Has President Obama Done Right By The Hip-Hop Community? Killer Mike Shares His Views (Videos)
Killer Mike (born Michael Render) has been making moves in his music career for more than a decade, working alongside the likes of Outkast, Ice Cube, Funkadelic, and of course El-P, with whom he performs as Run the Jewels. The success of RTJ, for many, is what has launched Render into his more recent fame, fame that has seemed inextricably tied to his astute political, social, and economic commentary involving racism and injustice in this country. Now, the moves he’s made in music are seemingly being outpaced by his growing list of television appearances; in the last 12 months alone he’s been on Real Time with Bill Maher, The Nightly Show, several CNN segments and most recently, he was the guest on PBS’ The Tavis Smiley Show where the knowledge ran so deep, it took two episodes to get all of it in.
The dense and superbly insightful one-hour conversation covers topics as far-ranging as truth-telling in Black artistry (“for every pop sensation, you have to have a Nina Simone”), why he didn’t give Hillary Clinton money (“that money’s better served in a local politician”), and whether Black Americans are too forgiving (and that was just in the first half). In part two, they discuss El-P’s whiteness (“people shouldn’t be surprised I have white friends”), the second amendment (“I don’t understand how any Black person can tell me that they are not pro-gun”), what America owes its Black citizenry (“It owes an equal opportunity”), and more.
As one might expect, the conversation turned to Hip-Hop at several different junctures. In part one, Smiley asks Render “Has this Hip-Hop President done right by the Hip-Hop Community?” Mike responds with “I don’t think any United States president has done right by poor and working class people yet,” masterfully aligning the culture with the disenfranchised. He goes on to say that Obama is proof that “there is no ceiling. If you conduct yourself in a way, if you put education first…you can maneuver your way through Corporate America.” However, despite the great progress that Obama represents, Render is still hoping for more tangible changes in society. “I want to see the day where someone who truly loves poor and working-class people holds the Oval Office.” As far as Obama being good or bad for the Hip-Hop community, he reveals that, for him, “it’s more about do we live in a country that is a friend to poor and working class people? Because essentially, when we say Hip-Hop culture, that’s what we’re saying.”
The conversation continues, in effect, in part two, when Smiley asks “is it your belief…that music, particularly Hip-Hop music, is still pregnant with the power that it once was to be the kind of protest voice that our society needs?” Without skipping a beat, Render responds “Absolutely it is. Look how many rappers jumped on board for Trayvon. Look how many rappers put their reputation on the line for Mike Brown. Look how many rappers are willing to stand up and speak.” On how he views the intersection between Hip-Hop and politics, he shares the following: “Hip-Hop has always represented a grass-roots voice…it’s been reflective of the general concerns of society.”
To end it all, the two discuss the concept of hope. First, Smiley asks Render what his sources of hopefulness are. And, in beautifully touching ending, Smiley says to Render “you know what gives me hope? You.”