years later, Killer Mike’s personality has skyrocketed. The hit-making major label star has since gone independent, returning with a series of acclaimed albums, and a celebrated duo (with El-P) in Run The Jewels. Now a celebrity closely tied to Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and a festival marquee performer, Mike Bigga sits down with Vlad TV to discuss why “trappin'” is not always what it seems.
In recalling a situation that left him shoeless and beat-down from his own hustling past, Killer Mike, at the 1:00 mark, explains, “[I would not call what I was doing ‘selling drugs’]. I bought a 50 so I could make my money back for the shoes I had just bought. ‘Selling drugs’ is not somebody sitting in a ‘bando with cocaine and fucking guns. That’s not it.” Mike believes that there is a disconnect between the mythology of a drug-dealer’s lifestyle and the actual earnings. “I was in the trap, interestingly enough, the night before last. I went to holla’ at some homies that I hadn’t seen in a while. Another homie—who used to trap when the trap was actually making money, was tellin’ them, ‘Man, y’all ain’t making no money. You out here 26 years old, out here trappin’; you makin’ minimum wage.’ I brought up the fact that studies show that most people who trap make, $200-220 a week. You are being used as cheap labor.”
Mike’s perspective echoes that of Freakonomics authors Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt. Eleven years ago, the two authors studied a college thesis by Sudhir Venkatesh for the University Of Chicago. The sociological study analyzed the drug trade of the local Black Gangster Disciple Nation. After research, the study explained that despite the mythology that hustling pays, it really might not. “So the top 120 men on the Black Disciples’ pyramid were paid very well. But the pyramid they sat atop was gigantic.” In The Los Angeles Times-published report though, further down, the legions of “corner-boys” were making little or nothing. “There were about 5,300 other men working for those 120 bosses. Then there were the 20,000 unpaid rank-and-file members, many of whom wanted nothing more than a chance to become a foot soldier. And how well did that dream job pay? About $3.30 an hour.”
In the conversation, Mike also points out that “trap” always had a negative connotation. The term, as the Grind Time Rap Gang leader understands it, began as less prime drug dealing real estate. Whereas older, more feared dealers had access to the avenues and thoroughfares in town, low-level hustlers were forced to trap in cul-de-sacs and dead-end locations, explaining the title. One-way in and one-way out hustling was less ideal, for sales, as well as police raids. Mike does state that in the 1990s, the allure of “the trap” as perpetuated through Rap music created rich byproducts. “People like [T.I.] gave that time and place a platform to create a whole new economy. Twenty five years ago, the kids that are coming out of nowhere, out of Atlanta, becoming hugely successful, would have been lower or mid-level drug dealers.” T.I., along with artists like Young Jeezy and Shawty Lo redefined the ATL imagery in music and pop culture. Mike maintains, “There is no crack epidemic anymore. Talking about the crack epidemic has potentially made more money for the community than crack itself. Even if you don’t agree with the message, that’s pretty admirable.”
Next in the interview, Mike explains an early 2010s social media apology for using the word “faggot.” The discussion prompts Mike to vehemently defend freedom of speech, despite his own personal decision to apologize. The Adamsville native states that he considers Hustler magazine founder and pornographer Larry Flynt and 2 Live Crew’s Uncle Luke just as important to his life as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
Explaining his views, Mike continues, “I am equally fighting for the rights of the [Klu Klux Klan] to have their goddamn march as I am for Puerto Ricans on Puerto Rican Day. If you want to have a march, you deserve to have your goddamned march. If you want to call me ‘nigger,’ it’s your goddamned right to call me ‘nigger’—it doesn’t make you right. But it don’t make me wrong.” Mike said in his case, he was compelled to apologize for hate-speech, which was really a product of his being influenced by social media. He says that since year 2000, the start of his career, he has always promoted Gay Rights personally. “If you want to say fucked up shit, I’m never gonna take your right to do it,” said Mike. “I also believe if you try to interfere with my rights, I have a right to kill you dead. That’s simply it. If a terrorist organization decides to interfere with my rights and liberties, then I have a right to defend my life.”
Mike dismissed the Klu Klux Klan as a threat altogether, in 2016. “What’s dangerous to me is not a racist wearing Air Jordan’s in a white robe. What’s scary to me is a racist who secretly hides their racism behind laws and power and wear black robes. That’s what scares me!,” he says, referring to a judicial system with far less judges of color correlated to inmate statistics. The MC adds that he is troubled with the fact that more Black college graduates are becoming educators than lawyers in this current system. “In matters of ‘am I afraid of the KKK?’ No, I’m afraid of the police. I’m worried that there are not enough police that are empathetic and sympathetic to Black people. That’s what I’m afraid of.”
Mike jokes surrounding a widely popular online photo of an alleged Klan member in robes wearing Michael Jordan’s flagship shoe, “He don’t really hate Black people; he just don’t have no clubs to belong to.”