From The Archives: Killer Mike, “New Breed” [Originally Published July 2003]

After four hours inside the faux-casino, the afternoon sunlight beaming from the Atlanta sky is blinding, Squinting like a posse of hood-rat Eastwoods, Big Mike’s collective of sound providers and rhyme slayers – known around these parts as the Grime Time Officials – congregate in the parking lot. Drowning out the chirping of sparrows, the motley crew posts up against a brown van with Killer Mike’s grim mug plastered on the side.

“Are we about ready?” asks producer Nsiso, a.k.a. Mr. C-Lo. The crew has a five-hour drive ahead of them, to perform at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina’s Club New York. Not to be confused with the soulful poet from Goodie Mob, Nsiso has known Mike since their school daze at Atlanta’s Morehouse College. “We lived in the same dorm,” Nsiso recalls. “On the fourth floor of DuBois Hall, Mike would be ripping everybody with his ill freestyles. He was only in school for a year, but anybody who thought they could rap, Mike would just murder them.”

Having grown up with OutKast’s Big Boi in Savannah, Nsiso started coming to the studio with the Georgia rap kings while recording their second album, 1996′s ATLiens. With a background in classical piano and saxophone, Nsiso remembers the sessions like trips to the candy store. “They allowed me to come into the studio and mess around with the equipment

“Off and on, we worked on Monster for two years,” Nsiso says of making Mike’s debut. “We went through different labels [Aquemini Records was originally distributed through Elektra], different directions and different people voicing their opinions. There were times when we became frustrated, but we never stopped working.” Under the moniker the Beat Bullies, Nsiso and his production team recording 40 funky, bottom-heavy tracks for Mike to rap atop. “We sampled a little bit but I still prefer the sound of live instrumentation.”

Rife with references to Kurt Cobain, Black Sabbath and Led Zepplin, alongside shout-outs to B.I.G., ‘Pac and Ice Cube, Mike’s song “Rap is Dead” speaks to the diversity of sounds he grew up on. But while the subject of rap/rock fusion is near to Mike’s heart, he’s been having a little trouble lately with some of the form’s leading practitioners. This past April, Mike says his management informed him that California nu-metal group Korn was threatening to sue him over the title of his hit single.

“Fuck those pussy niggas,” he says, voice rising. “They had a song called ‘A.D.I.D.A.S.’ on their album Life is Peachy [1996] but a person can’t copyright a title. Their last album didn’t do too well, so they figure, sue Killer Mike and get some hype. As long as they been stealing from Black people, it’s about time I stole from a cracker. I’m a huge Korn fan, but since they wanna sue a nigga, I’ll only buy their stuff on bootleg now.” (Korn’s management says the band have no plan to sue.)

“Killer Mike’s record is a reflection of some of the partying, some of the struggle, some of the girls and some of the politics that go down in poor communities,” says Nsiso. “Since he was raised in Adamsville, believe me, Mike knows what he’s talking about.”