You decided to pursue music because your crew was facing major criminal charges?
I was a hustler, they were robbers. They robbed people. They got caught with someone in the trunk and they spent a year and half fighting the case. And they beat the case, it was like 40 years to life. I just used that time to get my mind sharp, start grinding. Forget about everything around me and get busy. It was at that point that I wanted to get out of the streets. I just knew that while they were gone, it wouldn’t be long before I ended up in someone’s trunk, you know.
OutKast, Bun B, Three 6 Mafia, Dungeon Family you have worked with some of the South’s most famous talent, was there anyone you were particularly impressed by?
I would just say you know being able to call 8 Ball, and being able to call Bun B and reach out to Pimp C and have MJG acknowledge my verse, it’s dope. It’s just an amazing feeling. It’s what I sat at high school and day dreamed about, rap. For me, getting that opportunity to be in the studio with Paul and Juicy and seeing the process of making a beat and putting cuts on records was just an honour for me.
I just feel like I’m a very fortunate fan and I’m a very capable MC. I brought a lot of honour to the South and I appreciate the slang, and I appreciate the respect I get because of that. Basically I’m just a rap fan and I get to compete, contest, to make music and to have fun with my heroes. That’s an amazing feeling every day.
You met Notorious B.I.G when you were younger?
Yeah like standing at the back of a warehouse when they were walking back. I was literally just like “oh shit, Biggie! What’s up? What’s up?” He gave me the blunt roach before he went into the club. I had to be like 17-19 maybe. It was at like the end of high school and beginning of college. It was before he had like all the way blown up, you know what I mean. It was when him and Nas were talked about in interviews, Puff was running around with Faith then. It was around the same time he was at one of the barbecues. He had popped and had a presence in Atlanta.
[Killer Mike is referring to a performance Notorious BIG did in Altanta in 1994 at OutKast’s Atlanta Barbecue music festival. Mike would have been 19 at the time.]
You also wrote to Pimp C while he was in prison and he visited you when he got out?
Yeah I wrote him while he was in prison and he wrote back and he visited me. He gave me a verse, but I don’t know if I’ll ever release it. I really felt love from him. He gave me some advice. I asked him “do you have any advice from me?” He just said “whatever you do man, it’s about how you rap. Rap like a drowning man fighting for air. You just gotta be on it. Be cool and all that. Nothing else matters, not your age, how long you been going or any of that. What you gotta do is just keep at it and keep going.” I appreciated him for it you know, I really do. He took time to talk to me. He helped me.
How do you feel about the growing popularity of the South? Earlier it was considered the downfall of rap music and acts like OutKast were famously getting booed in New York during the Source Awards.
I’m just glad that hip-hop is open to all possibilities. When that was going on in the South, it was like that hurt. It definitely hurt your feelings, but we knew what we were doing was dope. Same for the West Coast, same as I imagine for New York kids who started hip-hop when they were rallying up under disco. I’m just glad that some of the regional differences are gone. But with that said, I think it’s important that we maintain some of our regional differences so we don’t have this one homogenous style. We had to honour our greats and we did, and now we’ve reaped the rewards.
You haven’t been on a major label since your first album with Columbia in 2003, how was the transition into being independent? The internet wasn’t quite the music marketing success story it is now.
I’m happy. What I’ve been doing has been working for me so I’m fortunate. I don’t really put a lot of thought into what I was or how that experience was. I was what I was and I am what I am. What I am is respected and revered and in control of my own destiny. Rapping like a motherfucker. I like where I am, I appreciate it.
You decided to invest back into your community by opening a barber shop. What made you get into this business?
I think that the music is there and that our culture and society is there, so what better place. Rappers need to do something other than making new rap records and music, and start reinvesting in their community. And part of that reinvestment is owning things like barbershops, car washes and small stores. Paying back to where we are from. I’m very proud to be part of a group of people who has done that.
Tell us about the Into The Wild tour you’re bringing to Vancouver?
Yeah, the Into The Wild tour is Wild! Despot, Mr Muthaphuckin eXquire, Killer Mike and EL-P. We are just having a ball, we are all good friends and just going from city to city. I know that we just love the audiences out there and they get a chance to see, touch, taste and smell the music that they love.
What’s next after this tour?
Relax with the family and put out another album!