The rapper Killer Mike had a show last night. He came on about an hour and a half after a grand jury decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown. And he shared his feelings.
“I would like to say rest in peace to Michael Brown,” the rapper starts, cheers rising up from the crowd. “I would like to give all thoughts and prayers to the people who are out there peacefully protesting. And I also give thoughts and prayers for the people who could not hold their anger in, because riots are only the language of the unheard,” referencing the famous Martin Luther King Jr line.
He goes on to say that he “got kicked on my ass when I listened to that prosecutor,” and tells the crowd that he has two sons — 12 and 20 — and that he is afraid for them. Then he breaks into tears:
“You motherfuckers will not own tomorrow,” he adds.
Killer Mike, full name Michael Render, has a record of social justice advocacy, in both his music and his personal life. He’s outspoken about the relationship between black people and the police. A song from the album he’s currently touring on — Run The Jewels 2, a collaboration with rapper El-P — features the song Early, a first-person story about the effects of stop and frisk and police brutality:
I said “Man, I’m tryin’ to smoke and chillPlease don’t lock me up in front of my kidsAnd in front of my wifeMan, I ain’t got a gun or a knifeYou do this and you ruin my lifeAnd I apologize if it seems like I got out of line, sirCause I respect the badge and the gunAnd I pray today ain’t the day that you drag me awayRight in front of my beautiful son”
ThinkProgress spoke with both El-P and Killer Mike last month, and talked about the song Early in particular.
“My father was a police officer,” Render explained, sitting in an office near DC’s 9:30 club one night in October. He also has “two cousins who are currently police officers. If I know anything, I know the fright of you don’t want your cousins or your family members dead out there.
“That said,” he went on, “the more frightening thing is to walk around out there and be afraid of the people you paid to protect you and your property, to live in perpetual fear. It’s wrong. It’s something people shouldn’t be subjected to.”
Another popular Killer Mike song, Don’t Die, discusses his father. That song opens with a speech about police shooting “my little one in the back of the head because he thought his cell phone was a gun.” Before launching into a fairly aggressive diatribe against police, the speech concludes, “The only reason they do what they do to us is because we tolerate it.”
To the two rappers, cops shooting people is a particular brand of horrible, because, “you’ve taken a sacred oath not to maliciously take life,” Render explained.
El-P added, “It’s a bigger offense. Which is what’s so strange. We’ve got it completely twisted in this country. Somehow it’s less of an offense if a cop kills a kid. It’s less of an offense because he’s a cop. No. It’s more of an offense because you’re a cop. You betrayed us.”
But while the two are emotional about the Michael Brown case in particular, and police violence toward civilians in general, they are also hopeful that things in the United States are starting to change.
“More people are getting it,” Render told ThinkProgress. “You see in the growth of the audience, media, and press. The woman who books for Letterman, she picked Early for us to do. We sent her four records; she picked that one. She hears music; she listens to music; she saw the importance of that. That’s to be congratulated. I don’t think I publicly thanked her.”