Killer Mike & DJ Envy Have A Heated Exchange About Public vs. Private School
Killer Mike appeared on The Breakfast Club this week. The co-founder of Run The Jewels and veteran Atlanta, Georgia MC discussed his new Netflix series, Trigger Warning With Killer Mike. In addition to hosting, Mike co-created and produced the show. The first season’s six episodes became available to the public earlier this month. Previously, Mike discussed Trigger Warning with Ambrosia For Heads in an interview available at AFH TV.
While speaking with Charlamagne Tha God, Angela Yee, and DJ Envy, Mike breaks down a Trigger Warning episode about working with the Crips to create a soft drink. The rapper’s blue hoodie endorses the results, Crip-A-Cola, which is inspired by white motorcycle gangs merchandising their organizations. He also brings the hosts a four-pack of the soda. The guest also praises his wife, Shay Bigga (18:00) for her business savvy when it comes to the couple’s real-estate investments and SWAG barbershops.
However, the liveliest part of the interview comes from a lengthy chat about the education system. Mike reacts to Angela Yee discussing feeling ostracized because of her race and class in a crosstown high school. “[I] feel like [in] places that are hostile to Black people, you should not send your children [to the schools] ’til they’re 13 years old. If you look at other ethnic communities, they keep themselves insulated ’til the child [is] about 13, 14. Then they have a ceremony; the child gets out,” says Mike.
Mike then details his education. “I went to a school named Collier Heights Elementary School. You guys can Google Collier Heights, it’s a nationally recognized neighborhood; Black people gentrified this neighborhood from poor white people. [They] sent the poor white people on out to Cobb County and Mableton. They gentrified it. Everybody lived in this neighborhood, from working class Blacks like my grandparents to Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s parents to former [Georgia House Of Representatives member] Billy McKinney. This school was a great school because rich Black people lived in my neighborhood too. So I was afforded a great education. I then went on to Frederick Douglass High School; Frederick Douglass was the greatest abolitionist of the 19th century [and] the most photographed person of the 19th century. So essentially, I’m talking about the Barack Obama of his time.”
Mike says that his high school’s rival was Benjamin E. Mays High School, named after the former Civil Rights leader and President of Morehouse College. He lists others in the region. “Seventy-percent of the schools in Atlanta are named after Black educators and emancipators. I don’t care if I was a C-student, I had a sense of pride that most Black children didn’t have because they were not in a circle of pride. The community was Black, my teachers were Black. They taught me about some imaginary group of white kids I was competing against out there in the suburbs, and [told us that] we had to do better. So they gave me purpose. So by the time I met white children, I was an equal. You can’t tell me my skin look like poo. ‘Why y’all skin look like bird-poo? What you talkin’ ’bout, lame?’ I was already prepared. What I wasn’t was unconfident.”
DJ Envy interjects, “See, that’s a tough one, though. I’ma tell you why: I’m from a place, Queens Village, where we had the first metal detectors [in schools], right? So my parents made the [choice] of not putting me in that high school, my zone school, which was Andrew Jackson. [Instead, they] put me in a school called St. Francis Prep. [To get to] St. Francis Prep, I had to take three, four buses to get to school. But the education was way better than the education that was at Andrew Jackson. Not only was the education better, it gave me better opportunities. By putting that school on my application, it gave me an advantage over most students—not just Black students—[but students of all races].” Envy says that he applies that experience to parenthood. “So for my kids—I have five…I have my daughter in a private school, one of the top schools in New Jersey. She’s already taking college courses on top of what she does. It’s no longer 30, 40 kids per class; it’s eight kids per class, and her education is like no other. My son’s a little different. He goes to a private school, but he’s in the ‘hood doing other things. He’s playing football [and basketball] in Newark, so he gets that. But that education that he gets in those schools is unlike anything that I ever got in my life, which gives them that advantage that most kids don’t get.”
Mike returns to his point about areas where Black children are being treated with hostility. He tells Envy, who he calls a close friend during the interview, that Envy’s point does not apply to himself. “You’re a rich ni**a; you’ve got ‘white folks money.’ So you’re not gonna endure the same hostilities that a working class Black parent is, who’s living in Sumter [County or] Atlanta, or Gwinnett [County].” Envy pushes back, claiming his children have been hit with words. Mike dismisses it with, “Being called a ‘ni**er’ when your dad got a Ferrari just don’t hurt as much.”
As the voices raise, Mike poses a new question to DJ Envy. “With all the great education you got, you turned out to be a DJ, and a real estate investor.” Envy corrects Mike, and asserts that he’s an entrepreneur. “I’m not dissin’ DJs,” Mike responds. “We both got millions of dollars of property, we both do cool sh*t, but we make our money [singing] and dancing. That’s what we do. So your investment comes from your talent, what you were interested in, what you chose to pursue. Black people, your children are going to have pursuits.”
Mike reveals that he and his wife are considering sending their youngest daughter to a private school. “See, we always love to cop out. ‘Ay man, we sent my children there for a better education.’ But the same ni**as be tellin’ me how much they [are] paying for college. Your children ain’t rewarding [the private education] by scholarshipping. After them years, you’re not directing your children to Howard, or Morehouse, or Spelman, or Bethune-Cookman, or Tuskegee University.” Mike says that he is not speaking to DJ Envy, but to many working class folks. “You’re doing some further chump sh*t. For five or six years [your kids] have been called a ‘ni**er’ [for] a great education. The great education don’t even teach your ass that Egypt is in Africa. It don’t teach you to be proud of nothin’ about yourself; it just teaches you how to take tests well and how to participate and coordinate according to the system.”
He charges people to make the necessary changes. “You never thought, ‘God damn, I could start my own Montessori school,’ where there’s eight kids in the whole school. I’m not sayin’ this sh*t ’cause I heard it in some chump-ass rhyme from a chump-ass rapper. I own a third of a block in Atlanta. The second block next to me was bought by five white people who didn’t even know each other, and they started a Montessori school within three months [of purchase]. Ni**a, do something! I used to wonder to myself, why is Dick Gregory so mad? He cursed me and [T.I.] out the first time we met him. He said, ‘What y’all ni**as gon’ do, march? The same sh*t we been doin’ for 50 years [and they will tell you you can’t march after sunset].’ Yeah, the [private] school’s seem better, ’cause you buyin’ into that. Why are we not starting our own academies and supporting them? Why are we not supporting historically Black colleges and universities? That’s where our heroes went! That’s where they came from! Dr. King went to Booker T. Washington. You gonna show me a ni**a smarter than him? I don’t have no problems with you lovin’ your children. But my children [currently] go to public school!”
Mike adds that he wants his tax dollars to support something he uses and believes in. In his community, those schools are named after Black people. “If you walk into a school named for Frederick Douglass and you do not have the initiative as a parent or a student to walk up or step up to that greatness, but you’ll do it at St. Pius? You’ll do it at St. Michael? Man, you’re a chump!” Again, he tells Envy that his message is not specifically directed at him, or his St. Francis alma mater.
Envy speaks next. “You cans sit here and talk that ‘chump’ sh*t all day long…” he begins. Mike interrupts to remind him that he is talking about working-class Black folks. Envy continues, “A lot of those public school teachers are not getting paid, are overworked, and some of them are not putting the effort out, ’cause some of them are the worst teachers in the country.” Mike adamantly states that he does not agree. “You are full of sh*t!” The R.T.J. MC repeats himself several times, as Charlamagne says that his mother is a public school teacher, and he disagrees with Envy’s claim. “To throw teachers under the bus is wrong!” Mike says. “You are wrong.”
Envy clarifies that he said “some teachers,” not all. The host adds that some educators lack the tools that private schools have. He asserts that he is not angry, but he wants a proper chance to speak. “I’ve been to public school [and private school]. For me, learning to do certain things is learning way different. My kids go to private school. My son has his own business [which he started with] things that I didn’t learn before. You know why? Because those opportunities were given to him. My daughter has been to places that most people haven’t been, ever.” Charlamagne suggests that those opportunities come from Envy and his wife. Envy disagrees and points to classes that focus on real estate available in his kids’ private school.
Mike reiterates that his point exclusively relates to working-class African Americans. Mike contends, “If you’re rich, you’re insulated. Speaking to the working class African American, if you are unsatisfied with your school system, radically change it by voting in a new board, put in for new systems to be constructed, or support charter schools. Oh, and then we all get nervous, ‘charter schools? That’s Republican.’ But pull your children out, and start a B.E.S.T. Academy, like in Atlanta. That’s all I’m sayin’; we gotta stop giving these excuses [for people to leave the school system].”
Envy says that his father was not in a position to start a charter school. Mike states that he is not criticizing the host’s parents. “What I’m saying is, in spite of all the education you got, your dream and your pursuit and your belief [is] what brought you here. What brought you here is your own self-invention, your own curiosity, your own mind, and in a school, that’s what it should be. I’m not sending my youngest daughter, potentially, to [The Paideia School] because it’s a white school; I’m sendin’ her ’cause they actually go outside. They have class outside, and they think art is [as] important as science. You get what I’m sayin’? So if that’s the argument you’re sayin’ to me, that’s fine. But if you’re simply gonna tell me there’s a great business curriculum there, I’m gonna retort to say that at George Washington Carver High School in Atlanta, they have a dry-cleaning program, they have a t-shirt printing program, they have [an] auto mechanics [program]. I learned aviation; I learned how to fly and aviation mechanics [in high school]. So my question just becomes, what are we allowing public schools to be? Now that we’ve had our mandatory light-skinned, dark-skinned argument, we [both] still pay taxes. What are we gonna do to ensure that the children of the working class get what our children have? The confidence that they need to be successful.”
Envy says that while Mike’s examples of trades are great, he believes top-level private schools “teach you how to be billionaires. There’s a big difference and there’s a big line.” Mike asks how many billionaires. “A lot of ’em,” responds Envy.
Mike disagrees. “Most people are not gonna be millionaires. Most people seek a comfortable life, want to live below debt, and leave a piece of land for their family,” contends Mike. “What I’m sayin’ is most schools are gonna teach you to take a test. I’m just simply saying maybe public schools should be more reflective of the private schools that rich people like Envy and others send their children to. Maybe we should incorporate some working class things that mirror those things. If all these millionaires are going to private schools, somebody’s gonna have to work for them, and I’m gonna demand a greater salary. If you’re gonna do that, you’re gonna have to have some trades and skills—not unskilled labor. You’re gonna need good soft skills: how to show up on time, how to [be polite], so somebody‘s got to work for all these millionaires. Somebody’s got to work for ‘Boss.'”
On the subject of education, Envy says that his real estate seminars are designed to counter those expensive speaking events that often prey on people of color and lower-income communities. He says that he wants to teach people generational wealth, something that Killer Mike interjects he applauds his friend for. Envy says that why he does that is “from me going to Hampton University and learning Business and learning Marketing, it was my schooling.”
Mike finds an example on his phone of an all-Black school with several guaranteed college scholarships in the class. “We must stop the mentality that [private education] is better than what you already have,” he declares. “What you have is enough, if you have genuine curiosity and the encouragement to do better, it’s enough. I had an encyclopedia, I went to public school, and I scholarshipped into Morehouse. And to some of y’all chumps, that might not mean anything. But when you start to look up the historic value of the university that I went to, you start to understand for a poor child who grew up four miles away from that college, it was nearly impossible…I’m saying, Black people, pride is more than February, sayin’ ‘I like being Black.’ Pride is an actionable thing that I must and will do. If I believe in myself and believe in the sh*t I’m sayin’, at some point I have to make a conscious decision to show it.”
He also acknowledges that Queens, where Envy is from, may not have the supportive culture of Atlanta. “But in Atlanta, Georgia, you have the potential to be Wakanda. Your private school options are different there; you can go to a Brown private school. But stop thinking what you produce isn’t good enough.”
After Angela Yee says that she asked her family to send her to a private school as a child, where she eventually graduated from, DJ Envy has the last word on the subject. “The whole goal in what I’m trying to say is we have to do more than just your normal stuff. That’s why I do the seminar stuff, and that’s why I push so much [on social media] my cars, my jewelry and everything, see, because what most kids see, and even what I saw as a kid was you see the local drug dealers. You think you want to be them. What I try to teach [and] show these kids is you can have just as much as that drug dealer, or more. You don’t have to rap. You don’t have to play basketball. You don’t have to sell drugs. There’s so many different things that you can do. That’s what I try [to demonstrate]. When you said ‘DJ’ and I said ‘entrepreneur,’ it’s because I want these kids to know that you ain’t gotta do music. But you can still have a love for music. You can sell soda. You can sell t-shirts. You can sell whatever you want.”
At the 1:00:00 mark, as the interview closes, Envy invites 25 students with good grades to his next seminar in Atlantic City. He says he will provide what is needed to get there, if they email.