Grammy-nominated artist Killer Mike surrounded by media following his performance during halftime of the Atlanta Hawks MLK Day game against the San Antonio Spurs, Monday, Jan. 16, 2024. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Grammy-nominated rapper, Atlanta native, and business owner Killer Mike performed at halftime of this year’s Atlanta Hawks MLK Day game. This wasn’t Killer Mike’s (neé Michael Render) first time performing in front of large crowds at a sporting event – the attendance for Monday’s MLK Day game was 17,447 – and it wasn’t his first time performing on MLK Day. It was however a unique opportunity for him to speak to a large swath of Georgia voters on the eve of the Iowa Caucuses.

“On a hyper-local level it’s very important that people stay engaged because hyper-locally is where the change happens,” Killer Mike said.

Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice

During his performance, Killer Mike prefaced his hit single, “Run”, by saying “Y’all better run to the polls this year.” Afterwards he used the example of the $40 million of federal funding that went towards metro Atlanta trade schools and how important that was to educating thousands of people as a reason for focussing on local politics.

“When you look at the $40 million coming down the pipeline for trade schools a few years ago, Atlanta would have gotten skipped had it not been for Vincent Fort,” he said. “If Vincent Fort wouldn’t have raised hell about it we wouldn’t have had the trade schools blossoming on Metropolitan Avenue like we have now.”

Activist and rapper Killer Mike performs during halftime of an NBA game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, January 15, 2024 at State Farm Arena. Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice

The turnout for recent local elections has been low in Georgia, particularly during non-presidential years. For example, There were just over 97,000 reported votes for the 2021 mayoral election. The subsequent runoff between Andre Dickens and Felicia Moore, both well-known members of Atlanta City Council at that time, saw 78,643 voters cast ballots.

“For me, it’s important on a hyper-local level,” Killer Mike explained. “I know it’s sexy to be arguing about who is going to be president, but it’s sexier to know who you are voting for judge, who your prosecutors are going to be, who your mayor is going to be, and who they are going to anoint as police chief.”

There are more than seven million registered voters in Georgia, with more than 750,000 of them registered to vote within Fulton County. “Get to know your city councilperson,” said Killer Mike, who added that he recently spoke with Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Lewis. “I want to see more young legislators, I want to see more young people in city council, and I want to see more progressive mayors like the one we currently have.”

Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Killer Mike, whose latest album “Michael” has been nominated for multiple Grammy awards, wanted to further reiterate his points on the importance of voting and voter education.

“Whoever is going to be president is going to be a bigger argument, but hyper-locally you should care about who is going to be your mayor, who are your state representatives and who your governor is more than anything,” he said.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...