The well known rapper Killer Mike stepped away from the music to get his message across at a lecture at the Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life on Monday.
“It’s going to take all of us to save us,” Killer Mike said. ”If this country is ever to be what it promised to be and if it’s ever going be what it potentially could be, it’s going to be on us on all of us — that look different, that talk different, that are from different places.”
The Atlanta rapper, who is best known as half of the rap duo Run the Jewels, discussed several topics, including race relations, the role of the youth in improving the world and for-profit jailing systems. During his speech, Killer Mike challenged NYU students to do more on behalf of marginalized people. He encouraged students to befriend people of diverse backgrounds, to stand up to businesses and politicians that stunt the advancement of African-Americans and to mentor a child.
“I’m here to challenge you to find someone who doesn’t look like you, who isn’t culturally where you are from, who did not grow up geographically near you and to befriend that person,” Killer Mike said.
In recent months, Killer Mike has used his fame and visibility to be an active participant in discussions about race relations in the United States. After a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury did not indict officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, Killer Mike gave a heartfelt speech at a Run the Jewels show in St. Louis, which quickly went viral and led to appearances on several news programs. Since then, he has been on college speaking tour to address U.S. youth, a group that he puts a lot of faith into for creating change.
“Hip-Hop is the first social change organization that taught me that social change happens from the youth up,” Killer Mike said. “It does not happen from the old down.”
Tisch sophomore Tom Dziuba said he came to the event as a fan, a student and fellow rapper to hear Killer Mike.
“I get terrified because these things that are like ‘change the world!’ and ‘I’m going to do that!’ and then the next day you wake up and I can’t possibly do that I’m just a little person,” Dziuba said. “He made it so simple — go be friends with someone — yeah, I can do that.”
Steinhardt doctoral student Trenton Marsh, who helped moderate the lecture, said Killer Mike’s lecture is an inspiration for people of all ages.
“The message was for humanity whether you are in elementary school all the way to grandparents, I think we all have the opportunity to be a part of the conversation,” Marsh said. “I think this was a push toward courageousness. Specifically NYU and this city being pushed toward courage is a reminder and fundamental.”
Killer Mike said the future of the country lies in the hands of the people who are willing to take action against institutionalized racism.
“If this country is ever going to be what it promised to be or what it potentially could be, it is going to be on us,” Killer Mike said. “All of us that look different, that talk different, that are from different places, it is going to be on us to find common ground to build.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 24 print edition. Email Shawn Paik at [email protected]