Killer Mike has never shied away from the hard truth. In his raps, his Netflix reality show, or his political activism, the Atlanta wordsmith is never scared to share what’s on his mind.
So when the Washington Post invited Mike to participate in a “Free Speech Debate” alongside Senator Ted Cruz, Post journalists, and a high-profile lawyer, you better believe the Run The Jewels MC showed up and threw down.
During a discussion of how free speech impacts musicians differently depending on what genre they perform, Mike turned the conversation to America’s cannabis legalization movement. Noting how much work and legal hardship rap artists have put in to help normalize cannabis across the world, Mike called out the cannabis activism community and media for skimming over that instrumental advocacy labor.
"We know that with national decriminalization of marijuana now, a lot of people are going to get credit for it — a lot of activists, a lot of workers," Killer Mike told his fellow panelists. "But I can show you a line that leads straight back to Cypress Hill, that leads straight back to Snoop Dogg, that leads straight back to people like Rick James."
First reported by Marijuana Moment, Killer Mike’s comments bring up an often overlooked aspect of the growing green rush. Not only have black and brown Americans been disproportionately targeted by the War on Drugs and kept out of the legal industry by financial, legal, and social barriers, but in the case of rappers and R&B singers, people of color have also been overlooked when it comes to their impact on the greater legalization movement.
“If it’s not duly acknowledged publicly — if the media isn’t pushing the line of that narrative,” Mike argued,” if the media isn’t giving us that freedom, if the media treats rappers differently than they do country artists — then you’re going to see a galvanization of the prejudices that we already see.”
As lawmakers continue to take credit for bringing cannabis legalization to fruition, and non-profit pot activists tweak their terminology to gain more credibility at fundraisers, it is important to heed Killer Mike’s words. We should recognize and respect the work that’s been done across the arts and pop music — and particularly in rap — to help normalize and advance cannabis use and culture.
Follow Zach Harris on Twitter