Too often is Black history and American history viewed as two distinctly different timelines when, in reality, they are deeply intertwined. Holidays like the Fourth of July have long been understood to be white-centric, but as Killer Mike cites, the first American to die during the Boston Massacre (which led to the Revolutionary War) was a Black man named Crispus Attucks.
“There would be no Fourth of July without a Black man, and the fact that Crispus Attucks was the first person to die on the behalf of what would become the republic called America,” Mike tells me, as we discuss why he chose to deliver his first solo track in 10 years, “Run,” on Independence Day. “The fact that all Americans don’t know that is a problem for me.”
Ever since Black people arrived in this country, we have played an intrinsic role in shaping American culture, economy, and infrastructure. Killer Mike has always been an advocate for Black liberation and a promoter of Black history in and out of his music, and “Run” continues to paint the picture of why he believes Black people deserve to feel just as patriotic as their white counterparts on the Fourth of July. The music video for the track drives that point home, including several historical Black figures who have played integral roles in contributing to American society as we know it today. “I wanted people to understand that patriotism is not exclusive to white people—this republic is not here simply because of white Anglo-Saxon protestants,” Mike explains. “You have been here every step of the way, in fact. Everyone has been here every step of the way.”
“Run” isn’t about running away from tyranny or our oppressors, instead depicting how Black people have run towards knowledge, freedom, and adversity, and faced it head-on. The track also finds Mike rapping for the first time in a decade without his Run The Jewels partner El-P by his side. The rap veteran explains that this solo venture is only a spin-off from his music in the duo, and he wanted it to sound totally different from his work in RTJ. “If Run The Jewels is the X-Men, this solo song represents a storyline that’s just Logan,” he says.
The No I.D.-produced song opens with soothing organ chords and narration from Dave Chappelle, like a Deacon ushering in the beginning of a church service. Later, we hear a rare Young Thug feature, which comes on the heels of the massive YSL indictment that has called the protection of Black art and the criminalization of rap lyrics into question. Killer Mike spent two weeks with Thug before they laid their verses down, and he says it’s not right that Thug, Gunna, or YFN Lucci are being penalized for song lyrics.
“I think we have a First Amendment right, and I think it should be hands-off Black art, so I support those brothers and their campaign to get a bond and get free,” Mike says. “Just a year ago, they were paying people’s bonds who couldn’t afford bonds to get out, and I see them as community leaders and providers of jobs for a lot of people.”
“Run” was released today, alongside a powerful music video directed by Adrian Villagomez that illustrates why we should never forget the efforts made by our ancestors to push our community forward, while also advocating for the protection of Black art. In the video, Black historical figures like Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Jack Johnson, Sojourner Truth, Fannie Lou Hamer, Shirley Chissem, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos appear at different moments on the battlefield, while the main character is backed by Black folk and allies alike to defeat white supremacists. The video culminates in a portrait of the battle being observed in a museum, reflecting how Black history has always been American history.
In conversation about his first solo work in 10 years, Killer Mike spoke with Complex about the importance of knowing and understanding Black history, the reclamation of Independence Day, and if fans can expect more solo music in the future. You can watch the music video and hear the song here.