Killer Mike is learning that the little bit of fame he's already gained from touring and appearing on songs such as "The Whole World" with Outkast, is a package deal. Along with the props come a few headaches.
"I'm still learning like what it takes to be a rapper," Mike (or Michael Render, as his mother named him) began to explain. "Like, 'OK Mike, you just can't hit the mall, you really need one of your homeboys with you.' Or 'You just can't stop at the gas station at three o'clock in the morning every night.' The 'Whole World' video really put my face out there. As it started growing, it got harder for me to keep going to the same places I'd been going. In one way it's a blessing, but I had to readjust my life. I had to move out my neighborhood because n — — s that I never talked to started knocking on my door, talking about getting record deals. I'm not against helping somebody, but [I have a] family. I can't just have anybody coming to the door."
Unless you're Outkast's resident game spitter Big Boi. Mike met the man who dubbed himself Daddy Phat Sacks around '96 through the proverbial mutual friend. Lucky for Mike, Big had already heard the Killer through the underground tapes he put out and was feeling his music. Big was so impressed with the rotund rapper that he used to give him numbers for label A&Rs in the hopes that they too would see Mike as the hot hip-hop draft pick.
His deal shopping never materialized, but it just so happened that Outkast was starting up their own Aquemini imprint. On April 2, 2000, Mike earned himself a ticket onboard the 'Kast's funk train. He recorded a verse for Stankonia's "Snappin' & Trappin' " and got signed soon after. That's when the drama started.
"It's been two years," Mike griped. "I literally have had all the f — -ing highs and disappointments. I been on tours for two years with Outkast. [My album] was originally supposed to be distributed through Elektra. I've been through the whole thing with getting put on hold by major label, having my project sat on, overlooked, disregarded. And I felt the elation when Columbia called and said, 'We wanna pick this dude up. We think we can do something with him.' They're basically getting the same project Elektra didn't take the time to listen to.
"In them two years, I learned how to make better songs,' he added. "I learned how to be a better artist. The two years I spent just waiting, playing back-up quarterback — it has been invaluable, the lessons I've learned."
Lesson one, make sure you have plenty of boxer shorts and white tank tops, because you'll be on the road a lot with the Outkast traveling carnival.
"I caught a record deal and I haven't been off tour for two years," Mike said. "The first year I was gone nine months out the year. I'm looking at a duffel bag full of clothes from the last tour. In the front, I got suitcases from the tour. I never really come home. I'm home in spurts. When I leave, my kids are crawling, when I get back they're walking. It feels weird to me to be home for a solid month now."
"Technology is making us weaker as a species," he lamented from his new home right outside of Atlanta. Far away from the ATL subsection of Adamsville were he grew up ("It's comparable to the south side of Chicago or Brooklyn, the 'hood," he said), being in the boonies was messing with the reception on his cell phone. To make matters worse, the batteries on his cordless landline were still charging.
"Yeah," the 24 year-old said, with a hint of a chuckle. "I ain't really officially in the suburbs. I'm like on the edge. It's just enough to be away from the robbing crew. Plus the police come a little quicker."
Mikey shouldn't get too used to the new digs. He'll be hitting the road again soon to promote his debut Monster, due October 29.
"The first single is called 'AKshon,' " he explains. "The reason why its spelled capital 'AK' is because originally I wanted to call it 'AK-47,' but Big was like, 'Your name is Killer Mike. They'll never play it on the radio if you call it AK-47.' But the reason I called it that, and now 'AKshon' is because whenever you see a upheaval or revolt in Third World countries, that's typically the weapon of choice. That's what I wanted my single to do, revolt against what going on in rap right now, revolt against radio.
"That's what 'AKshon' feels like," he added. "I want you to get motivated to take over. That's why I rock like that on stage. That's why I rap like I'm trying to lose my last breath. That's where the sense of urgency comes from. I ain't got time to lay cool. It's too hard to sit there and chill. This is not your momma's music. I do not want my mother to come up to me and tell how jamming she thinks the next new rapper is."
Mike, who just recorded verses with Big Boi for Jay-Z's Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse, filmed the video for "AKshon" over the weekend with director Brian Barber. Described as " 'Children of the Corn' meets 'The Incredible Hulk'," the clip centers around students taking over a school and Mike transforming into a man-beast.