Killer Mike Gives a Blueprint To Get Out The Hood
Hip Hop began in the Bronx in 1973, combining the elements of creativity, hustle and community with the underlying forces of poverty and hope. It was here in an apartment community center where DJ Kool Herc first unleashed the break beat, the sound that became the cornerstone of a musical revolution. This event was the launchpad of the cultural movement we now know as Hip Hop. That night, the aspects of hip hop converged in a big bang level event, infusing break beats, break dancing, and the crucial element of entrepreneurship. Herc was not only carving out a new space in the ethos of music and art, he was also creating opportunity that would help elevate the community for decades to come.
The idea of entrepreneurship in the hip hop community has shifted over time. Once considered a communal effort to improve the connected consciousness of the youth, overtime it has shifted into a platform to brag about the riches and materialistic possessions one has amassed. Lauryn Hill stated on her the single ‘Superstar’ from her grammy winning album, the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, “Hip Hop, it started out in the heart, now everybody tryin to chart”. She melodically beckons for her peers to deliver more “Come on baby, light my fire. Music is supposed to inspire.” Now, sensibilities are more in line with Jay-Z as artists “wanna rhyme like Common Sense, but...ain't been rhymin like Common since” perpetuating the idea that sales were more important than leaving a lasting impression on the community. Some believe a new perspective is needed.
Enter Michael Render, a braggadocious wordsmith with a passion for politics, guns, dope and the black community. An affiliate of the Dungeon Family, and bright padawan of one of Outkast’s Jedi Masters, Big Boi, Render is more affectionately known in Hip Hop as Killer Mike. Killer Mike has taken the helm as one of the culture’s main political forces. From ‘F*** the Police’ to ‘F*** Donald Trump, hip hop has always made apparent its political intent. But, Render has moved the culture forward with a number of calls-to-action that left a major impression on the black and business communities as he orchestrated interviews with U.S. senators (see Bernie Sanders) or called for all black consumers to open a bank account with black-owned banks.*
But, there was one message that Killer Mike relayed that went rather unnoticed--yet, might prove most influential. It evokes the community economic spirit with which Hip Hop was initially associated. During an interview on VladTV, Killer Mike reminds street entrepreneurs that there are alternative ways to transition out of the lifestyle at a much earlier and less dangerous stage of their journey.
If you got 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 thousand dollars you can transition out of the street life." Renders goes on to say "There is an alternative. You can hire and accountant to teach you what to do with your money. You can hire a lawyer to teach you how to shift your money... You do NOT have to continue doing the current bullshit that you are doing."
This small soundbite speaks volumes. Yes, there were always Hip Hop artists sharing the legitimate entrepreneurial options available to us. But today, those options aren’t prioritized. Instead, we witness the exploitation/co-opting of the entertainment industry as most viable. Mike gives us a different perspective. Both by highlighting his employees at his Swag shops, or in his free promotion of black businesses such as True Detergent (a product my girlfriend has chosen to invest in for our home), Mike is truly invested in the upward possibilities for Black and Brown people. He challenges the norm of Hip Hop artists that idolize the ‘street life’, showing us that running a business legitimately is an honorable venture. Now I am not implying that all artists that speak about their troubled pasts are necessarily idolizing it over other lifestyles, or are teaching that legitimate business practices aren’t respectable. But at a time where perception is extremely important, failing to shine light on alternative paths does not serve us well. We need to see that we can be all things (shoutout to Black Bravado) and that we can express ourselves in any way we choose. Our identities and our opportunities are not singular. I think I speak for the entire hip hop community when I say, Thank you Michael “Killer Mike” Render for expressing these ideas.
*The latter saw over $10 Million dollars moved to black banks after only a month. An amazing feat to say the least.