Run the State: Killer Mike on his political aspirations
"Whether I was elected or anyone else it was just important to me that people on a local level are engaged in politics know that there is an election happening. "
Killer Mike came close to breaking the Internet after announcing his plans to run as a write-in candidate for the District 55 seat left open by former state Rep. Tyrone Brooks. Never one to back down to addressing issues that plague his community, via his Instagram account, the Grammy-winning rapper and one-half of the popular duo Run the Jewels, posted the message, "In Atlanta Georgia there will be special election tomorrow for District 55. Former state representative Tyrone Brooks no longer sits in the seat. I would like as many people as possible to go to the polls and write in Michael Render. Why because if I win we win. Thank you now go vote."
Technically, Killer Mike can't run, even as a write-in candidate, without the proper registration paperwork. However, that doesn't mean the liberal musician will be any less politically active. CL caught up with Killer Mike on the eve of the election, and the MC spoke about why all politics are a stunt, Georgia 's biggest problem, and which politicians are actually doing their job right.
When did the nugget in your head get planted to actually go from being somebody who has been very vocal and active in their community to actually jumping into the political arena?
Well, I can't run officially because in Georgia you have to register, even as a write-in, but I wanted to bring awareness to the fact that there is this empty seat in District 55 that Tyrone Brooks had held forever, and it just seems like no one is paying attention to the seat, and it's a pretty powerful seat. I didn't feel like Atlanta was paying enough attention to what was going on, so I was like the best way to bring attention is to say, "Hey, if you write me in and I win I'm wiling to do it." I would have really gone to Washington and represented the great people of the state of Georgia. Whether I was elected or anyone else it was just important to me that people on a local level are engaged in politics know that there is an election happening.
So ultimately, this all about just bringing attention back to local politics ...
Yeah, if I would have gotten voted in I would have had to do step the fuck up and do my job, but my political aspirations are not in the immediate. I just want to continue smoking weed and making dope rap records, touring — very simple rapper stuff laughs. You know I can't not pay attention to my community and what's going on, so I'm always saying something or compelled to speak on it. This time it was really overwhelming to see how many people were willing to support a run for public office. So eventually, yeah, I am going to run for public office.
What's your response to people who will just call this a rapper doing a publicity stunt, and in the process taking attention away from the seven candidates that have been campaigning for 55 weeks?
The people that are fussing about me are the people who have already decided who they're voting for and they're hoping for a lower voter turnout because that gives their particular candidate a greater of chance winning. The same can be argued for two black people running against one another for mayor and there's a white candidate in the race too, so I'm familiar with that argument. I'm simply saying that that seat has not done the amount of good for the community it could do. And I don't care who gets in that seat, I care who gets in that seat with a vision and a purpose.
So, if you say people have been campaigning for 55 weeks yet the people that responded to me didn't know there was an election, I'd say your candidate wasn't doing good enough. And, if they weren't doing good enough, the question becomes, "Why?" A lot of politicians on a local level count on low voter turnout because it increases their opportunity to win. I'm trying to counteract that and say, "We want more voter turnout," because I want more people actively engaged. When you're at the casino and you don't gamble you can stand around and tell people how silly they are every day, but the minute you bet on the table you care about that more than anybody else in that casino. So I'm simply telling people to put a chip in the game, get out and vote. Once you vote and once you're in the game, you're going to care more about what your school board is doing with your vote, you're going to care about what road work is happening because of your vote, and you're going to care more about what that state rep is doing. So when people say, "It's just a stunt," — what political thing isn't a stunt? Well, that candidate you support goes out and kisses a baby or drinks coffee at a local Starbucks — that's a goddamn stunt. That's what they're doing to let people know, "This is what I stand for." So, absolutely it was a stunt to let people to know that I want you to know that there is an election going on, and I don't want you to be unaware of that. I want you to be greatly aware of that. I worked damn-hard to get this celebrity so I can broker it against whatever I need to, and whatever I like. I think that getting people out to the polls is important.
In your political opinion what's the issue that needs immediate attention in our state?
The school system. It's broken. Our school system is broken, which leads us to a prison industrial complex type of system that's even more broken. Our prisons are not reforming people. We have a prison system in which you can go to prison, learn how to be a barber, and then when you get out of prison you're not allowed to be a barber because you have a felony. Someone needs to work on changing that. There needs to be prison reform. There needs to be actual reform of the young men that are going in there. There needs to be a change in the drug laws and the drug policy in the Georgia on a state level.
There also needs to be education. I'm support of the idea of charter schools because I've seen the difference they've made in my nephew's life. I think more minorities need to be open toward something we're not usually. Charter schools are not an evil thing when public schools aren't serving their purpose. Either we're going to shape up our public schools in Atlanta or the state of Georgia or we're going to continue to suffer the horrendous — not only test scores — level of education our kids are getting. They're being denied a prime education because we're only focusing on test scores. I would support things like year-around school, believe it or not , because I believe that kids would retain better. I believe having smaller breaks through the school year is actually more productive and better for kids, progresses them more. I would like to see a school system that works less like the one now and more like, say, a Paideia School.
I'd also like to see a jobs program where, particularly, you have young black men that are jobless. I'd like to see an entrepreneurial program and trade program that targets young black men and gives them the opportunity to be budding entrepreneurs in a place like Atlanta where so much money is coming.
So Brooks might not have set the best example of how to do politics the right way, but are there a local politicians you feel are doing right by the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia?
I can say there are people I like. I like our mayor. Some people have had differences with him. I like Kasim Reed. I also like Cesear Mitchell. I like Kwanza Hall a lot. I think Kwanza Hall could potentially be our next mayor. With that said, no one matches the standard of Maynard Jackson — yet. Notice I said, "yet," because I understand it's a process in this position of power, but I honestly feel he is the standard for what a politician should be in Atlanta. Maynard set a standard for how to do business with small, local, and black business. He set a standard for how to be brave as "a minority in office." He set a standard for how Atlanta is to be mayor'd and how it's to be ushered and I think that he should be the standard that we aspire toward in terms of politicians that have been good for Atlanta on a whole; not just good for black Atlanta, not just good for white Atlanta, but good for Atlanta on a whole. I think Maynard was the absolute finest mayor we've had, and I would like to see mayors step and I'd like to see some fiery city councilmemebers. I want to see what Hosea Williams was, even in all his controversy. He cared about the regular people, the small business owners along Boulevard and Edgewood and in Kirkwood. He cared about them. I liked Derrick Boazman when he was on City Council, and I think we need people like that, that are fiery and care about Atlanta and only care about Atlanta. I'm a big fan of Able "Mable" Thomas. I think we need more fiery, grassroots women in Atlanta politics. We have a great number of women involved in Atlanta politics and I have a great love and respect for them all, but Able Mable and Cynthia McKinney in particular were two rabble rousers for the grassroots and I think that we need those type of people in Atlanta and even out in DeKalb County.
Regardless of whether you actually can run, there will be folks writing your name in. What's your message to your constituents?
I was genuinely overwhelmed by the amount of people who were willing to change their day around and go out to vote. I'm sorry that laws prevented me from doing it, but we'll be ready the next go-round. We'll be ready the right way, and we're going to give them hell.