Earlier this month Run the Jewels released their most recent album and it’s the music we need for these crazy times. The band effectively captures the tensions felt by people on the ground experience racism, classism, and oppression from the police (and the state at large). Their anger isn’t the aggression of punk, which didn’t change much, it’s about realign the wrongs in society and doing something about it. One of the members of RTJ, Killer Mike, has been calling for radical change in the USA and people are starting to hear his message.
Here in June 2020, amid global protests triggered by the killing of a black man, George Floyd, by Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, few artists in any genre have the necessary audacity, and authority, to run toward this chaos of dismay and rage and defiance, not away from it. This is the rap album this moment demands, in that at least for now, it barely registers as a plain old rap album at all.
Killer Mike—a thoughtful and forceful historian, an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter, the host of an adventurous Netflix talk show, and if we’re lucky a future firebrand politician—had in fact already risen to this occasion. On Saturday, after protests and riots swept across his hometown as they did virtually every major city nationwide, he gave a teary, devastating speech alongside T.I. and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. He expressed solidarity with the cops (“I’m the son of an Atlanta city police officer”) and the protestors both. (“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.”) His voice wobbled, from the start, as he drummed on the podium, but his message was firm, a plea with the force of a divine command: “It is your duty to not burn your own house down for anger with an enemy.” Please watch this.