Last night, Run the Jewels, a hip-hop duo comprised of rapper Killer Mike and rapper/producer El-P, played a show at the Ready Room in St. Louis, Mo. At the same time, about a 20-minute drive north, the city of Ferguson, Mo., was tearing itself apart in the wake a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting Michael Brown.
During the performance, Killer Mike, whose real name is Michael Render, gave an impassioned speech about what was happening only a few miles away.
(Warning:Video contains strong language.)
“I would like to give all thoughts and prayers to all the people who are out there peacefully protesting,” he said, before paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I also give thoughts and prayers [to those] who could not hold that anger in because riots are only the language of the unheard.”
“We usually come on to Queen’s ‘[We Are the] Champion[s]’ and I just gotta tell you today that, man, no matter how much we do it, no matter how much we get s**t together, s**t comes along and kicks you on your a**, and you don’t feel like a champion. So tonight, I got kicked on my a** when I listened to that prosecutor [Bob McCulloch, who failed to secure a conviction for Wilson].”
Choking back tears, Mike talked about how much he fears for his two sons growing up in a country where they can be killed by police with impunity.
“It is not about race, it is not about class, it is not about color,” the Atlanta native added, reflecting on his own mortality by noting that both he and El-P are the same age Dr. King was when the the civil rights leader was assassinated by a white supremacist. “It is about what they killed him for. It is about poverty, it is about greed, and it is about the war machine. I might go tomorrow, I might go the day after, but there’s one thing I want you to know: It is us agains the m*****f*****g machine.”
On that note, the band immediately launched into a blistering performance of its eponymous song, “Run the Jewels.”
This show wasn’t the first time Mike had rendered his opinion on Ferguson.
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We are human beings. We deserve to be buried by out children not the other way around. No matter how u felt about black people look at this Mother and look at this father and tell me as a human being how u cannot feel empathy for them. How can u not feel sympathy for their pain and loos. These are not "THOTS, niggas/niggers, hoes, Ballers, Divas. These two people are parents. They are humans that produced a child and loved that child and that child was slaughtered like Game and left face down as public spectacle while his blood drained down the street. Look at the pain of this mother, look into her eyes. Look at the Man behind her. Look at that father made helpless and hurt that he cud not defend his seed. Don't debate. Don't insert your agenda. Save me the bullshit Black On Black Crime speech and look at these to Noble creatures called humans and look at what govt sanctioned murder has done. It has robbed them of their humanity and replaced it with pain and shame, suffering and hurt. I don't care if others rioted or why. I don't care that ball players and Rappers are what they shud be. I care that we as humans care as much about one another more. I care we see past Class, race and culture and honor the humanity that unites our species. Stop talking and LOOK at these PEOPLE. LOOK at these HUMANS and stand with them against a system allows a Human PIG to slaughter their child. Forgive any typos love and respect u all.
He followed that post up with an essay in Billboard magazine about the social problems underlying the chaos in Ferguson. He wrote:
We trust police with the power of life and death and with that trust comes a greater responsibility to be better than the current standard of policing I see across America everyday. Being a cop must be hard. My dad was one, and never wanted any of his children to follow in his footsteps. Being a cop is often seeing the worst of the human condition and behavior. With all of that said, there is no reason that Mike Brown and also Eric Garner are dead today — except bad policing, excessive force and the hunt-and-capture-prey mentality many thrill-seeking cops have adapted.
According to Metacritic, the group’s recently released album, Run the Jewels II, is the best-reviewed hip-hop album of 2014.
On a related note, Public Enemy just reissued both It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Fear of a Black Planet.
Photo via k.par.photo/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)