Killer Mike is not a conventional rapper or a conventional thinker for that matter.
The 43-year-old Atlanta-based Grammy Award winner, entrepreneur and social activist decided to channel his unorthodox views into a six-part docuseries on Netflix called “Trigger Warning With Killer Mike.” It recently debuted and is available now to all subscribers.
The episodes are simultaneously tongue in cheek and deadly serious in their underlying messages.
For instance, he tries to boost the public image of the Crips and the Bloods, seeks a more, um, sensual way to interest people to become plumbers and carpenters and designs his own religion featuring a black messiah nicknamed Sleepy. He also raps with a barbershop quartet in a bid to expand his fan base into the senior citizen set.
The first episode sets the tone. There was a time during the Jim Crow days when black communities thrived because of segregation. Once that ended, blacks spread out and black-owned businesses suffered.
Killer Mike (real name: Mike Render) wanted to see how easy it would for him to live three days consuming only goods and services from black-owned businesses.
He was a relative purist. Not only did the supermarket or restaurant have to be black owned, but the food had to come from a black farm. That narrowed his options significantly.
But what made the three days especially difficult? He had to go cold turkey on the marijuana because he didn’t know any black growers, only black dealers.
“Since the episode came out, I’ve met tons of black growers,” he said in an interview last week. “I am now connected directly!”
Although Netflix does not provide Killer Mike with viewership numbers, he is getting a positive reaction on social media. And even black businesses highlighted in the show are getting bumps in sales, he said. (Among those highlighted out of Atlanta include WeCycle Atlanta, the Blue Flame strip club, Harmon Brothers and Your Supermarket.)
He and his friend Daniel Weidenfeld have pondered this type of show for years. They toyed with the concept at Adult Swim and FX but Netflix gave them the green light.
“They were like, ‘Go out in the world and do it how you see it,’” he said. “We shot it in a whirlwind before Run the Jewels went on tour last year.”
Not surprisingly, he has plenty more ideas if Netflix wants to shoot more seasons.
“Noam Chomsky,” said Killer Mike, “talked about how we’re given two arguments, two opposing sides.”
He would prefer to take a third path, thepath less taken.
The second episode has Killer Mike pondering how to get more folks to learn trades and make a living wage. And because so much of the populace watches porn, he created instructional videos with actors showing folks how to unclog a kitchen sing, replace an electrical outlet and change a lock while also doing sexual acts. (Obviously, this is not an episode for the kids...)
Another episode brings up the concept of “white gang privilege.” Why do white motorcycle gangs become social clubs and become acceptable while black gangs are always painted in a bad light?
He brought some Crips and Bloods together to market sodas called Crip-A-Cola and Blood Pop, an idea he’s had since he was 15. The TV show enabled him to get the concept off the ground and he hopes it actually grows into something real.
And Killer Mike has no issue bringing people on the show who resist his sometimes wacky ideas. He asked Creflo Dollar, known for the "prosperity gospel," to embrace a Black Jesus. Dollar was game enough to listen but held his ground.
“We have different conceptions of spirituality,” Killer Mike said. “I appreciate that he stuck with his beliefs. My job is to ask questions. I just have had an issue with a group of oppressed people worshiping a deity that resembles the oppressor.”
“Trigger Warning With Killer Mike” is available to all Netflix subscribers
About the Author
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years.