Killer Mike Has Made The Most Dangerous Show On Television (Video)
In just a few hours (January 18), Season 1 of Trigger Warning With Killer Mike will be available. One of the most consistent Hip-Hop artists of the last decade and a leading activist within the culture takes his charisma, his ability to ask hard questions, and his courage to television, by way of Netflix. The Atlanta, Georgia rapper-turned-businessman born Michael Render co-created the series, and admits that he spent the last 10 years refining it into something worthy of his standards.
“We tried, and it became better and better with each version,” he tells Ambrosia For Heads‘ founder Reggie Williams while in New York City last night (January 16). “From our hypothesis of what [Trigger Warning] could be, from our first demo version that we did [years ago until] now, it became better each time. So again, when you sit down and say to me, ‘it’s the most dangerous show on television,’ I’m almost overwhelmed because that’s what I wanted to do. But 10 years ago, I couldn’t have promised you it would’ve been the same show. I wasn’t the same Michael. One of my best friends in the world wasn’t a white guy who’s the best producer/rapper in the world. I wasn’t forced to be in a culture that mixed me with everyone. I had to grow. And because I grew, I came with a product that was better.” A decade ago, Killer Mike and El-P had not yet crossed paths to make the acclaimed R.A.P. Music and subsequently form Run The Jewels. One of the most successful artists to ever come from under OutKast’s wing and the Dungeon Family was enjoying an impressive level of independent success.
Trigger Warning is the latest component in a 20-year-career that keeps reaching new highs. He describes the series to AFH TV as “If anarchists got to set the status-quo.” Mike, who was honored by the Georgia State Senate in 2017, continues, “[Trigger Warning is] about educating yourself individually, freeing yourself of the [selfish] mentality, and really individually taking in the world. It’s about understanding that the only potential we have is infinite. And because your potential is infinite, you don’t have to accept boxed-in [ideas]. You don’t have to accept ‘these are the two polar opposite arguments that we have and allowing for cluttered confusion in the middle.’ Noam Chomsky talks about it [as] you’re given two viewpoints and just this wide array of arguments in the middle. You don’t have to do it; you can come up with these same arguments that we have in the barbershop.” He points to a popular meme online. “‘If you can lead a gang, you can lead a business.’ We took it, and we applied it in the real world, and the results are what you’ll see.”
However, in doing things like sleeping on a bench, attempting to exclusively spend his money at Black businesses, and help launch a Crip-backed cola company, Mike says things went differently than expected. “The episodes didn’t turn out as I thought they would. I thought I was going in to tear [televangelist] Creflo [Dollar] down [and] destroy the mega-church, kill the image of ‘white Jesus.’ But Creflo isn’t as big of a problem as the real church; the real church is the Catholic Church.” Mike says he saw bigger forces at play. “The Catholic Church has essentially spread a Westernized version of Christianity the world over. So they’ve taken ‘white Jesus’ everywhere. They’ve taken ‘white Jesus’ and candy and Bibles and Western politics [across the globe]. So we have to start saying to our self, ‘Are we really in this to change the game for real? Or are we selective?’ So [Trigger Warning] forced me to have to deal with some of my bigotry and prejudices.”
Similarly, Mike discusses what he took from making an episode where he produced educational videos which use adult entertainment as a way of better engaging viewers, and which featured same sex intercourse. “I’m a guy; I like women. So I was not as progressive when it came to homosexuality years ago. I grew. I had two gay uncles who were great to me. I grew up understanding that gay people are here. So when given the opportunity to make pornography, it was important to us that we made all kinds of pornography. [Laughs] Something for everyone. That was me having to face my own prejudices. Now, I didn’t stick around for any of the porno scenes, but I made sure I hired a sex-positive therapist who was a Black woman to come and oversee and make sure it was all-the-way-around good for all people, no matter what [type of sex] they like.” Mike enjoys his comfort zone being challenged. “It forced me, though. That’s what good television does, and I want to make good TV.”
Mike wants his viewers to feel the same way. He hopes that Trigger Warning opens minds and boxes in a this-or-that world. “[People] are stuck with the narratives they’re being told. If CNN and Fox [News] formulate an opinion, and they give it to you on Monday, by Friday your friends are gonna be on either side of that opinion. They’re gonna say the same trigger words. If you say ‘Bernie Sanders,’ they say ‘socialist.'” After talking about the man he calls his “O.G.” who happens to be a Vermont US Senator, Mike continues, “I think people are given opinions…you’re never allowed to step out of a box, or there’s a tertiary thing—a third way of looking at [things]. You aren’t allowed to stand up and play chess and look [down] at the board. You have to play from your side. I think that’s how you lose.”
The episode where Mike leads Crip members to create and market a soda is especially powerful. “If you can cook crack, you can make a soda. I refuse to think that the things that we’ve learned in the streets are only limited to the streets,” he says. Killer Mike looks at his own education beyond his Morehouse College experience. “I learned how to do business selling cocaine; I didn’t go to business school. And I learned some very hard lessons, and that’s not to [glamorize] or glorify. That’s just to say I learned, very practically, you buy a $50 slab—if you try to cut it into 10 rocks, that’s gonna be too small. So the competition on the block next to you is gonna eat you up. So you better cut it to seven or eight [pieces]. [You will] make your profit quick. Turn around, buy you a $100 slab. Same thing.”
While Mike regularly lists authors, thinkers, and Civil Rights figures in his answers, he says that most of the show’s concepts are rooted in experiences we all share. “It’s all barbershop stuff. It’s stuff we’ve heard [argued] in barbershops our whole life,” he says, owning the SWAG Barbershop, which has a satellite location at the Atlanta Hawks’ Philips Arena. “It’s the workingman’s voice. I view my show as that. Everything else is too contrived, too calculated, too full of bullsh*t. No one else is really hitting the ground.” Partly-inspired by the early days of broadcast journalists like Geraldo Rivera, Mike says he doesn’t mind upsetting people with his persistence. However, he pledges to do so with his personality. “I think we needed a nice obnoxious guy. I’m gonna push the line, but I’m gonna do it with a smile. But I want us to get uncomfortable.”
While speaking to AFH TV last night, Mike also offered a promising update on his first album in more than a year. “I absolutely think El-P is the best rapper/producer in the world, ’cause I see him write his own raps, and I know he makes his own beats,” he says of his partner. “[As] for Run The Jewels 4, you can expect some kick-your-ass, punch-you-in-your-face hardcore f*cking Hip-Hop.”
This conversation is available on AFH TV. There is also a video of R.T.J.’s El-P, J-Live, and Breeze Brewin at Fat Beats’ grand opening. We are currently offering free 30-day trials.