Photo by Ben Kaye
Kanye West may have taught a court-mandated class on fashion, but Killer Mike got to be head of the class at MIT. The Run the Jewels rapper was invited to take part in the vaunted school’s MIT Hip Hop Speaker Series on Friday, April 24th. Prior to the lecture, Mike sat down with students and reporters for a Q&A session, video of which has surfaced online.
Eloquent and astute as ever, Mike delivered disquisitions on everything from police-public relations to race in politics and music. He equated the current record label business to sharecropping, which he said only differs from slavery because there’s a purported goal. He said labels can go, “Yeah, man, you sold a million records, but goddammit we didn’t make that marketing money back.” The solution, then, is to become better business people, which he admitted most artist don’t want to do.
He added that hip-hop could learn a lot from the DIY attitude of punk in the ’80s, and that having more black “professionals behind the desk” would be a great service. “I would argue we need more Roc-a-Fellas, we need more Bad Boys, we need more LaFace [Records]. And if you don’t have that, then you don’t have the cultural vanguard that will protect the artist.”
Ask to grade President Obama on race relations, Mike said he’s no better than the average of any other president: C-. He went on to say he’s more worried about how local governments like Compton or Harlem or even Alabama handle minorities than the federal government. “There should not be a municipality in these United Staes that has over 60 to 70% African Americans living in that municipality and that’s not reflected on the police force,” he said. “There shouldn’t be a municipality in these united states where 50% of the municipality is women and that’s not reflected on the police force, that affected on the politics. We’re fucking up because we’re voting for the wrong people locally and state-wise.”
Questions were often geared towards the larger political body, but Mike continued to steer the conversation towards the power of the proletariat. “These people are not our masters, they’re not our rulers, and if they are I think you should just kill your masters. And that doesn’t have to be in the literal, but it does have to be in the we won’t vote for you or your stinking party if these things keep happening again.”
Mike also touched on politics in rap (“Dumb rappers should just shut the fuck up and make dumb music that I hear on the radio in the middle of the day”), how hip-hop history should be taught, a recent run-in with the police, and a compelling case for pardoning Assata Shakur. Check out clips of the Q&A below.