Forget about all those vintage jerseys you see him rocking at concerts and in his videos for "Akshon (Yeah!)" and "A.D.I.D.A.S." Killer Mike has his eyes set on a new fashion trend.
"I'm about to throw back the throwbacks," he laughed last Wednesday while visiting New York. "I got future jerseys. Pro jerseys with a college or high school n---a name on the back and I already got them in home and away colors. I got a LeBron James pro jersey and he ain't even been picked."
As Outkast's latest draft pick on Aquemini Records, Mike knows all about being a blue chipper. Playing alongside the perennial hip-hop all-stars garnered him a Grammy before he even dropped his debut album, Monster (March 11). Killer likens receiving the golden record player to winning a championship ring.
"There's a freedom in winning a Grammy this early," said Mike, who took home an award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for his appearance on the Kast's "The Whole World" (see "Norah Jones Sweeps Grammys, Boss Wins Three, Avril Shut Out"). "I could use the rest of my career how I see fit. I don't have to live up to standards or pander myself."
Mike's rebellious attitude almost caused production on Monster to cease. He made a tune called "Hard Nard" that Outkast felt didn't live up to their sonic standards. Mike was so determined that the cut not end up on the cutting room floor that he forced his mentors to compromise and make the song a bonus track.
"They hated it," he remembered of their reaction to the song. "It's like a rock song mixed with heavy 808 drums. Me and my crew don't do pretty music, we do raunchy in-your- face. Big [Boi] was like, 'Mike, it's too loud.' Dre was like, 'It sounds like a bunch of noise.' I was like, 'The kids are gonna love it. If it ain't on there, I won't do no album.' They was looking at me like, 'This n---a done flipped.' The running joke for the rest of the album was, 'Make sure "Hard Nard" is on the album, 'cause if it's not, he ain't doing no album.' It was my vision and I was protective of it."
Killer wasn't totally stubborn when recording Monster. After all, Dre and Big Boi do have an inkling of what it takes to make hit records.
"There are times I had to just shut up," Killer recalled. "After a year of fighting and trying to do what I thought was right, it took me shutting up and listening and watching Big record his album, and I learned more. In terms of battling and freestyling, lyrical complexity, I came with that, understanding those parts of the game. The last thing I'm learning from Outkast is how to make the better song, how to make the melodic hook. "
Oddly enough, Mike was sold on making his current single "A.D.I.D.A.S." (short for "All Day I Dream About Sex") not by Big Boi, who also rhymes on the song, but by his relatives.
"Big was like, 'Let's work on this,' " Mike thought back. "I heard the beat and the hook. I went home and played it. I was like, 'What am I gonna do with this?' But my 5-year-old daughter and my aunt started dancing to it. I was like, 'OK, I should do this. My daughter likes this.' She's got a good ear 'cause kids don't lie. Then my aunt was bobbing to it and she hates all my music.
"As well as being a fun party song, I throw a few things in there for thought," he added. "If you out there having sex, strap up. Ladies, make your men strap up. Young girls, don't let these old men mess with you. Old men, leave these young girls alone. I'm not talking about sneakers. Rest in peace Jam Master Jay. I love wearing Adidas, but I ain't sign no [endorsement] contract with nobody."
Shortly after Mike signed a recording contract with Dre and Big Boi, he hooked up with fellow ATL MC Bone Crusher for the song "Never Scared." Little did they know that several months later, the track, which also features T.I., would be a rumpus anthem for the clubs.
"I love that song so much 'cause Crusher didn't come to me after 'The Whole World' and all that," Killer said. "Crusher was cool as hell. He called me when I was leaving the mall one day, 'Come here and get on this song with me.' It was originally a song we thought was gonna be very big in the South, but it resonates with people everywhere. 'I ain't never scared!' You already know that gotta be your attitude."