Killer Mike Says “Jim Crow Is Still Very Much Alive” (Video)
By now, even casual fans of Killer Mike’s music have likely become familiar with his robust proclamations in his daily life, whether on social media, political speeches, or media appearances. Along with his extensive work on the campaign trail for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Killer Mike has been fighting to keep Hip-Hop’s value esteemed in the eyes of the powers that be, namely in a recent Supreme Court case in which he, Pharoahe Monch, and others joined forces in an effort to support the cause of a young man whose Rap lyrics got him into some serious trouble. Bell vs. Itawamba School Board pitted Dora Bell and her high-school aged son Taylor against his school district after Taylor was suspended and had his academic record effectively destroyed after he shared a Rap he had made which – according to school officials – contained threatening lyrics that were deemed dangerous and unacceptable. As Heads already know, plenty of Rap artists from Public Enemy to Eminem have earned the brunt of similar criticism, and Killer Mike (born Michael Render) has made it clear he finds those arguments hypocritical (after all, plenty of songs in other genres contain violent and aggressive lyrics) but even more importantly – contemporary versions of Jim Crow America.
In a video interview for Huffington Post Live, Render speaks on his views which stem not only from Taylor Bell’s case, but also others which ring of the same unfortunate undertones. “Jim Crow is very much alive. I think that in this country, we love the nostalgic stories of how far we’ve come in transforming in things like race relations, things like women’s suffrage, things like fairness and equality across the board. And we have not,” he begins. In bringing the hypocrisy of Rap’s far-too-frequent status as the scapegoat for complaints about vulgar and violent content, Render says “I’ve listened to tons of Johnny Cash, and I am a huge admirer of Country music, and Southern Rock. Southern Rock and Country music is some of the most violent, dark music you’ll ever hear, set to ridiculously good melody. And because of the kinds of people who are often sitting in the prosecutor’s office and sitting on the bench and the arresting officers align themselves more with the culture that creates that type of music, they don’t see the problem in it,” he argues. A huge part of the problem also lies, he says, in the “criminalization of Black boys,” which starts “very young and very early.” He is justifiably outraged at the fact that kids as young as four and five years old are referred to as “thugs,” which he says only happens in reference to African Americans.
However, it’s not just Hip-Hop that has been unfairly punished by society, according to Render. “The same has been done to Jazz music. Jazz music was used as an excuse to ban marijuana. It was used as an excuse to kill Black men fraternizing with White women. Rock and Roll music, early on with Little Richard and Chuck Berry, was used as the ‘devil’s music,’ but just the mere image – Rap music, Rock music, Funk music – is used by American young men, period, as a tool of machismo. As a way to Alpha-tize yourself. Music has done that culturally in thousands of cultures for thousands of years. But because this [Rap] music celebrates the ‘bad man of Black,’ it’s used as a tool to literally hang our boys, still.”