As protests, chaos and police clashes engulfed the country over the last few days in response to the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, Atlanta rapper Killer Mike offered some of the most stirring and heartfelt words to be found, urging demonstrators to resist violence and destruction, while also giving voice to the righteous rage that drove so many into the streets to begin with.
At a press conference alongside Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Saturday, the man born Michael Render tearfully addressed everything from the quest for justice in the Floyd case to the Confederate legacy of his home state, along with his own upbringing as the son of an Atlanta police officer. “I’m mad as hell. I woke up wanting to see the world burn down yesterday because I’m tired of seeing black men die,” he acknowledged early on, before urging protestors to find more constructive channels for that rage. “It is the responsibility of us to make this better right now. 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.”
That Killer Mike would emerge as one of the nation’s most eloquent and honest voices during a time of crisis shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has followed his career as a solo artist and one half of duo Run the Jewels, alongside rapper-producer El-P. The duo are scheduled to release their fourth album “RTJ4” this Friday, and it couldn’t be more timely, with songs that address racism, economic inequality and police brutality.
On Sunday, in response to the unrest, El-P released one of those tracks early via social media. Titled “A Few Words for the Firing Squad (Radiation),” the song touches on a wide swath of issues, from El’s family life to the recent death of Mike’s mother. But it’s Mike’s second verse which concludes the song, and the album, that lands with special resonance during these dark times.
“Black child in America, the fact that I made it was magic,” he begins, going on to offer a closing dedication to those who fight for justice: “This is for the do-gooders that the no-gooders used and then abused / For the truth tellers tied to the whippin’ post, left beaten, battered, bruised / For the ones whose body hung from a tree like a piece of strange fruit / Go hard, last words to the firing squad was, ‘F–k you too.’”