Killer Mike, one half of bombastic rap duo Run the Jewels, has made a six-episode Netflix documentary series you should stream directly into your eyeballs at your nearest convenience. Trigger Warning sees the musician embark on a journey through modern America, trying out various social experiments. He tries to live solely within the black community, only using products created by black business owners (almost impossible, it turns out) and attempts to turn street fraternity the Crips – often referred to as a gang – into cola-selling business people.
It’s a vital show for 2019, so we called him to hear about the motives for making it, why he’s anti-gun control and why, in Mike’s opinion, Kanye was right to meet with Trump.
You’ve trying to get this series made in one form or another for years now…
Killer Mike: “We’ve been trying to figure out how to make this type of show. We needed a place on TV for truth and information and comedy and sarcasm and wit, all in the same place. Where they don’t have to be in separate categories. Some very intelligent people like some hoodratty, ratchet stuff, so it gave us an opportunity to mash all that stuff together through social experiments. Why not upset the status quo by giving an anarchist the chance to say, “Hey, what’s wrong?’”
Did the world just have to get fucked up enough for a show like this to capture the zeitgeist?
“Ha! That’s a great question. I personally think the world has always been fucked up. It’s just about whether you pay collective attention. The world has to get really fucked up when people go, ‘Hey! That guy should be chief!’ [Laughs] I guess the zeitgeist is more about the people who are being undermined. As long as people are paying attention, I would like to be doing it.”
“I’ve always been curious; I’ve always been a wise-ass” – Killer Mike
You’ve said you’ve always enjoyed questioning the status quo…
“One of my best friends, who I’ve known since we were five years old, saw the show and turned to my wife and said, ‘Yep! That’s always been your husband! When we had teachers, he was challenging them.’ I’ve always been curious, I’ve always been a wise-ass. When people say, ‘The rules are that way,’ I say, ‘Well, who made the rules? Why the fuck am I listening to them?” [Laughs]
“Being a person like this, there’s always a chance of being misunderstood, or like you’re a person from Neptune, but the real problem is that my children are now like this. They’re just like me – and that’s proof that God has a sense of humour!”
To what extent is Trigger Warning a continuation of what you’ve been doing with Run the Jewels for three albums?
“I think it does kinda go hand-in-hand. Killer Mike is a character, but Michael Render [Mike’s real name] is the guy that sits around and thinks up that crazy shit, whether it’s the bars I’m writing or it’s the proposal to somehow legitimise black street fraternities (what people would call gangs). A kid wanted to rap, and earned the name Killer Mike in a rap battle. That’s like a beautiful black novel. But I’m a regular guy who thinks insane talented thoughts and I get the opportunity to put it into the – and what do you know? A lot of the world agrees with it and thinks, ‘Wow, I never thought of it from that perspective!’
You’ve said there’s less room these days for independent free-thinkers such as yourself…
“Yeah, but I don’t wanna use the catchphrase of the day, ‘free-thinker’. I wanna use the classic term that should be used: anarchist. There should be anarchists’ drop of blood in each of us. That means someone who is individual and who is willing to put out their thoughts and concerns for individuals and the prosperity of us all. Free-thinking, individuality – all that stuff is cool, but what we’re talking about is someone who is opposed to being governed in the way that we’re governed now. What I’m saying is that we’re becoming too [malleable] to society’s emotions whims. It’s time to push the line back.”
“’Run the Jewels 4’ is gonna be dope as shit” – Killer Mike
That reminds me of Kanye pushing back against the fallacy that black people can’t be Republican…
“Black people were Republican when Frederick Douglas was Republican. Black people were Republican when Herman Cain ran for President eight years ago. The black community is diverse. That is part of what Trigger Warning shows you. We show you every section of the black community. I don’t do the polarisation, stereotype thing. I don’t do, ‘You pick a side; you have to agree with everything that side says’.
“One thing that’s very controversial in my country is that I am absolutely pro-Second amendment [which emphasises the right to bear firearms]. My people have been free from apartheid for 55 years. And I don’t know any reason why after 55 years of freedom we should give up our firearms and trust the Government. You should know that if anything should break out, I got plenty of guns and ammo.”
Your appearance on the NRA YouTube channel was pretty controversial last year…
“I said a lot of important shit, and if you’re a black person of the African diaspora that’s been affected by the transatlantic slave trade – you may be a black person descended from slavery – you should watch that programme between two black people, who are descended from slaves, who had the opportunity to talk about how you should be in relation to a gun and the defence of your community and country. I think it’s a very important conversation. People didn’t seem to like that I went on NRA TV. Fine – I’ll probably never go back on NRA TV. But it doesn’t mean that I’m not organised.
I joined NAAGA – the National African American Gun Association – and I still shoot, train and hunt. I still believe others should do so.”
Does it frustrate you when people get upset at you for expressing these opinions?
“No, it doesn’t. What frustrates me is that people will call for a demo that will cause you to have to turn your guns into the government that you [criticise]. People yelling at Twitter doesn’t fucking frustrate me. You know, I’m black, I’m rich and I drive a very fast car and live in a very big house in America. No matter how frustrated I get, my wife and children are okay. I’ll fucking get over it. I’ll just be out here telling the truth, smoking dope, going to strip clubs.”
“I still shoot, train and hunt. I still believe others should do so” – Killer Mike
What do you make of the fall-out from Kanye West’s allegiance to Donald Trump?
Easy E went to the White House to meet George Bush. Rick Ross went to the White House because President Obama invited him. If I was invited to the White House, I would probably go. And I’ll tell you why. Because I pay my taxes. My tax dollars pay for it. If it wasn’t for Benjamin Banneker – a black man – Washington DC wouldn’t even be built. So I’d like to tell me grandkids, ‘Yeah, I went in there.’ There are many paths to freedom. I don’t have time to criticise and critique everything my brother may do to get to freedom. I just hope I meet him there.
“If any citizen chooses to meet with the President of the United States, have no problem with that. Now, as a citizen, if you start saying dumb shit on behalf of my community, my community’s gonna check you on it. Just like I got checked. You get back in place ad you keep doing good for the community.”
Finally, what’s going on with you upcoming album, ‘Run the Jewels 4’?
“’Run the Jewels 4’ is gonna be dope as shit. We’re gonna open for the Foo Fighters down in Atlanta for the Super Bowl and I’m probably gonna hear the first wave of beats while I’m down there, and then I’m probably gonna run off to LA or the Bahamas or somewhere in the last couple weeks of February first week of March, smoke a lot of marijuana and make some big punch-you-in-the-face music.”
Trigger Warning is available on Netflix now