Dr. Matsemela Odom
Vice President, InPDUM
On May 29, Atlanta rappers T.I. and Killer Mike held a press conference alongside Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Atlanta’s head cop Erika Shields in an about-face from the progressive positions they had previously taken on uprisings.
T.I. had penned multiple songs against police brutality in recent years. In 2015, Killer Mike quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the wake of the Baltimore Uprising, stating, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” In 2012, he chronicled a fictional incident where he shoots a cop following an incident of police brutality on his track “Don’t Die.”
Instead of channeling his previous progressive positions, Killer Mike approached the lectern wearing a shirt that said “Kill Your Masters,” wiped tears from his eyes, stated that he was the son of an Atlanta police officer and proceeded to chastise Africans who had risen up in righteous rebellion.
Killer Mike reprimanded the African community in Atlanta, stating, “It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy. It is your duty to fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization.”
Referring to Atlanta as Wakanda, T.I. stated that “we don’t do this here” and “Atlanta has been here for us.”
In a similar vein to T.I., Killer Mike said that Atlanta was “cut different” than other cities. Killer Mike asked, “If we lose Atlanta, what else we got?”
If we take Killer Mike at his word, urban rebellions are good for other cities but not Atlanta. Killer Mike and T.I. suggested that there was something different in Atlanta, but how different is Atlanta from Baltimore?
Atlanta is a city with an over 62 percent African population, an African mayor, an African police chief, and a 40 percent African police force. Yet half of the cops who murdered Freddie Gray in Baltimore were black.
In 2006, Atlanta cops murdered 92-year-old African woman Kathryn Johnson in an illegitimate no-knock raid. In recent years, Atlanta cops have murdered Anthony Hill, Alexia Christian, Nicholas Thomas, Oscar Cain and more.
Of course, T.I. and Killer Mike know about this. They have rapped about this.
African petty bourgeoisie holds some power in Atlanta
What sets Atlanta apart from other cities in the minds of Killer Mike and T.I. is that the African petty bourgeoisie has ascended to leadership in Atlanta since the military defeat of the African Revolution of the 1960s.
Former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activist Ron Wilkins tells the story of how some other SNCC activists made their wealth at the expense of the movement. In the 1970s, Wilkins worked on farms operated by Charles and Shirley Sherrod, also former SNCC members.
On this farm, Wilkins and other Africans received slave wages. When Wilkins led a protest of workers, the Sherrods had him imprisoned. The Sherrods have turned their farming endeavors into multimillion dollar pay days.
Omali Yeshitela, Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) has defined neocolonialism as white power in blackface. Much like South Africa and other cases, Atlanta provides a prime example of such neocolonialism in the U.S.
Since 1973, Atlanta neocolonial negro leaders have run Atlanta. Atlanta’s wealth is concentrated in Buckhead, a wealthy white community in Northwest Atlanta where, according to a 2018 article in the Marietta Daily Journal, the average household income is above $143,000 and the average cost of a home is $1.1 million.
The counterinsurgency and Atlanta hip hop
Killer Mike and T.I. depart from the “Dirty South” origins of Atlanta rap music. In describing the character of the music coming out of Atlanta during the 1990s, rap historian Matt Miller states, “The rhetorical rejection of the images and ideas related to a white supremacist South that often characterized southern rap of this period formed a point of identification between young black southerners and their counterparts in other areas of the United States…”
Dirty South rap connected the legacies of colonial slavery to African life under the counterinsurgency following the defeat of the African revolution. Dirty South rap tended to embrace the African poor and working class in opposition to the African petty bourgeois leadership.
Atlanta’s first African mayors Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young presided over the influx in Atlanta’s population to over 70 percent as Africans in other parts of the U.S. relocated to Atlanta and other cities.
Jackson and Young also presided over the counterinsurgency in Atlanta.
In the 1990s, Atlanta rap groups OutKast and Goodie Mob represented the progressive trend of Dirty South rap in opposition to that.
OutKast offers a panoramic view of Atlanta, Georgia, of its geography and politics on their 1994 debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. OutKast noted that Atlanta had been labeled “the New Motown of the South” due to its emergence as a prominent center for African music production in the early 1990s.
This moniker also underscored the presence of a growing African petty bourgeoisie in the city. Despite this, the narrator of OutKast’s “Welcome to Atlanta” interlude noted that the Georgia Dome “still flies the Confederate battle flag.”
On this album, OutKast was revealed to be an acronym for “Operating under the Krooked American System Too Long.”
OutKast identified the counterinsurgency against the African community on arguably the most political track on the album, “Git Up, Git Out.” In his verse, Big Gipp shed light on the COBRA Unit and the RED DOGs. COBRA stood for Command Operations Briefing to Revitalize Atlanta. RED DOG stood for Run Every Drug Dealer Out of Georgia.
COBRA and RED DOG were the military units of cops that contained and removed the African working class for the “revitalization” of parasitic capitalism in Atlanta. This is the same parasitic capitalist system that Killer Mike and T.I. now exalt.
In the 1990s, OutKast and Goodie Mob opposed this. Big Gipp stated on “Git Up, Git Out” “Crooked ass Jackson got this whole country thinking that my city is the big lick for ‘96” in reference to the upcoming Olympic Games. The Goodie Mob song “Live at the O.M.N.I.” referenced the rise of the U.S. prison population and the Million Man March of 1995.
By the late 1990s, the center of rap had shifted to the South. Atlanta, Houston and New Orleans dominated the market. With the new millennium came a different Southern rap culture that was far less progressive and far more capitalist.
Build revolutionary hip hop
For rap music to be meaningful, up and coming African rappers need to abandon their petty bourgeois aspirations. Accomplished rappers need to also commit class suicide, which means uniting with the African working class.
These rappers need to come under the revolutionary leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party. They need to produce work that uplifts the African working class and teaches African Internationalism.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Dead Prez’s Let’s Get Free album. Although they came together in Florida, Atlanta was one of the cities where Dead Prez got their start.
What sets Dead Prez apart from even the most advanced forms of Dirty South music was that they entered the rap industry as African Internationalist organizers.
To overcome the contradictions of Killer Mike, T.I., and so many others, we need an army of African Internationalist cultural workers.
Re-build the Uhuru Movement inside hip-hop
Join the African People’s Socialist Party now at apspuhuru.org
Join the African People’s Solidarity Committee at apscuhuru.org
Donate to the Black Power Blueprint at blackpowerblueprint.org