In a world more like the one we knew four months ago, Killer Mike would have been promoting “RTJ4,” the new album from Run the Jewels, his group with El-P, this week. But coronavirus, the death of George Floyd at the hand of Minneapolis police, and the ensuing violent protests across the entire country have changed all that.
Consequently, and in tandem with today’s “Blackout Tuesday” — the music industry’s self-imposed daylong shutdown in a statement of solidarity with the black community — Run the Jewels are declining to do any publicity for its new album until after June 5 (although El-P quietly dropped on of the songs from the album on Instagram Sunday).
However, Mike certainly has made his voice heard in recent days about the protests, whether writing under his legal name (Mike Render) for “Colorlines” or making a moving and heartfelt speech alongside Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at a press conference Friday.
“It is our responsibility to make this better right now,” he said during last Friday’s press conference, choking back tears. “We don’t want to see one officer charged — we want to see four officers prosecuted and sentenced. We don’t want to see Targets burning — we want to see the system that sets up for systemic racism burnt to the ground.”
And on Monday night, Mike made his sole media appearance this week on CBS’ “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” to discuss the protests and the country’s current political climate.
Mike noted during that he hadn’t even intended to appear with the mayor on Friday night. “T.I. and I bought a 50-year old black-owned restaurant in the neighborhood we grew up in, Bankhead Seafood, we rolled it out with a food truck,” he said. The pair were bringing a meal to rapper Noreaga, who was working at T.I’s studio.
But then “[T.I.] got a call from the mayor’s assistant, saying that the staged protest, which we support, was turning into a riotous atmosphere, and she wanted him to say something to help quell any oncoming violence that she didn’t want to see happen,” he said. Both men went to the press conference, but it was Mike whose speech encapsulated the anger, frustration and sadness that so many people feel. “All I said was what was in my heart.”
Mike went on to note that urban American centers such as Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles did not truly recover from the racial inequity that came to a head during the 1960s, but Atlanta has grown through thriving black leadership, black-owned businesses and positive initiatives. “It’s not perfect,” he said. “I don’t want us to destroy what we have or lose hope, because hope exists here.”
The only mention of “RTJ4,” and its release came during the interview’s second half, with Killer Mike stating that he and El-P post their music for free — all of their albums are available as free downloads — because many people can’t afford it “have bills, have children.” However, he noted that the effect of the duo’s music is like “Drinking a fresh cup of coffee, getting punched in the face, and then smoking a joint and getting a hug afterwards.”