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Free Speech

Killer Mike on Why He’s ‘Bound’ By His Belief in the First Amendment

Rapper/activist headlined SPIN's South by Southwest showcase in Austin in March
Killer Mike (photo: Jonathan Mannion)

Killer Mike isn’t just one of the most beloved rappers of his generation — he is also one of its most socially conscious. The Atlanta native has not been afraid to engage voices with whom he disagrees, and as he likes to say, the only way you can make progress is by listening to everyone.

“The moment we get lazy and uncomfortable, and dismiss and diminish things that hurt our feelings, is the moment this country stops progressing to what it could be,” he says. “We are here to develop a more perfect union and the First Amendment allows us to do that. I’m bound by my belief in the First Amendment.”

His stance on free speech is one of the reasons why he was tapped as the keynote speaker for FIRE’s upcoming gala, which takes place on April 18 in New York.

SPIN recently spoke with Mike about a number of issues that are close to him, including free speech and criminal justice reform. He also traces his family history of activism, discusses why treatment — not sentencing — is vital for teenaged gang members, and shares the wisdom that he received from the Dalai Lama.