Killer Mike Talks New Project, T.I., Reconnecting With Big Boi
Killer Mike has grown a lot, personally and professionally, since his introduction to the world on “Snappin’ and Trappin,’” a track on OutKast‘s 2000 hit album, Stankonia. Since the release of his debut album, Monster, in 2003, the Atlanta-based rapper has released three additional albums, engaged in an ugly back-and-forth with his friend and former label boss Big Boi (the two recently reunited via Twitter), signed to T.I.’s Grand Hustle label, launched his own label (Grind Time), and adopted a new moniker (Mike Bigga). Currently making the rounds to promote his latest project, PL3DGE (May 17), Mike and I recently sat down at the offices of DrJays.com to discuss the new project, how he reconnected with Big Boi, and his upcoming collaboration with underground production phenom, LP:
Tell us why you decided to change your name to Mike Bigga?
Just to clarify, if you know me as Killer Mike, I don’t have any problems with people calling me that; it’s not an issue. Mike Bigga is a new name and a moniker to just express that I want to grow and I want to become a bigger person. The name Killer Mike, the Killer moniker, which just means killing microphones, it just had got in the way of me doing some very important work. Like, I speak at high schools and colleges, on average two a month. I also perform for U.S. soldiers, but I was blocked from having the opportunity to perform, do a pre-performance, for soldiers in Iraq, and I was just like enough. I can’t let a name interfere with what I have to do.
The new album is called PL3DGE, and it comes out on May 17, correct?
It was originally suppose to be April 19, the day before my birthday, but I got a call from the head honcho over at Fontana, Ron Spaulding. He was like, “Mike, I really think culturally, this is a very important record, and I’d like to put more money into promoting you, and I need about a month more. I’m like, “No problem; let’s do it.”
PL3DGE is the third installment in the I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind series.
Yep, and the “Grind” is “Getting Rich Independently.”
Are you going to do anymore albums in the series, or will this be the last one?
I thought PLEDGE 2 was going to be the last one, until I started working on PL3DGE and immediately via Twitter when I announced it’s finally done, it’s coming out, people said, “So when is PLEDGE 4?” So there’s going to be a PLEDGE 4. I don’t know if it’s going to be a PLEDGE 5, but I’ve already got the first 3 songs of PLEDGE 4 recorded.
I notice on this album that you utilized unknown or little known producers.
Yeah, and that’s a trick I picked up from 50 Cent. I love the fact that 50 said, “Sha Money just gives me CDs that don’t even have names written on them.” I literally started telling my management to do the same thing because that way, I fall in love with the music, not your name. I worked with ["No B.S." producer] Tha Bizness, not because I heard Chris Brown’s beat, I worked with Tha Bizness because I did a song called “Pressure.” At the time, Barack Obama was going for the democratic nomination, and it really did get at a lot of black civil rights leaders I felt were denying him the opportunity. The same beat was used by 50 Cent on a song called “So Disrespectful,” so I’ve been rocking with Tha Bizness a long time. But I picked that trick up from 50. It ain’t about what you’ve done, it’s about the work you produce. I’d rather get your beats before I know you because if I like the beats, then I’m going to want to get to know you.
You’re currently on your Grind Time label, as well as Grand Hustle.
Yes, we’re doing a joint venture with Grand Hustle, so thanks to Tip and Jason [Geter, CEO of Grand Hustle] for that.
You previously had a label situation, and that was with Big Boi’s Purple Ribbon Label. What has made Grand Hustle a better fit for you?
I’ve grown and matured. Purple Ribbon probably could’ve been a better fit for me if I’d had a little more business savvy and patience at the time, and if we all at Purple Ribbon had realized how dramatically the industry was changing. Sometimes you have to be away from home to mature. Purple Ribbon is still very much my home, me and Big Boi are working on projects together, but you have to kind of get out in the wilderness—you know I’m from the country, so I use a lot of Biblical analogies—you have to kind of get out to find your way to come where you’re suppose to be, and I did that. So when it came time to want to replateau myself on a commercial level, Tip and I both share a mentor, Andrew Young, who was a lieutenant to Dr. Martin Luther King, and he was instrumental in us all being able to have the rights that we have now. He just said we should be doing more things that have us working together to change the community, and we should be doing some business. Tip took it upon himself to give me an opportunity to have a bigger plateau, and I’m eternally grateful.
You’re currently working on a project with Big Boi and Pill—can we expect that project to drop at some point this year?
You’ll hear a few songs this year, but I don’t know if you’ll hear the whole project. I have PL3DGE dropping on the 17th of next month, I have R.A.P. (Rebellious African People) Music dropping, so it’s probably going to be hard for us, but I at least want to get out a mix tape.
A few years ago, you and Big Boi were engaged in an ugly back-and-forth. How were you guys able to repair your relationship, both business and professional?
Twitter. He hit me at 3 am one morning a few months ago on Twitter, and I didn’t believe it was him, so I called his cousin and I called his brother, and he said, “That’s him, call him.” So I called him, and he said, “Okay, everything is water under the bridge. Let’s work.”
And you’re also collaborating with LP on R.A.P. (Rebellious African People) Music?
Yeah. He is the bar for pure underground beats and raps. So the fact we’re doing an album is pretty historic, and I gotta thank Jason DeMarco. He’s a friend of ours, and he put us together. So it’s absolutely amazing.
Some people are calling the collaboration between the two of you “surprising.”
Yeah, some people are.
Why do you think they’re saying that? Do you think it’s maybe because LP’s sound is so different than what people expect from you?
Yeah, but it feels so natural…I can’t explain why it’s such a shock to people when it just feels natural to me.
Be sure to pick up PL3DGE when it hits shelves everywhere on May 17. In the meantime, check out Mike’s “Ready Set Go” (Remix) featuring T.I. and Big Boi: