Michael Santiago Render (born April 20, 1975), better known by his stage name Killer Mike, is an American rapper, actor, and activist. He is the founder of Grind Time Official Records, which he launched through the SMC and Fontana Distribution. Mike made his debut on "Snappin' and Trappin'" from OutKast's 2000 LP Stankonia, and later appeared on the Grammy-winning song "The Whole World", a single from Outkast's greatest hits album Big Boi and Dre Present...Outkast. He has since released five full-length albums as a solo artist.
Killer Mike performing in 2017
|Birth name||Michael Santiago Render|
|Also known as||Mike Bigga|
|Born||April 20, 1975|
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
In December 2008, Mike signed to fellow Atlanta-based rapper T.I.'s Grand Hustle Records. In 2012, he released R.A.P. Music, produced entirely by American rapper and producer El-P. Killer Mike and El-P subsequently formed a duo in 2013, branding themselves Run the Jewels; the duo was signed to Fool's Gold Records and released their self-titled debut in June of that year.
Killer Mike is also known as a social and political activist, focusing on subjects including social inequality, police brutality, and systemic racism. In addition to addressing themes of racism and police brutality in his music, he has also delivered several lectures at colleges and universities, written about social justice topics for publications such as Billboard, and been the subject of televised and published interviews regarding police misconduct and race relations. He was a visible and vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders during his 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, and refused to support Hillary Clinton after Sanders left the race.
1995–2005: Early life and career beginnings
Michael Santiago Render was born in the Adamsville neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia on April 20, 1975, the son of a policeman father and a florist mother. Because his parents were teenagers at the time of his birth, he was partly raised by his grandparents in the Collier Heights neighborhood of Atlanta. In 1995, Killer Mike briefly attended Atlanta's Morehouse College, where he met producers The Beat Bullies and eventually Big Boi of OutKast. His music debut was a feature appearance on OutKast's "Snappin' & Trappin'" from the 2000 album Stankonia, followed by their 2001 single "The Whole World", which won the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. He was featured on several other tracks that year, including "Poppin' Tags" from Jay-Z's The Blueprint 2.
Killer Mike released his debut album, Monster, in 2003 while being managed by Dayo Adebiyi and Al Thrash of Own Music. The album's lead single was "Akshon (Yeah!)", which featured OutKast on guest vocals. A remix of "Akshon (Yeah!)" was included on the soundtrack of EA Sports' video game Madden NFL 2004. The album's second single was "A.D.I.D.A.S.", featuring Big Boi and Sleepy Brown, which peaked at #60 on the Billboard Hot 100. It is Killer Mike's highest charting single to date as a lead artist.
Following the release of his own material, he appeared on "Flip Flop Rock" and "Bust" on the Speakerboxx half of OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below double album. He also appeared on "Southern Takeover" with Pastor Troy on Chamillionaire's CD The Sound of Revenge. Killer Mike appeared alongside T.I. on the song "Never Scared" by Bone Crusher in his album AttenCHUN!. It peaked at #26 on the Hot 100, becoming Mike's second top 40 hit ("The Whole World" being the first). The song was also used on the Madden NFL 2004 game soundtrack and by the Atlanta Braves for their 2003 season.
2006–2012: Pledge series and R.A.P. Music
What was to be his second album, Ghetto Extraordinary, had its release date pushed back several times due to disputes between Big Boi and Sony Records. Originally recorded in 2005, the album was eventually self-released as a mixtape in 2008.
According to an article published in the June 2007 issue of XXL, Killer Mike addressed why he left the Purple Ribbon roster. He stated that he felt as if Purple Ribbon was the equivalent to the "Clippers," while he wanted to join the "Lakers." T.I. later announced that he and Killer Mike had been in talks about bringing Mike to his Grand Hustle imprint on Atlantic, and Killer Mike confirmed that he had signed in December 2008. He released his fourth official album, PL3DGE, on Grand Hustle in 2011.
In 2013, Killer Mike announced that he was working to release two albums in 2014, I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind IV and R.A.P. Music II, both of which were to feature production by EL-P. Although neither album was released as planned, 2013 and 2014 did see the release of two Run the Jewels albums, both collaborative efforts between Killer Mike and EL-P.
Killer Mike also announced in 2013 that his next solo album would be titled Elegant Elephant, a project he described as his "Moby Dick". He did not specify a timeline for its release.
2013–present: Run the Jewels
Killer Mike was introduced to rapper/producer El-P by Cartoon Network executive Jason DeMarco in 2011. The following year, El-P produced Mike's album R.A.P. Music and guested on the song "Butane (Champion's Anthem)". That same year, Killer Mike guested on El-P's album Cancer 4 Cure. When R.A.P. Music and Cancer 4 Cure were released within weeks of each other, the two rappers decided to tour together. The success of the tour eventually led to the decision to record as a duo, which they named Run the Jewels.
Run the Jewels released a free eponymous album on June 26, 2013. The next year, on October 28, 2014, Run the Jewels released their second free album, Run the Jewels 2. On September 25, 2015, the duo released a re-recorded version of Run the Jewels 2 made entirely with cat sounds, titled Meow the Jewels. A third album, Run the Jewels 3, was released on December 24, 2016.
Mike has been featured in the films 20 Funerals, Idlewild (2006), and ATL (2006). He has also performed as a voice actor, playing a rapper/actor-turned-U.S. President named Taqu'il in the Adult Swim cartoon Frisky Dingo from 2006 to 2008. Mike guest-voiced a Boost Mobile phone in an episode of the same name of Adult Swim's Aqua Teen Hunger Force. He appeared twice on the Adult Swim surreal comedy series The Eric Andre Show, once in 2012, where he acted as a hype man for a female opera singer, and again in 2014, where he performed a rap battle with Action Bronson while the two were forced to walk on treadmills.
Graffitis SWAG Barbershop
Mike and his wife, Shana, opened a barbershop in Atlanta, Georgia on November 1, 2011. The two acquired and reworked a barbershop and named it "Graffitis SWAG" (Shave, Wash, And Groom). He had waited nine years before choosing to open the barbershop, after having an early business manager advise him against the plan. It took his wife advising him to do it now while he had the time and money to pursue his lifelong dream. He eventually plans to open 150 shops across the United States over time, predominantly in cities with large black communities.
The barbershop is decorated with artwork on the walls honoring historic black leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. Mike said that he hopes to "lift up men in the community who are out of work and help move them toward sustainable, lifelong careers" and give his employees "opportunity for real economic elevation". As of 2012, the shop employed six barbers, with plans to add four to six more licensed barbers to the team. Mike also said that he hoped to pursue his own barber license in the winter of 2012.
The enterprise has been successful and the shop has become a gathering place for the community, in addition to hosting events such as a season premiere for The Boondocks and serving as the setting for several music videos. A second location in Tampa, Florida was planned for 2014.
Mike is an outspoken social activist focusing on subjects including social equality, police brutality, and systemic racism. His views are reflected in his music, as well as in interviews with the media. As a publicly viewed figure, Mike feels it is his responsibility to represent African-Americans: "I feel I have to be politically active and I have to be a credit to my race." He has been vocal on the subject of police misconduct, his father being a former police officer. His anti-brutality sentiment can be found on the song "Reagan" from his album R.A.P. Music, and the song "Early" on Run the Jewels 2.
I'm appalled that regular Americans are apathetic. I'm appalled that people choose to use the word "thug" as a code word for "nigger". I'm appalled at everyday citizens... when will we, as an American constituency, tell our politicians enough's enough? Enough mayors supporting murderous police departments. Enough police chiefs having to give excuses for murderous police officers.
In an op-ed published in Billboard magazine, Killer Mike stated that "there is no reason that Mike Brown and also Eric Garner are dead today—except bad policing, excessive force, and the hunt-and-capture-prey mentality many thrill-seeking cops have adapted".
Mike and El-P performed at The Ready Room in St. Louis, Missouri on November 24, 2014, the same night that the Grand Jury verdict was announced stating that Darren Wilson would not be charged with a crime in the shooting of Michael Brown. Mike opened the set, which began about two hours after the announcement was made, with a heartfelt speech. Fan-shot footage of the speech later went viral.
Commenting on the 2015 Baltimore uprising related to the death of Freddie Gray, Killer Mike noted that he understood the frustrations leading to violent demonstrations, but encouraged protesters to use their energy to organize for lasting change. In a Billboard op-ed, Mike stated:
For the people of Baltimore—I don't criticize rioting because I understand it. But after the fires die down: organize, strategize, and mobilize. Like Ferguson, you have an opportunity to start anew. I don't have a solution because whoever's there will have to come up with it. But we need community relations: riots are the language of the unheard.
He made similar points in an interview with the Harvard Political Review: "Baltimore is an opportunity for us to do something different. As society, there's a real opportunity to organize there, and if we do not take full advantage of the opportunity to organize, then the riots truly meant nothing."
Mike has given lectures about race relations in the United States at several American universities, including Northwestern University, New York University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In June 2015, Mike briefly ran as a write-in candidate to become the representative for Georgia's 55th district in the Georgia House of Representatives. Despite encouraging voters to write in his real name, Michael Render, any votes he received would not have been considered valid due to his failure to previously register as an official candidate in the election. He said his purpose in running was to raise awareness of the special election, and to demonstrate that political outsiders can and should run against established politicians.
Mike announced his support of Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in June 2015 after Sanders announced his intention to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965. After introducing Sanders at a rally held in Atlanta November 23, 2015, Mike spent time recording an interview with the presidential candidate at Mike's barbershop. Mike released his interview with Sanders as a six-part video series the following month.
In the following months, he remained an active and vocal supporter of Sanders, delivering speeches at rallies, voicing support in televised interviews and on social media, and traveling with the campaign.
In February 2016, Mike received criticism during his activism for Sanders for quoting American anti-racism and LGBT advocate Jane Elliott regarding Hillary Clinton, which was criticized as misogynistic and mistakenly attributed as being his original phrasing online and in the press. Following Sanders' exit from the race, Mike refused to support Clinton, whom he perceived as pro-war.
He has been an advocate for investment in black-owned banks; in July 2016 he called for people to transfer their money to black-owned Atlanta bank Citizens Trust, stating, "We don't have to burn our city down. But what we can do is go to your banks tomorrow. You can go to your bank tomorrow. And you can say, 'Until you as a corporation start to speak on our behalf, I want all my money. And I'm taking all my money to Citizens Trust".
On March 22, 2018, Mike appeared on NRATV with host Colion Noir defending black gun ownership. He says it had been filmed a week prior to the March for Our Lives yet released the weekend of the protest. He also stated that he told his children that if they participated in the National School Walkout that he would expect them to leave the family home. On March 26, 2018, he posted a video stating that the NRA used his interview out of context, saying he actually supports March for Our Lives while simultaneously advocating for black gun ownership. During this same video he gave his endorsement for gun ownership alternatives, listing the Socialist Rifle Association by name.
- Studio albums
- Bush, John. "Killer Mike Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
- "Killer Mike". Biography.
- "Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group". Grammy.com. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
- D'Angelo, Joe (June 24, 2003). "Blink-182, Outkast, Bone Crusher, Joe Budden Score Tracks On 'Madden 2004'". MTV.com. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
- "Killer Mike - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
- Drake, David (January 29, 2013). "Bone Crusher f/ Killer Mike & T.I. "Never Scared" (2003) - The 30 Best So So Def Songs". Complex. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
- "Killer Mike: Beautiful Struggle". XXLmag.com. March 3, 2006. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
- Steiner, B.J. (November 2, 2014). "Killer Mike "Ghetto Extraordinary" (2005) - A Listener's Guide to Killer Mike and El-P". Complex. Retrieved May 17, 2015.
- Cohen, Ian (February 12, 2008). "Killer Mike: Ghetto Extraordinary". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 17, 2015.
- Arnold, Paul (December 8, 2008). "Exclusive: Killer Mike Confirms Signing With T.I." HipHopDX.com. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
- Bark, Theo (December 16, 2008). "Killer Mike Signs With T.I.'s Grand Hustle Entertainment". The Boombox. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
- Ryon, Sean (March 21, 2013). "EXCLUSIVE: Killer Mike Reveals "I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind IV"". XXLmag.com. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
- Tardio, Andres (March 21, 2013). "Killer Mike Preps "Pledge IV" & "R.A.P. Music II"". HipHopDX.com. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
- "Killer Mike & El-P "Run The Jewels" Release Date, Tracklist & Album Download". HipHopDX.com. June 23, 2013. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
- "Killer Mike and El-P Detail Run the Jewels' RTJ2 Album, Announce Tour". Pitchfork. September 2, 2014. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
- Weingarten, Christopher R. (October 24, 2014). "Run the Jewels: 2014's Brashest Rap Duo Comes Back From Oblivion". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
- Kelley, Frannie (November 11, 2014). "Run The Jewels: 'I'm Taking This Life'". NPR - Microphone Check. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
- Grebey, James (September 29, 2015). "Five Thoughts About 'Meow the Jewels,' Because How the Hell Would You Actually Review This?". Spin.com. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
- DiMeglio, Mary J. (December 26, 2016). "Run the Jewels' New Album, 'RTJ3,' Released Early: Listen". Billboard.com. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
- Adult Swim (11 June 2012). "Killer Mike: Eric Andre Show: Killer Mike and Opera" – via YouTube.
- Adult Swim (21 November 2014). "Treadmill Rap Battle Action Bronson Killer Mike - The Eric Andre Show - Adult Swim" – via YouTube.
- "Killer Mike and Action Bronson Battle Rap on Treadmills on "The Eric André Show" - Pitchfork". pitchfork.com.
- Physioc, Heather E. (July 2, 2012). "Killer Mike's Barbershop in Atlanta, GA - Graffiti's SWAG". Barber-Schools.org. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
- Howard, Marcia (November 17, 2014). "Killer Mike's Graffiti's SWAG Barbershop". Bevel Code. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
- Garland, Maurice (June 30, 2013). "Rapper Killer Mike Redefines 'SWAG' with Barbershop". Black Enterprise. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
- Balfour, Jay (April 20, 2015). "How Killer Mike Became Rap's Most Influential Political Leader". The Urban Daily. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
- Shepherd, Julianne Escobedo (May 8, 2012). "Killer Mike, Venerable Rapper/Activist, Talks New Album, Drug War, and Maybe Running for Office". Alternet. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
- Killer Mike (May 15, 2012). Reagan - R.A.P Music. Williams Street Records.
- Run The Jewels (October 28, 2014). Early - RTJ2. Mass Appeal Records.
- Eakin, Marah (May 15, 2015). "Run The Jewels release dark, stark new video for "Early"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
- Barshad, Amos (August 21, 2014). "Killer Mike, J. Cole, and Hip-Hop's Response to Ferguson". Grantland. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
- Killer Mike (August 19, 2014). "Op-Ed: Killer Mike on the Problems Underlying the Chaos in Ferguson". Billboard. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
- "Killer Mike's pre-show Ferguson Grand Jury speech". YouTube. November 24, 2014. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
- Petridis, Alexis (February 26, 2015). "Run the Jewels on hip-hop's golden age, playing Ferguson and America's civil rights problem". The Guardian. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
- "Rap's poetic (In)justice: Flashback".
- Killer Mike (May 1, 2015). "Killer Mike Baltimore Op-Ed: 'I've Watched Geraldo Rivera and Wolf Blitzer Pander to the Audiences of Oppression'". Billboard. Retrieved May 1, 2015.
- Mulholland, Quinn (April 29, 2015). "Killer Mike on the Baltimore Riots". Harvard Political Review. Retrieved May 1, 2015.
- Proctor, Bertram (March 24, 2015). "Killer Mike Talks Oklahoma Fraternity, Systemic Racism". NYU Local. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
- Brown, August (April 20, 2015). "Rapper Killer Mike to lecture on race at MIT". LA Times. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
- Loftus, Jamie (April 27, 2015). "Here's Killer Mike's MIT Talk on Race". Boston.com. Retrieved May 1, 2015.
- Funke, Daniel (June 15, 2015). "Rapper Killer Mike wanted to run for Georgia state representative". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
- Lacey-Bordeaux, Emma (June 16, 2015). "Killer Mike to Georgia voters: Pick me! ... Oh wait". CNN. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
- "Killer Mike plots political agenda ahead of Georgia state election". The Guardian. June 16, 2015. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
- Holpuch, Amanda (June 29, 2015). "Killer Mike Endorses Bernie Sanders for President". The Guardian. Retrieved July 13, 2015.
- Kreps, Daniel (November 23, 2015). "Watch Killer Mike Introduce Bernie Sanders With Moving Speech at Atlanta Rally". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
- Stuart, Tessa (December 15, 2015). "Watch Killer Mike's Six-Part Interview With Bernie Sanders". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
- "Talking Shop With Killer Mike". Retrieved October 23, 2016.
- Bromwich, Jonah (January 8, 2016). "Bernie Sanders Has Killer Mike in His Corner". The New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- Rodgers, Ian (February 1, 2016). "When rappers feel the Bern: The impact Killer Mike and Lil B can have on Bernie Sanders' campaign". McGill Tribune. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
- McCarthy, Tom (February 17, 2016). "Sanders campaign defends Killer Mike using 'uterus' quote about Clinton". The Guardian. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- Ehrbar, Ned (August 12, 2016). "Killer Mike says Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are exactly the same". CBS News. Retrieved October 26, 2016.
- Hogan, Mark (July 14, 2016). "Killer Mike Prompts "Huge Influx" Into Black-Owned Bank". Pitchfork. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
- Bomey, Nathan (July 15, 2016). "Black-owned banks get rush of new depositors". USA Today. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
- Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (June 16, 2017). "Jeremy Corbyn to appear on Pyramid stage at Glastonbury festival 2017". The Guardian. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
- "Run the Jewels' Killer Mike Defends Gun Ownership in NRATV Interview". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
- "Killer Mike Apologizes For Interview With NRA, Claims It Was Misused".
- Green, Mark Anthony. "We Took Killer Mike to Test Drive the New Generation of American Muscle Cars". GQ. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
- "Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group". Grammy.com. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
- Reece, Chuck (March 25, 2014). "Killer Mike, The Opposite of Bullshit: How an Atlanta Rapper's "Ghetto Gospel" Is Changing His Community". The Bitter Southerner. Retrieved June 28, 2015.