Artist: Killer Mike

Representing: Atlanta

Mixtape: I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind II 411: Ladies and ghetto-men, Killack Obama. "If you have a boss, and you don't like your boss," Killer Mike began, "fire your boss, and be a boss! If you don't have an idea, lay down, develop a dream, wake up, have a vision, get to the money. Feed your immediate family; provide jobs in your community. Do something instead of doing nothing. I do not pledge my allegiance to dope. I do not pledge my allegiance to some funky job. I do not pledge my allegiance to waiting on the government to feed me. I pledge my allegiance to getting rich independently.

"You have people out there who work all their life and people who hustle all their life," he continued. "If you take 50 percent of work and 50 percent of hustle and marry those things, you got something unstoppable. You got a hustler's spirit, but you have the skill and determination to work a 9-to-5 every day. Or if you treat your hustle like a 9-to-5, you will never fall. 'Grind' means to get rich independently."

Killer Mike is on his own now. Clearly, his days as Outkast's protégé are long gone. All it took was one shelved album (Ghetto Extraordinary) and a physical altercation (in 2006).

"I don't know why the album never came out," he said of his would-be sophomore LP for Big Boi's Purple Ribbon label. "I don't know what happened between Purple Ribbon and Sony. I just know around that time, I got tired of sitting on the shelf. I got up, dusted myself off and got right back in action. I think it's tough for a lot of artists not to be complacent. It's easy to be complacent when you're eating, but when you're starving, it's not hard to get motivated. I got to the point where nobody around there was eating. I had to go somewhere and eat."

Mike is not only cooking his own meals now, but he's taking the orders and serving up the plates with his Grind Time Official records, an independent label with distribution through SMC/Fontana.

"Doing this has made me a lot more sympathetic to what Big Boi was going through," he said of running the show as a CEO and artist. "It can be suffocating, overwhelming. You have to find a certain peace within yourself and dedicate a part of yourself to the music and the business. My goal is not to run my company. My goal is to be an artist that does great things [with] my company and set a certain vision for my company. But I want somebody that's qualified to run my company to run my company. That's just a wise move."

After this LP, Mike said to expect the third in his Pledge series soon, followed by an album he has been working on under the tutelage of No I.D., DJ Toomp, L-Rock and record executive Kyambo "Hip-Hop" Joshua.

Joints To Check For:

» "God in the Building." "I feel the people on the bottom are closer to God," Mike sermonizes. "When I say the people on the bottom, I mean the people who are working every day, standing on the corner, people who are grinding. It's a famous story in the Bible where priests send Jesus his disciples. In your case, it would be like the police sending your homeboys over to you, and they saying 'Why is he over there with the hustlers and thieves and lowlifes?' To me, rappers, athletes, D-Boys with some consciousness, we are Jesuses of our day. It's our job to bring some light in the midst of the dark. ... When I walk in the building, when I walk in the club, when I walk in my kids nursery, the doctors' office ... everybody better wake up like God is in the building."

» "Two Sides." "If you're watching Atlanta on TV, you might think it's all about swagger. I'm from that real Atlanta, fresh off MLK [Boulevard]. If you don't know what it is, after you listen to this, you will know what it is. One time for all the A-town cats putting it down for real. Everybody who's lying, I know you lying. They know you lying. One time for [Shawty Lo], one time for Tip, one time for Jeezy, one time for Luda and everybody who's been holding Atlanta down the right way. Lot of love for [Gorilla] Zo, Boyz in the Hood. Must be two sides, 'cause either you on the right side or the wrong side. Are you from Atlanta or black Hollywood? I'm from Atlanta."

» "Alphabet Boys." "A lot of times, when you hear records about 'I was hustling' or doing this and that, you hear exciting stories, but they really don't make sense after you finish listening to them. I tell you stories with a moral to them. In 'Alphabet Boys,' I tell you how not to go to jail. In the first verse, I'm talking about what to do when them old heads get out of jail, and they want to get up under you and talk about what the price is. In the third verse, I'm talking about them girls that's dancing and working for the feds. I'm just saying, when you listen to my music, please believe it's a real message in there. And the message, it might just keep your black ass out of jail."

Don't Sleep: Other Notable Selections This Week

» DJ L-Gee and Notorious B.I.G. - Americas Favorite Rapper (Dead or Alive)
» September 7th and Crooked I - Hip Hop Weekly Mixtape 3
» K.A.R. and Suge White (Hosted by Fat Joe) - Gay Unit
» DJ Warrior and DJ Envy - Cali Untouchable Radio 17 (Strong Arm Ready, Klak Klak Edition)
» DJ Dolla Sign - Terminator - The Curtis Jackson Chronicles

'Hood's Heavy Rotation: Bubbling Below The Radar

» The Game - "N---a With a Attitude"
» Jim Jones (featuring Juelz Santana) - "Splash"
» Keith Murray - "Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful"
» Young Buck - "It's Not OK"
» Usher (featuring T.I. and Young Jeezy) - "Love in This Club"

Fire Starter: Soul Diggaz

K-Mack, Bless and Corte Ellis of the Soul Diggaz have been around for a minute, earning their stripes under the wing of Missy Elliott while producing hits such as Keyshia Cole's "Let It Go" and the music for the Gap commercial with Ms. Misdemeanor and Madonna. Now, their name is in request mode across the industry, especially when it comes to the Atlantic Records roster — they're producing for Plies and worked with Donnie Klang and Diddy on "Take You There." They are in the midst of getting a deal to release their own album featuring artists under their umbrella. Also, the team has recently finalized a joint venture with Timbaland to put out newcomer Izza Kizza.

Celebrity Faves

Ashanti definitely has a hot joint — all the ladies are singing "The Way I Love You." And just like many others, the Long Island native loved "Yo! MTV Raps," even though she was just 7 years old when it debuted 20 years ago. (Go to Yo.MTV.com to check out highlights from the best episodes of the groundbreaking show.)

"Some of my favorite memories from 'Yo! MTV Raps' would have to be Fab 5 Freddy with his hat and his glasses," she recalled. "He always kept it very classy and sassy and 'hood, all at the same time. Some of my favorite female rappers from the 'Yo!' era ... YoYo, definitely. Salt-N-Pepa. I think Salt-N-Pepa, definitely are always gonna be relevant, 'cause they were the first ...They were sexy and still kinda approachable. Not raunchy, and they just kept it real from the early stages. Everyone had the Salt-N-Pepa haircut. I was too young for it, but a lot of my cousins were rockin' it. 'Push It' was phenomenal. Still is. Still rocks in the club!"

The Streets Is Talking: News & Notes From The Underground

'Nuff respect to Lupe Fiasco. Usually, we take his word as bond, but when he starts talking about his next album being his career finale, that's something we refuse to believe. Maybe it's just denial that one of the most promising young superstars (pun intended) would retire before he even reached his prime. Recently he told MTV Base that he was 85 percent sure his next LP would be his last full-length solo set.

"I don't want to say I'm 100 percent sure, like, 'Yeah, this is it.' But 85 percent," he revealed. "That 15 percent is the X factor. That could be bills. Like, 'Lupe, you got to pay the bills.' 'Oh, man, I got to put out another album.' "

Fiasco says that the wear and tear of the music industry has taken its toll on him, physically and mentally. But he insists that he hasn't lost the passion for making music, just for the business of putting it out.

"There's all types and parts of the music business," he said. "There's the studio, record-store music business, and then there's the performing music business. I love the performing, I could perform forever. I'll be on stage until I'm 90 doing 'Kick, Push' and all that stuff if I can. But it's the whole process of it that wears you down. I actually got sick right before the Grammys. Never got a chance to go to the Grammys. I was running so hard doing music, and then when I got to the pivotal moment where you get the accolades for it, I found myself in the hospital and the doctor telling me I can't even go. I had a long conversation with the doctor, and he doesn't know me from Adam. He just came in and said, 'This is your life. This is how hard you're going. What happens when there's nothing there, and you drop down again?'

"When I came in, I was like, 'Yeah, I want to be a rapper, and I want to make three albums,' " he added. "But we'll see. It's amazing. I'm going to go away with a bang. Ahh, so good. I don't want to give too much away, because it's later. We're still just into The Cool project and still got more stuff to come out of this, but I am thinking on it. I'm already building it out, starting now, because it's massive. ... I'm treating it like I'm filming 'Lord of the Rings.' ... They had to film [that trilogy] over four to five years. It's going to take me about two years to put [my last album] together right. I'm 85 percent sure that my next album, LUPN, will be the end-all."

This is where we insert a big Flavor Flav "Wowwwwww!" Hopefully, he'll stick around a little longer. Besides, there's still the matter of the super group Child Rebel Soldiers, or CRS. It's comprised of Lupe, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West.

"Pharrell came up with the idea — 'Let's do a group, Child Rebel Soldiers,' " he recalled. "So, I did a song. Took Thom Yorke's 'Eraser,' cut it up, put 'Us Placers' on it, because I was going to do a mixtape called Us Placers and remake Thom Yorke's album [The Eraser] and Radiohead's stuff. I sent the record out, and it was initially supposed to have Kanye, and I wanted [U.K. artist] the Streets [on there]. The Streets, I got no response. He asked me to do the song for one of his artists. Then Kanye jumped on it and was like, 'I'm going to send it to P.' Then P sent it back, and it was like, 'This is the first song right here. Let's do it.' That was, like, a year and a half ago, and the whole time we've been figuring out what to do."

Since all three will be on 'Ye's Glow in the Dark tour, Lupe promised we could expect to see that performance soon.

"We don't know if there's going to be an album from CRS, what CRS are going to be," he said. "All we know is we're going to debut a piece of CRS on the Kanye tour. You have to come see it." ...

Hit me one time! Word to the JBs, Fabolous has a band. Before he left last week for a college tour with OneRepublic, Loso told us it was time for his stage performance to evolve.

"I thought it was something that needed to be done," he explained at SIR studios in Manhattan. (Coincidently, Missy Elliott was in the room across the hall, rehearsing for her upcoming tour with Busta Rhymes.) "I got a taste of [being backed by a band] when I did this [show] called 'Stripped.' I got a little bit of feel of it. I thought it was a dope thing to do. I even seen it previously on '[MTV's] Unplugged.' With certain artists coming up and doing their joints with a band behind them, I always wanted to do it, but I was waiting for the right experience. This tour came up. It's a college tour, and it's with another band, a pop act. They definitely will be using a band, so I thought it was a good time to bring it out."

F.A.B.O. joked that when choosing the members of his group, the Fab Five, he looked for more than just talent with instruments.

"I made them walk to Junior's for cheesecake," he smiled, referring to Diddy's notorious "Making the Band" mission. "They came back with cheesecake, and I said, 'OK, you can make the band.' "

When it comes to bands that he listens to just for enjoyment, the Brooklyn native's choices vary. You didn't think he just pumped Red Cafe and Joe Budden all day did you?

"The Rolling Stones, of course the Stones," he listed. "The Eagles, Maroon 5. I even like the one we going out with, OneRepublic. Although they're fairly new, I like the few joints I heard. I like Evanescence.

Fab's Five consist of Finesse on strings, Miles on keyboard, DJ 45, Rain Man on drums and T. Nasty on guitar. Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Diddy and whoever else has started doing shows with live instrumentation, watch your back. Fab wants to battle.

"Who want it?" he laughed. "Who want it with me?" ... For other artists featured in Mixtape Monday, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines.