Killer Mike, Dick Gregory – A Civil Rights and hip-hop Conversation

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Atlanta – On Killer Mike‘s new politically charged album, R.A.P. (Rebellious African People) Music, he leads off the song “Don’t Die” with a 50-second clip from a man speaking out publicly against police brutality in the black community. But it’s not the cops the man is antagonizing, it’s fellow blacks who tolerate such treatment by law enforcement.

The contrary voice in that YouTube clip belongs to Dick Gregory, the iconic comedian and social activist who’s pulled no punches for nearly 60 years when it comes to speaking truth to power. It’s a mantle the outspoken rapper Killer Mike has embraced in recent years, which is why their cross-generational conversation — hosted by Atlanta-based visual artist Fahamu Pecou, whose work centers around the images of black males in popular culture — promises to be an engaging one.

In anticipation of the event, I spoke with the man President Bill Clinton once called “one of the funniest people on the planet” to get his take on Hip-Hop’s generation gap, the origins of lewd language, and the failings of the Civil Rights Movement.

On the perceived divide between the Civil Rights and hip-hop generations

Hold it right there. There was a divide between Civil Rights and civil rights, the church and civil rights. There were a whole lot of preachers who bad-mouthed King. … There was a divide between Malcolm X and Muslims. There was a divide between Elijah Muhammad and the Civil Rights Movement. So there’s always been a divide. It didn’t stop nothing [but] there’s a lot of people that take it personal. …

When black folks started complaining about young black folks wearing their pants below their draws, Jesse [Jackson] and them started saying, “Well, that’s a jail mentality.” I said wait a minute, I have sons that do it, they ain’t never seen a jail…

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