There’s a new add for the Bernie Sanders campaign which features a moving speech by an activist named Killer Mike. I hadn’t heard of Killer Mike, so I looked him up. He’s a rap artist. Even if one didn’t know his background, it’s no surprise that he’s a poet of some sort. His speech for Bernie buzzes with the rhythm of righteousness. It crescendos with a cry for justice. “The time is now!” It is stirring, moving, electrifying, and a perfect example of the kind of mindless, self-contradictory rhetoric that is so effective in politics.
Killer Mike cites the question from the activist writer, James Baldwin: “How long must I wait on rights and equality and liberty?” Mike says, “As a black child, that resonated with me, because I knew I had been denied, my father had been denied, my grandfather had been denied.” In reflecting on this he then realizes that "women have been denied" also, as have many others.
This should evoke some sympathy, but be encouraged. Killer Mike makes it clear in the lyrics to his song “Ric Flair” that he’s no longer denied:
“You detest the fact that I got more cars than most of you have friends!
I got a big house on the big side of town
I got life pretty much the way I want it!”
Likewise, we’re told in “Big Cars, Big Money,”
“Gucci shirt, Gucci jeans, Gucci this, Gucci that
Before I walk out the house, everything gotta match
I ride through this bitch with a pocket full of money
I bet no [racial slur] won't say nothing in front me
I went and bought a Benz and went and got a bike”
Killer Mike’s colleague, Chamillionaire, apparently is also no longer denied. He chimes in to let us know his “garage the square footage of the Georgia Dome. Got imported stones, always order chrome.”
In moving from oppression to prosperity, Mike also seems to have gained insight into the relationship between excessive income and romantic relationships:
“If you chase power you ain't gotta chase women
So take some advice, take cash over ass
When you get money you ain't gotta take s**t
So, long as you broke she ain't gotta take [male genitalia]
Now you know what motivate your bitch
Pay the mortgage or the [female genitalia] up for lease
Income inequality is a big concern in the Sanders campaign, and though it seems at odds with Bernie’s general tone, according to Killer Mike, the upshot of successful wealth distribution for poor men will be to keep their “bitches” motivated.
At first, I thought this sentiment from Bernie's spokesman might diminish confidence in his opposition to misogyny. A man who wants to motivate his bitch with money doesn't seem to me like an egalitarian in the strict sense--not one whose overly concerned about women being "denied." But likely that's just my undenied, privileged status distorting my perception. Apparently, in oppressed rap artist parlance, motivating one’s bitch so her **** doesn’t go up for lease is a way of encouraging equality and respect among the sexes.
It may also be part of Killer Mike and Bernie's vision for equality that women shouldn't be denied strong drugs. This seems to be the case given the words of Mike’s other colleague, Messy Marv, on the same track: “I'm a thug 'til I die. The club ain't poppin' if these bitches ain't high.” Maybe this is why Bernie chose Mike and not Messy Marv to speak at campaign rallies. Those in Sanders’ constituency not totally attuned with the plight of the marginalized might not appreciate the need to keep the “bitches high.”
The travesty of a presidential candidate who has built his entire platform around a concern for gender equality and the plight of the poor allowing a self-aggrandizing, misogynistic millionaire to be a spokesman for his campaign would be ironically hilarious if it weren’t for the fact that there really are people in the world—tens of millions of people, most them outside the United States—who truly are denied basic human rights and the economic means to flourish.
These are people who do not live in a free nation where they can make exorbitant profit by selling the fruit of their talents in the free market and then emotionally manipulate crowds at political rallies with sanctimonious tales of oppression. In fact--shock as it may be to Killer Mike and colleagues--a great number of the economically oppressed are so because so many like Mike have a “garage the square footage of the Georgia Dome.” I thought this was the kind of opulence Bernie Sanders wants to end?
I began writing this with an inkling of optimism in hopes that the points above might make some small contribution to revealing the unimpressive wizard behind the booming voice. But, alas, the act of writing brings a flood of memories and realizations which remind me that as long as Killer Mike is cool, as long as he has a good preacher voice, and most especially, as long as he can wear the right victim labels, no amount of audacity or contradiction or sheer emptiness of thought will cool the zeal of the faithful. After all, what American with the any vestige of decency could deny those who’ve been “denied”?
If anyone has the opportunity to talk with Killer Mike, please don’t tell him you heard this from me. He makes it clear in “Big Money, Big Cars” what he’ll do to those who challenge him:
“That's why my motto to this day is still 'F*** you, pay me'
Any rap [racial slur] acting like he want it with me
I swear to God I'll put his rapping-ass next to Biggie
I swear to God I'll put his rapping-ass next to Pac.”
For those unfamiliar with what happened to “Biggie” and “Pac,” they were shot to death. (Does this mean Killer Mike’s moniker is literal? Is Bernie changing his stance on gun control?)
In any case, I’d like to stay clear of someone like Mike. Judging from his lyrics, he is a multimillionaire, and average-income people like myself aren’t known to do so well when they come into conflict with those in his income bracket.