Underground Atlanta, a mixtape with an all-star ATL line up lead by Killer Mike drops on September 1st. Boasting of appearances by TI, Princess of Crime Mobb, B.O.B, Gucci Mane and other ATL-iens, Killer Mike has pulled together a group of his city’s finest to tell the story of its people. The predecessor to the Georgia native’s Grand Hustle debut, Underground Atlanta is designed specifically for those who rep their city.
Inspired by an appearance on MTV’s My Block-Atlanta, Killer Mike bore the idea out of a need to create a space where artists from the same city could come together and create something diverse and unique to each of their demographic. The two disc, 32 track set covers all sub-sets of Atlanta Hip Hop and remains true to the story-telling thematic nature Killer Mike is known for. The aim is less about making a Hip Hop statement as it is the coming together of a city united for success.
Killer Mike talks with Brokencool.com writer Maxine Ross about society, money, hoes, and clothes.
Killer Mike on gay marriage in the black church:
"I think the black church has been too quiet when it comes to police brutality and things of that nature. I’d rather argue less about whether homosexuals can get married and join the church. I think we should just let them in and accept their marriages and get down to the real business of saving black lives."
Maxine Ross: I wanted to jump right into the Underground Atlanta mixtape because it’s really a huge project that stems from a basic concept of appreciation right?
Killer Mike: Exactly. The Underground Atlanta mixtape is my way of giving back to the system that saved me. I started off in my recording career as the sponsored sidekick of a major group. Usually when that doesn’t work out for an artist it kind of disappears into oblivion. From traveling to some of the places like the Bay Area and Texas, I’ve learned the importance of having an underground following and building that. After my first record, which was on Sony, went gold I immediately got entrenched in the underground and the scene embraced me. This deal with Grand Hustle, the perception would be that Mike is back to the majors so I really wanted to show underground Atlanta and other underground artists that I respect how much they’ve shaped me. Those artists are artists like: Gucci Mane, OJ da Juiceman, Princess from Crime Mob, Yung Ralph, B.O.B, the list goes on.
MR: Even with those artists you named, you still worked with a ton more people. How did you pull together a project with such a musically diverse group of people?
KM: I decided to put together an album that was less about Killer Mike. You know me, I’m a lyricist, I’m all about the street Hip Hop but I wanted to put together something that was for all of the scenes which includes Trap music and swag music, that mix of rock and Hip Hop that B.O.B is doing. I wanted to bring all of those things in one place. It started as an ambitious project and it ended up being a double CD that comes out September 1. It’s got 32 cuts and I got a chance to work with a lot of dope artists that I respect. It’s less of a rap statement record or an independent statement and more a bunch of dope party records that will light a club up. I had a lot of fun connecting with my peers and I look forward to this being one in a series of Atlanta mixtapes that will give the city a chance to see the shining stars.
MR: Was it difficult to get people invested?
KM: To be honest with you it was just making phone calls and asking them. A lot of things that we think are difficult or hard, or a monumental task, I think people just aren’t up to putting their ego aside and asking. None of the people on the project dreamed of walking away with wheelbarrows of money. We did most of the album on trade, you give me a verse and I’ll give you a verse. We did it the way underground music works. It was a matter of me making phone calls and people being willing to do it. I wanna thank, first of all Yung Ralph and OJ da Juiceman for being the first guys who got on it. Of course Princess of Crime Mob and Trillville. It was about representing Atlanta the way they saw fit. I’m really glad to have provided the platform.
MR: You have such a widespread respect for Hip Hop across the board. What are your thoughts on its perception as of late?
KM: My perception of Hip Hop is that it’s a business. It was the culture and in its truest form it is the culture but, Hip Hop is also a business. Along with having some of the benefits of being a global phenomenon in terms of being able to find a market and distribute internationally, some of the things about being a business we picked up that weren’t too good. Some of the hype, some of the empty promises and it became more about appeasing this brand rather than uplifting our culture. I think we’ve been so co-opted with these corporations that we’ve lost that. You take an underground artist like Soulja Boy, who was once an underground artist or Jay Electronica or a lot of groups out of Texas, if they keep pushing their movement then I think Hip Hop will be ok.
MR: You’ve been more and more politically charged with your lyrics, what’s your take on an issue like police brutality?
KM: I think in terms of police brutality it’s something we have to deal with head on. Now, I have to be very careful with how I say this but, I’m not happy with what happened with Dr. Henry Louis Gates but I am content in that it finally happened to someone of such prominence that it couldn’t be ignored. I’m a little taken aback that we’re still, to some degree, debating whether what happened to Dr. Henry Louis Gates was wrong and no one is speaking on Oscar Grant, who was murdered and the act was caught on camera phone. We have families down here in Georgia, a man, Troy Davis who was convicted and is facing death for murdering a Savannah police officer when 7 out of 9 of the witnesses that recanted their stories and said they were made to give those statements under police duress. I think police brutality is something that black males, especially rappers have to stand up to.
I think the black church has been too quiet when it comes to police brutality and things of that nature. I’d rather argue less about whether homosexuals can get married and join the church. I think we should just let them in and accept their marriages and get down to the real business of saving black lives.
MR: Wow. That’s so straightforward and blatant, a lot of what we’re missing in rap music. When I think of Grand Hustle and music content, a lot of it can be categorized as money, hoes, and clothes. I think that’s a good thing too, but your musical energy is going to be quite different.
KM: I mean it balances well. No pun intended but I like money, clothes and hoes as well! I also like books and higher learning, I like to see it clean in our community. The two don’t clash in my mind but it seems to clash in everybody else’s mind. To me though, I’m just as comfortable listening to Gucci Mane and OJ da Juiceman as I am Common Sense or Mos Def. I consider myself a renaissance man, I can appreciate a strip club as much as I can appreciate looking at the political experience. I feel like I come to Grand Hustle with the appreciation for higher learning and all of those things. Grand Hustle offers me a lot in terms of the type of music and access to producers that I’ve always wanted.
MR: So your Grand Hustle debut is as yet untitled but Underground Atlanta is coming September 1st.
KM: Yes. September 1st. It’s independent so that means I’m going to be pushing it all winter. So when people talk about having a big first week, it’s about having good sales every week. If you can’t get it the first week it comes out, it’ll still be there waiting for you when you can go get it. We worked very hard to provide a quality experience and I want people to really feel that and be inspired and motivated by that. We’re proud of our city and the work we’ve put in. Underground Atlanta shows that.