“Reagan was a lying, old, dementia-ridden motherfucker and his wife was pretty dizzy too”
Off the back of Killer Mike’s career high 2012 release ‘R.A.P. Music’ (R.A.P. standing for Rebellious African People), I find the Atlantan rapper in a cheerful mood just minutes before he takes to the Pitchfork stage. “This is my first time in Spain, so I’m a little nervous,” he confesses.
“The running joke in my crew is that I spent nine years becoming an overnight sensation!” he laughs heartily, as we discuss the album’s success. “I’m very happy to be at this stage in my career and have all these options open to me. I feel very blessed and very lucky.”
Mike has a decade-long career behind him, with longstanding and notable collaborations with Outkast and Big Boi playing figurative roles in his creative output (he features on the Grammy-award winning ‘The Whole World’), but the years of maturity building up to his success has suited him well. “Stuff that used to bother me as an artist when I was younger, doesn’t bother me any more. It’s a job. It’s the best job in the world, it’s a fun job, but it’s a job. It’s not about getting high before the job, it’s not about going up there inebriated, it’s about coming out and giving the best show and playing the best music you can and getting high and inebriated on your own time! But the younger me would be like, ‘I’m gonna get fucked up and go to the show!’.”
Killer Mike’s response to his surge of popularity is a simple one – give them what they want. “I spent a lot of years kind of being stepped on and ignored, so when people start watching they get greedy and they want more,” he says. “I want to just keep supplying now that there is a real appetite.”
The pinnacle to ‘R.A.P. Music’ is a raging, vitriolic assault on president Ronald Reagan. In the wake of Margaret Thatcher’s death, despite her instilling hatred amongst many musicians and artists, even the sternest of left-wing artists and media commentators danced around their words, picking carefully and hiding behind the ever re-appearing word ‘divisive’. Many seemed, not frightened, but reserved in their assault. On ‘Reagan’ Killer Mike utters the words that few did in the wake of Thatcher, as he spits “I’m glad Reagan’s dead!”.
“I did a show in January, and I’ve never been afraid on stage before but I was afraid on stage that night,” Mike tells me. “Now of course I knew historically who Thatcher was, but I didn’t know how the people felt about her was pretty much identical to the way people like me feel about Reagan. So, as I’m rapping about Reagan, this really tall guy just starts screaming, ‘Die, Maggie, die! Die, Maggie, die!’ and I’m like, ‘What the fuck?!’ I didn’t know what was happening, it spooked the shit out of me. So when we went home and then she died, my wife was like ‘you know ya’ll killed that white lady?!’. I definitely went and did my homework after that.” Mike laughs heartily and playfully, something that he does throughout our conversation, but when we begin to discuss the role of Reagan in his life, he becomes impassioned and stone-cold serious, spewing furiously, eloquently and extremely personally about the role that man had on his life.
“Ronald Reagan was essentially a conservative Jay Z, of sorts. I’m not saying Jay Z is Reagan, but what I’m saying is, if you want to sell something to black people right now at this moment, put Jay Z on the screen. Ronald Reagan was that at one point. He sold things, he was a salesman and the Republican Party were smart enough to bring him in and use him as a salesman to sell agendas. What happened was that he became the face of bullshit agendas and had an evil economic policy, and more evil than that he became part of a conspiracy that gave weapons to people that didn’t deserve them and brought cocaine into the streets of America, and he helped not only destroy the fabric of America but directly my neighbourhood.” Mike fiercely pounds his chest. “Cocaine and crack-cocaine and the sentences you got for that destroyed black families and locked up poor African-American families,” he says. “I saw my community crumble under what he was doing, I saw my community become a wasteland and I took it personally.