When that first voice boomed through the speakers on the 6th track of Outkast’s phenomenal album Stakonia, it felt like a truck slamming into me. “Snappin’ & Trappin‘” followed the single “Ms. Jackson”, so I wasn’t ready for a verse by a guy named Killer Mike. I was expecting some underling, just another crew member hoping to catch some shine from the spotlight on the biggest rap group of the time. Boy was I wrong. 

Then he appeared on “The Whole World“. Eventually came that criminally underrated verse on Jay-Z’s “Poppin’ Tags“, and a litany of other under appreciated, show-stealing guest spots. In fact, to this day when people refer to guests stealing the spotlight, I don’t point to Eminem’s “Renegade” verse – I point to any time Killer Mike jumps on someone’s track.

Since then he’s gone on to release a number of stellar albums, showcasing a penchant for smart rhymes, social awareness and nuance, and the flexibility to appeal to every type of rap fan. But when he dropped R.A.P. Music, he cemented his status as one of the best to ever do it. Yup. Top 5.

Kiler Mike is also one of the few rappers who walks the talk. He’s set up barber shops, been outspoken about issues that matter to him, and devotes real time to the issues he cares about. He showed up on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and dropped some serious knowledge about race, and the role that white America can take in healing racial divides. He’s not divisive, he’s driven by reason; he’s opinionated, but it’s all evidence-based.  There are countless examples of him educating whoever can listen, or whoever is in earshot for that matter; the passion and conviction with which he rhymes is echoed thunderously in his stumping for the issues he cares about. He is the realization of KRS-One’s dream of Hip Hop educating, of the South’s distinct voice, and of the power of poetry to paint vivid pictures of every aspect the wordsmith holds dear.

In short, Killer Mike is a strong voice for Hip Hop and for America. He’s a hero for his city, his race, his art, and his country. Let’s honor that.

I’ll end this with the oft-quoted lines from Kendrick Lamar, from “Hood Politics”:

Everybody want to talk about who this and who that
Who the realest and who wack, or who white or who black
Critics want to mention that they miss when hip hop was rappin’
Motherfucker if you did, then Killer Mike’d be platinum