Conversations With Chad: Killer Mike Talks Working With Ice Cube, ‘I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind Part II’, Barack Obama + More

Killer Mike is on the loose! He’s killing the game and creating a crazy buzz for his album, I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind Part II, tearing through the fabric of America with his controversial politically-infused country rap tunes. Teaming up with Ice Cube on the critically acclaimed song “Pressure”, Killer recently released the song’s highly provocative music video that’s been sparking conversation over the web and throughout politician offices and around water coolers nationwide.

Chad Kiser didn’t have to put the pressure on Killer Mike to get this exclusive Conversations With Chad interview, as we caught up with him from the beautiful city of Louisville for a few minutes of real talk. We found that despite his ever-climbing public status, Killer’s music aims for the heart of those who serve as the foundation of the social ladder – bottom feeders, so to speak – coming from hard times himself and knowing exactly what it’s like to struggle through the time of the everyday grind.

Let’s jump into this! You had Monster that came out and went gold, and you generated a helluva buzz with that. What happened with the Ghetto Extraordinary album?

It’s out right now if fans want to go and download that album for free! Honestly, that album is better served for Big Boi and Purple Ribbon. As the artist, I don’t have an answer for that. As the owner of Grind Time, I have a new record coming out, that I own, on July 8th. I’m in control of my own destiny. I kind of live my life by the Old Testament. It’s not bible-thumping Christianity, but there’s very tough lessons in it. God was a much tougher God in the Old Testament. When he told Lot and his wife to leave Sodom & Gomorrah, he told them not to look back. She chose to look back, so she turned into a pillar of salt. I think that’s a great analogy for us as artists. A lot times when bad things happen, we spend too much time pondering on what happened and looking back. It makes you salty. It makes you salty towards the game, the people who gave the opportunity when no one else wouldn’t, even though it may not have worked out. I just choose not to involve salt in my life.

I remember that interview where you compared Purple Ribbon to the Clippers and you wanted to be on the Lakers…

We’re in the process of building that right now. Killer Mike is coming, S.L. Jones is soon coming after that, after him is Gangsta Pill. We just added a beautiful addition to the Grind, a young lady named Rochelle Fox, who’s from the north side of Atlanta, by way of Moreno Valley, California. She’s incredible!

We’re mashing hard, man! We’re going to make sure that southern lyricism and southern hip-hop is not only recognized, but it’s grown. We want what 8Ball & MJG, UGK, Outkast, Goodie Mob and people like that helped to start in the south, we want to see that legacy continue. That’s the legacy of dope street albums, of dope southern music, of country rap tunes as Pimp C called them. I’m very interested in seeing that push forward. I do consider any other record label, including Big Boi’s record company [Purple Ribbon], as competition. We fit to compete!

So tell me about the new project, I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind Part II, and how do you feel about the direction?

I’m excited! For those who might not be familiar, Grind Time stands for Get Rich Independently Time. With SMC/Fontana, I’m finally able to make a record the way I want to. What I mean by that is that I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind Part 1 was a mix of everything, while I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind Part 2 is more of a cohesive album. It’s a soundtrack for success. It’s the mentality of a working-class, black man, or Latin man, or poor white man.

I got a message from a young man on my MySpace that said he saw me on YouTube saying to not spend your money on jewellery, just buy studio equipment. He told me he watched that shit over a year ago, and in the process of a year he took his little hustle money and bought studio equipment. Now the kid got a whole studio, and charging people to record in his studio!

Which producers are you working with on this album?

Sniff N’ Cash, Heat Wave — who did half the tracks off the last Pledge, Tha Bizness who did “Pressure”…they did a crazy job! No I.D, D- Dunn from the Architects, Tha Cancer and a lot of producers who are new to the game that brought me some dope music.

What about guest features or collaborations?

I got 8Ball & MJG, Ice Cube, Messay Marv & Chamillionaire. I kept the features down, so it’s mostly Killer Mike. The features that are on there are appropriate to the record. You can’t do Super Clean, Super Hard and not get the guys who did Space Age Pimpin’; you can’t do Big Money, Big Cars and not go get the Texas homie Chamillionaire, and Messay Marv, who’s the man in the Bay.

Give us a background on some of the songs from the album…

I got great songs! I got songs that are deep and political like “Pressure” with Ice Cube, that address the selling-out of black people, black politicians and black preachers because that’s what you sit around and talk about on your job. I got a song called “I Woke Up This Morning” about waking up, smoking weed and watching a beautiful woman walk around the house naked. That’s what you talk about coming up off a long weekend and you with your homeboys around the water cooler. I’m trying to give people real life emotion in music, that’s set in a real time, right now. Not what we were in the past or what we might be tomorrow once we start ballin’. I’m talking about right now. It’s about motivating you to do more from where you are. My music ain’t about look at me, holla at me; it really is about me addressing your world and where you are.

I understand people like to be in the clubs, and the clubs is a great place to be; who doesn’t like going to the club? I got songs that will make you shake your ass, and whatnot, but the context of the bigger story, but this music that I made is rider music. It’s meant for you to put it in your car on your way to work and ride to all day while you’re grinding. I’m not just doing senseless music.

You got Cube on this record, as well as on that classic “Bad Day, Worst Day” remix. How did you get connected with Cube?

My A&R, Regina Davenport, always wanted me to do a record with Ice Cube, and I always wanted to do a record with Cube, so I’m going to give her the credit for that. She’s a praying woman, and after about 3 years of praying, how about Cube booked time at Stankonia. She called and told me to get my butt out of bed, or where ever I was or who ever girl I was with and get down to the studio. I was like whatever and ignored her. She called me back and said Cube was down there, so I got up and kicked that pretty girl out of my bed and drove my ass down to the studio *laughs*.

I played some music for him and he seemed to like it. I showed a tremendous amount of respect for him. On the second cut, I was with Tony Draper and I asked him if he thought Cube would do it again. He said Cube respected what I was doing and he thought I was hard, so I sent him a track, and Cube said it was wack *laughs*. It took me about 2 weeks to get over that, but I got over that and was coming towards the end of the record and the pressure was on. I started working on this “Pressure” track, and I sent Cube that one and he got it right back to me, and it’s that shit! The video is going to start a lot of conversation.

And where’s that explicit version of the “Bad Day, Worst Day” track?

I’m going to get the uncensored version, but I gotta find it first *laughs*!

Speaking of Cube, you were quoted as saying gangsta rap is dead because it’s not addressing politics…what are your thoughts on his “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” and his impending Raw Footage album, where he’s getting back into that political position?

Man, I’m happy! Put it like this, as great as Dr. Cornell West is, I’m sure it encourages him to look to his right or left to Michael Eric Dyson. It’s good to know that you’re not in a fight by yourself. Doing the type of rap I do, it would be scary times if Cube wasn’t doing that. To have Scarface here and Ice Cube here, and to have those brothers mashing in those directions, and blessing me to be a part of it, you know, I’m thankful for that! It reinforces to me that I’m doing the right thing, and not the wrong thing.

Do you think that reality rap or political rap will make a comeback?

Gas is about to be five dollars a gallon. There isn’t any other way of saying it; the unemployment rate just went up 7%. Seventy four percent of students are dropping out in places like Detroit. Georgia is the 48 worst state in terms of education. Dying times calls for dying rhymes. You know n*ggas rapping about money. I mean it’s lonely up top, but it is crowded on the bottom so I rap to [the] bottom. I tell them to keep their head up, crawl up, stay up, reach up, I rap to the bottom. People want you speaking to their pain and their suffering that is what they want to hear they don’t want you speaking. The cold hard reality is setting in that house you were listening to whatever you was listening to in is in danger of being foreclosed on. You might be living in the car that you are leasing. To me if fans choose to listen to music and it don’t relate to their real state, that is why I say I don’t have fans, I don’t know those kinds of people. The kinds of people that buy my records are supporters. The people that buy my records are ingrained with reality. That doesn’t mean that we are sad and depressed. We smoke weed, make love and wake up to beautiful women, but we don’t fool ourselves, that isn’t the sole purpose of life. There is a lot of shit we go through everyday so that’s why smoking weed and lying with a beautiful woman is like a reward for the struggle we go through.

How do you feel about Barrack Obama?

Barrack is a testament to how great America is. In spite of dumbass politicians, people separating us on race, sex, religion, and polarizing us around special interest. He has the nation hoping and inspired. The only time I remember hearing those together is World War II. Remember there was a depression during that time. I think on a social level he is challenging American people have to look at stuff in a whole new level and advance themselves. They have to look at a world in a different way cause this is a black man and a black woman; they are about to be the leaders of the free world. One thing I like about it is that it takes any excuse away from black people now we have no reason to fail and more reason to succeed.

Do you think that a new President can fix all the problems that we have going on right now?

Presidents don’t always fix problems; it is how you will manage the problem. Roosevelt, he didn’t tell people, ‘I am going to fix America’ he told them ‘we are in dire times.’ We are going to have to tighten up our belt; we are going to have to pull up our boots. George Washington didn’t say, ‘hey, come on, we are going to win this war.’ Abraham Lincoln didn’t say, ‘hey, I am going to free the slaves and start a union.’ They didn’t say, ‘I can fix the problem,’ they are saying, ‘I can manage the problem.’ Listen to what Obama is saying what we have to do about health care, he said we have to do health care maintains. He didn’t say we have to go out there and fix the gas prices immediately, he said we have to get people to start buying hybrid cars. That is a wise man speaking. You cannot cure cancer in a week, hell you cannot cure a cold in a week. We have to realize economically that we have a cancer setting in and if are going to be with Barrack we have to have faith. If nothing else, the world looks at us real bad and now that will give them something new to look at.

How bad do you think we really are as a country?

Yeah I think it is bad right now but, fortunately, I am from a place where it has always been bad so if everything falls then we don’t have far to fall…but yeah, I think we are bad. The dollar is worth sixty-seventy cents. It’s bad, so bad people can’t get gas to get to work to make money to buy more gas – its f*cked up, bad. We need a leader that is not afraid to say that. Americans better realize that it is coming to an end and better start buying smaller cars and driving less. I don’t even have the words to express it. I am in Atlanta and I am seeing all the homes being foreclosed on. I opted out of getting a quarter million dollar house and chose to stay in a 150,000 dollar house cause I know my income. I am ‘bout to buy a bigger house and I am seeing foreclosed signs all over the neighborhood…what does that say? Yeah, it is pretty bad, so I can just keep praying for my country.

You had said in the past that Cee-lo, Rakim, Eminem, Andre 3000, and Dead Prez have been hurting hip-hop; can you explain what you meant by that?

Yeah, if you ask most people what is hurting hip-hop then they will tell you some one-hit wonders, or someone who had a lil’ run at the top. They will give you a bunch of selfish bullshit reasons. The reason I named the people I did was because all them people are substantial to hip-hop and they all set that bar that I call the bullshit bar — I don’t think that what is in hip-hop is making it bad, I think that what is absent from it is what is hurting it. You always had bullshit rappers but there were always rappers that everybody knew. When you talk about southern rap and somebody says any of these dance hip-hop artist I laugh cause that just shows me that they don’t know about their history of rap and that they don’t care about it. If those brothers get back in rap then it won’t be bullshit, cause when they come, everybody has to come harder.

That’s deep. One thing that really comes across is the fact that you are so humble and respectful of people.

Yeah, I never want somebody to meet me then walk off talking shit about how I was. I try to be humble with my shit. I will go off if you cross me but I never want to leave people feeling shitted on or that I dedicated some of my listening time to this n*ggas and he a asshole — I don’t want that, I have no respect for those type of artists.