Perhaps for the uninitiated, spending two hours watching Michael Render give a speech in front of 200 college students, then taking the rest of the evening to listen to his music could be a quite the dichotomous experience. In the former setting, Render comes off understated, inviting even, with his ambitions to generate social equality and political righteousness at the forefront. In the latter, Render is Killer Mike, one half of the famed hip-hop superduo, Run The Jewels, whose sound brings to mind descriptors such as abrasive, grating, antagonistic or, more likely, all of the above. And so, perhaps it is fitting that the man who, throughout his career, has so successfully straddled the line between caustic lyricism and social consciousness was audaciously interrupted by a fire alarm 15 minutes in the midst of his inspirational speaking engagement hosted in UCR’s HUB 302 on Tuesday, April 5.
Yet, as we returned, Render picked up just where he had been cut off, building upon his resounding message, which encouraged students to mobilize, demand change and, most importantly, do so in solidarity.
“I am here to encourage,” were five of the first words that Render uttered to a crowd of 200 or so students whose piqued interest had each of them propped on the very fringe of their chairs and more fully seated upon Render’s every word. While much less imposing than the image his musical stage presence often evokes, the combative aesthetic that often defines Mike’s art was on full display throughout the evening. At heart, Killer Mike is an iconoclast. Though, rather than displaying such with biting lyricism over bombastic beats, he did so through challenging every one of us to combat societal expectations.
“Don’t become your political advocacy,” pleaded Mike before encouraging students to challenge the “bullshit” notions of those in power, enjoy our “full rights,” promote “diverse interaction,” and “have the audacity to organize.”
If more parallels are to be drawn between Render’s musical mastery and his social and political sentiments it would be in how he manages to attack the grey areas of both sound and societal norms. This shows in his ability to draw the distinction between “not (liking) Hillary (Clinton),” but fully supporting the idea of a female president. Render demonstrated that advocacy doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive, expressing his staunch support of the right for all to bear arms whilst promoting nonviolence. It was further shown in his principle that “there is no way” one can be pro-African American rights without being pro-women’s rights or supporting the growing LGBT movement.
Furthermore, Render’s sensibility prevailed in his ability to acknowledge his commercial success yet connect with the shared class struggle of onlooking students. Perhaps this is because his passion for activism is deeply rooted. When one student asked Render when he decided to bring his message to his music, he succinctly replied, “Always.” When another questioned if current Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, can truly bring forth immediate change, Render — an ever-vocal Sanders supporter — relayed that only “what we deem politically impossible” is truly impossible.
Following the event, Render signed autographs and took photos with just about everybody in the audience. Some posed while shaking his hand, some did the signature “Run The Jewels” handgun and fist gesture, but most simply stood straight, hands at their hips, in complete solidarity.