Last month, rapper Killer Mike lit up social media by introducing Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a rally with a passionate, fiery speech. Yesterday, Killer Mike published an hour-long conversation between himself and Senator Sanders, held before that rally at Killer Mike’s own barbershop.
In the discussion, broken up on YouTube into six parts, Sanders and Killer Mike have an open, casual, and frank conversation about the 2016 election. At one point, reports Rolling Stone, Killer Mike even tells Sanders a story involving the phrase, “F*ck Trump.”
“I played Mexico City yesterday… and I said, ‘F*ck Trump!’ And basically 20,000 Mexican citizens repeated it,” Killer Mike told Sanders.
The whole conversation was instigated when Killer Mike reached out to Sanders on Twitter, becoming an early celebrity endorser and telling the self-described democratic socialist he wanted to talk about his progressive ideas.
In the first video, entitled “Economic Freedom,” Sanders discusses from a moral and philosophical perspective his ideas on a certain measure of economic rights being necessary for freedom.
“When we talk about rights – you have freedom of speech, you can go out on the corner and give a speech – you have the constitutional right to do that. But you know what, to be truly free you need economic rights as well. So you can go out and give a speech, but if you don’t have any food in your stomach, you don’t have a roof over your head, if you don’t have any education are you really free?”
Killer Mike and Sanders then spend several minutes discussing their admiration for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, going beyond the man’s dedication to civil rights and talking about the public backlash King faced when, after passage of the Civil Rights Act, he continued to agitate for causes he believed in, including protesting the Vietnam War and economic inequality.
Sanders has struggled so far in winning over black voters, who are overwhelmingly in favor of Hillary Clinton. According to Charles D. Ellison at The Root, some of the hesitancy has to do with Sanders’ apparent pessimism, longstanding loyalty in black communities to the Clinton family, and a generational gap.
After relaying to Sanders the “f*ck Trump” story, Killer Mike asks how dangerous it is that a black activist was beaten up at a Trump rally. He then contrasts the difference between the way Sanders handled an interruption from Black Lives Matter activists – by handing them a microphone and allowing their voice to be heard – with the way Trump handled it.
The Killer Mike interview may help better establish Sanders better among black voters, with the rapper even telling the senator, “In every black barbershop there are 2 black guys and an honorary white guy… In my shop, you’re really about to get the heralded position of the white guy. It’s going to be like Martin, Malcom, Bernie.”
After a discussion on healthcare, Killer Mike and Sanders transition into a conversation about the prison system, reform of which has been a pillar of Sanders’s campaign. Killer Mike recounts a story of growing up and seeing black city workers with pensions, benefits, and a wage cleaning up the highways. Gradually he saw those workers disappear and be replaced by prisoners.
“What is happening to the young male – and female – African-American community is a tragedy almost beyond words,” Sanders said. “Roughly speaking, one out of four black male babies, if we do not change it, will end up in jail… Oh yeah, we change that.”
Sanders goes on to discuss the long-lasting impacts of a criminal record beyond the jail time, including difficulty finding employment and losing the right to vote. Sanders also mentions removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and touches on the racism powering the war on drugs.
As to the question of Sanders’s viability, which has dogged his campaign since it was launched, Sanders tells Killer Mike that on issue after issue the majority of Americans agree with them. They also discuss the importance of political activism.
“How many people agree with Republicans who want to give tax breaks to billionaires and cut Social Security and Medicare?” Sanders asked. “Should we take a long walk and see if we can find one person who agrees with that? And these guys may win the election because people don’t vote and don’t pay attention. That’s what our job is.”