Killer Mike has recently been familiar to most as campaign surrogate for Bernie Sanders, host of the Netflix show Trigger Warning and one-half of the acclaimed rap duo Run The Jewels alongside El-P. Before Run The Jewels’ explosive self-titled 2013 debut, Mike released several solo albums. The most recent, 2012’s R.A.P. Music, was his first collaboration with El-P. A decade later, Mike returns with “RUN,” his first solo material since the inception of Run the Jewels.
“RUN” is a star-studded affair. Not only does it feature fellow Atlanta rapper Young Thug, but there is also production by Chicago hip-hop legend No I.D. and a video-only monologue from comedian Dave Chappelle. No I.D. lays out a jazzy carpet for the two rappers to strut on with a thumping bass loop, layered choral harmonies and distant horns. Building off of Mike’s central message to uplift Black art in the face of adversity, he celebrates how far he’s come with a reminder to continue positive cycles with the youth: “Get money and the power, teach them while they’re young / blessed to make it out the slums, run, n***a, run.” Young Thug also sets his eyes on the children as he raps, “Rescue the trenches, all of the kiddies / We gon’ escape on a yacht boat.”
The Adrian Villagomez-directed video opens with a series of powerful images, including a Black man running unarmed in a warfield, Mike in the trenches and a boxer. According to a press release, the video represents the battle “against the tyrannical, Black people and allied people up in arms together rising against the Nazi-esque secessionists that want to take the country back into the confederacy.”
There is also a familiar voice at the beginning of the video, provided by comedian Dave Chappelle. He encourages Mike to push forward and rise up as a leader:
Mike, the one thing about being a n***a in America, it’s like storming the beach in Normandy. A guy gets popped, another guy goes, another guy falls. You just gotta keep going, you gotta keep storming that beach, n***a, you gotta keep runnin’. Ain’t no rhyme or reason why, it’s not you on the ground, but as long as it’s not, you better keep your feet underneath you. Keep ‘em movin’. Ain’t no time to be scared, but even if you are, what fuckin’ difference does it make? Run n***a, keep going. You’re just as heroic as those people that stormed the beach. So what’s the excuse? “I’m not good enough, I did something wrong, I’m not perfect.” Nobody asked anyone to be perfect, we just asking people to be honest. You’re a leader, lead. Don’t be afraid, we got your back like the motherfuckin’ Verizon man, run.
Mike’s decision to include Chappelle and Young Thug in the encouraging song is intentional. Chappelle sparked controversy in 2021 following his final Netflix special The Closer, which had several jokes aimed at the transgender community. He doubled down on the jokes in a Madison Square Garden show a few months later. Mike was previously featured as a musical guest on Chappelle’s Show.
Much of Mike’s activism focuses on criticizing mass incarceration. Young Thug is currently still incarcerated alongside several other of his Young Stoner Life (YSL) label associates in a 56-count indictment. Among the charges include murder, racketeering, armed robbery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. In a press conference held in the wake of his arrest, YSL was dubbed a “criminal street gang,” and many of the lyrics in the roster’s songs are to be used as evidence in court. Like “RUN”’s central message, Young Thug encouraged fans to sign the “Protect Black Art” petition in a message from jail that was shared at Hot 97’s Summer Jam 2022 where he was scheduled to perform. The petition, created by Young Thug’s label CEO Kevin Liles, seeks to end the usage of rap lyrics as evidence in court. As of the time that this piece was written, there are over 50,000 signatures.
Below, watch the video for “RUN,” which you can also stream via your preferred platform here.