Few emcees possess leadership qualities better than Killer Mike (a/k/a Mike Bigga). The Adamsville, Georgia emcee recently told HipHopDX that he leads his Grind Time Rap Gang like a fraternity. As one of the first emcees to include his fans (assertively deemed "supporters") in the group itself, Mike leads a nation of Hip Hop enthusiasts, that exist outside of the conventional system to succeed and uplift each other.
The Grind Time Rap Gang has a logo, ad-lib chants and even a website. However, Mike Bigga leads his "band of outlaws" with a flag and numerous pirate-inspired symbols of just what it means to live in an organized infrastructure of industry outcasts. On Fourth of July weekend, as Americans remember their nation's independence and wave the flag high, DX wanted to ask Mike about GTRG's flags, mantra and fraternity.
Bring your cannons to the deck, wave your colors high, and Bang! Bang! Bang!
Killer Mike Explains The History of The Grind Time Flag
HipHopDX: Since we are closing in on the Fourth of July weekend, which has always been known as a very patriotic holiday, the flag on your recent albums have been known to stand for something which is patriotic in it's own right. What are the origins and back-story of why you chose the black and white colors to symbolize your flag?.
Killer Mike: When I first formed Grind Time, I decided that the colors were gonna be just a simple but powerful black and white. Later we added a platinum to it. The color code is most similar to that of the Oakland Raiders. I went with black and white with Grind Time because Grind Time is all-inclusive. There is no race, creed, color, sex, makeup, any of that. It's just literally in black in white. It applies to everyone. I was very struck by the Outkast [Stankonia] flag. I started [working] with them along the time of Stankonia, but the real reason why my flag is black and white is because it's inclusive of everyone. It comes more so because of me and [White Boy D], who is a Grind Time member also - who was one of Pill's early managers. We always looked at Grind Time as like a pirate ship. A lot of times in the old world the only places that were segregated were pirate ships. The gold kind of represents that mentality to but even more so it represents just people who have a pass at their own mortality. It's more so for all the homies out there who don't have a voice. When you see the bars, that represents all the homies that are incarcerated. The flag is just like our pirate flag. That's the flag that is all inclusive of all the members, all the supporters, that is our flag. It's more like a fraternal flag than anything. Someone told me yesterday, "Your fans are almost going fanatical. It's almost like a Tech N9ne thing." I wanted a symbol to symbolize every person. I rep for people on that pirate ship with me. We're always gonna be the outlaws.
DX: It seems like Death Row was like the first time that we had seen artist talking about their label like it was a tribe - like it was a gang or organization, and I remember even 10 years after that when B.G and Juvenile tattooed "Cash Money" on them, and that took it to a whole new level. With you, it's like you pledge allegiance to the grind. You make it so much bigger than that and you have such a tightly-knit circle. What's the secret to keeping that together and making it more then something that seems superficial in a video??
Killer Mike: Well I think it's earnest and genuine. Everyone in Grind Time has went on to form their own company, and we all support one another. Whether it's Pill with his endeavors at Warner with [Maybach Music Group] or SL Jones with his endeavors with Made, or if it's one of the promotional team members. Smiley, who had her own blog called Tha Daily Pursuit, or Nick the A&R. We all support one another. I think what makes Grind Time different is that I don't have to make money off you to support you, because I truly support your grind. Plus, we help one another. When people needed places to stay, when Ms. Ebony graduated college, we were right there at her graduation. When Smiley graduated college just a couple years ago, we were there. I don't like to use the cliche, "Oh, it's family," and this and that, but with us it is family by way of a fraternity. If you pledge your allegiance to it, it goes all the way. So when I say, "Grind Time is a gang," I'm not just talking about the rappers. I'm talking about the listeners, the buyers, and the supporters. That's the gang and the fraternal members. Now that we have GrindTimeOfficial.com up, those are the people who go and grab the jackets. G.R.I.N.D represents two things. It's a duality. It represents Getting Resources In The Neighborhood Directly, on the non-profit side. We do school giveaways every year and free haircuts in the neighborhood. Then we have Get Rich Independently, which is the record company..and that's what I want anyone who listens to our records to do. To be focused, become a entrepreneur, a business person, and exploit the world around them to benefit them to the best of their ability. Also to benefit their community. Our flag is about a group of outlaws, a group of pirates, a group of people that are on the fringes. Our flag symbolizes that.
Killer Mike Talks About Oscar Grant's Murder Influencing "Burn"
DX: You took the Oscar Grant tragedy and made a song out of it in "Burn" . You educated people with that song and rallied the troops. To me, that hasn't been done a lot lately. Rappers love to make songs about social issues for blogs, but you made it your PL3DGE single. That reminded me of Public Enemy and "By The Time I Get To Arizona." Talk to me a little bit about how you took this out of the newspapers and made a single about it...
Killer Mike: It just seemed like the right thing to do. That's not a attempt at trying to be humble, or trying to say something short and philosophical. I just don't know what else to do. I don't know how how not to tell the truth. I feel that there are people who are compelled to speak truth to power. So if I sent you a whole Crunk album of nothing but trap music there's gonna be one song on their that's gonna speak truth to power. I am so deeply affected [by Oscar Grant's murder], as a black man, as a American citizen, and as a child of a police officer. I'm so shaking to my core to see young men who look like me getting murdered by state-sponsored officers and the fact that no one speaks to it, I don't know how to shut up. So either people are gonna wake up, and change is gonna occur, because the citizens demand it or I'll get shut up. But I'm not gonna ever stop. I will never stop because I can't live in a world where black and brown boys are able to be slaughtered, and just because you have a uniform on that makes it right. If you listen to the last verse of "Pressure" you'll understand how i feel about police officers that murder people.
DX: How cautious of a decision was it for you to cut back on the interludes in general?
Killer Mike: There are fewer on PL3DGE, but if you repeat the verses acapella to yourself you'll understand it's because they're on the songs. "To make it out the ice cold streets of the city / You gotta have a Christoper's word-game witty." That line of [Notorious B.I.G.'s] embellishes it: "You better slang crack rocks / Or have a wicked jump shot." So I went into this record saying that I'm going to make this record have a jam factor that can [educate too]. That's why i named [the series] I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind, because it breaks strides on it. The lyrics, when you hear "Follow Your Dreams," if you take the music out of that I'm talking - I'm simply talking. "You do it for family but they don't believe / The dreams that you have can even be achieved." "Get ready young sailor it's rough on these seas / I will not let no doubt or self pity drown me." "See my curse is out-versing these verses I verse and still be overlooked like a body in hearse / But this Lazareth rapping, this is my rebirth / This is no pen or paper just my dream on verse." Speaking of Jesus raising Lazareth from the dead. So there's a lot in that record, man, and I really challenge people to listen to it over and over.
When something really becomes fraternal, I'm not gonna give the world a "Pledge 3" or "Pledge 4" like I gave you on [I Pledge Allegiance II The Grind]. Because the people that were on deck for [volume] two, they have a group of secrets that the people who just jumped on PL3DGE don't. It's up to them to communicate why "10 G's?" and "Can You Hear Me," it's up to them. It's like a secret society of sorts that form around these records. It's cult-like, and I enjoy that. So I'm not going to gimmick or mimic things. I'm going to continue to push my listeners to be thoughtful to engage in conversation. There's always gonna be some rhetoric on there. I'm always gonna be vocal and talk on my records because at the end of the day when my dad was rapping in the '60s, he was just talking. So I'm always gonna have that aspect in my music, but this time i wanted the music to soak in people's homes. I wanted the jam factor to outweigh the talk factor on this one.