Anti-Black Racism Portrayed in the Song "Reagan" by Killer Mike

Seminar Paper, 2021

12 Pages, Grade: 2


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Killer Mike

3 Historio-cultural background

4 Song analysis
4.1 [Sample: Ronald Reagen]
4.2 [Verse 1]
4.3 [ Sample: Ronald Reagen]
4.4 [ Verse 2]
4.5 Outro

5 Music video

6 Conclusion

7 Bibliography

1 Introduction

Slavery, systematic racism, and police brutality is not a rare case in the United States. In pop culture, there are several ways to raise one’s voice against unfair treatment; through poetry, movies, art, and songs. The majority of African American people have been racially attacked in their lives. Some of those people remain silent, while others get active. With “Ronald Reagan”, Killer Mike highlights political and social issues in the US during the Reagan era. As commonly known, Ronald Reagan was criticized to be a racist president; he denied it until his death. The song, which the paper analyzes is a rap song consisting of two original samples, two verses, and an outro, featured in the album R.A.P. in May 2012. The following paper firstly introduces the artist and goes on with the historical and cultural background of the main theme and the Reagan character. The next chapter analyzes the song, as well as the music video. The paper concludes with chapter 6. With his song, Killer Mike highlights anti-black racism and social issues amongst black people in the US. (Genius n.d.)

2 Killer Mike

Michael Santiago Render, better known by his stage name Killer Mike, is a songwriter and rapper of American origin. He was born in 1975 and raised in Atlanta by a police officer and a florist. Besides his career on stage, he is an activist, who is constantly fighting for human rights and against racism against African Americans. The experiences that he made having a black police officer as a father, gave him an insight into the unfair treatment and racism towards African Americans in the law system. “My father was a black police officer and I’m from a city where right now the chief of police and the mayor were young black officers back then – these people were forced to lock up young black boys: five grams of crack got you the same time as five-hundred grams of cocaine. (Wray 2013)” Sending young people to prison for minor crimes caused his father to quit his job, he adds. The so-called War on Drugs and the mass incarceration of black American people are what caused Killer Mike to become an activist in the first place.

“Following the steps of his father and grandfather, respectively a union steward and a union member, and his grandmother, who marched with Martin Luther King in the name of civil rights, he fights for the rights of marginalized groups as a world citizen, as an American citizen and as a black man. (Aloisio 2017)”

Regarding his career in the hip-hop industry, Killer Mike gained popularity nationwide. As a teenager, he started to take part in rap battles with his current stage name. As he was not interested in academic education, he focused on his career as a rapper and soon was a member who appeared as a guest on the Outkast song “Snappin and Trappin”. Furthermore, he was part of the single “The Whole World”. Two years later, in 2003, he released his first solo album titled “Monster” and his second album “I Pledge Allegiance to the Grand” in 2006. In 2008 “I Pledge Allegiance to the Grand II” came out. The height of his career was followed by the release of his 2012 album “R.A.P. Music”, which is short for “Rebellious African People” which featured “Killer Mike”. This album especially focuses on human rights issues as well as systematic racism and police brutality.

3 Historio-cultural background

“Ronald Reagan” mentions several different issues regarding social injustice during the Reagan era. As the title says, it is mainly about the social injustice and racism towards African Americans. It is commonly known, that during his presidency Ronald Reagan expanded the drug policy that the former president Nixon had started before. “President Reagan’s refocus on drugs and the passing of severe penalties for drug-related crimes in Congress and state legislatures led to a massive increase in incarcerations for nonviolent drug crimes ( Editors 2019).” It is important to mention most of the incarcerated people were colored people.

“In 1986, Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which established mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain drug offenses. This law was later heavily criticized as having racist ramifications because it allocated longer prison sentences for offenses involving the same amount of crack cocaine (used more often by black Americans) as powder cocaine (used more often by white Americans). Five grams of crack triggered an automatic five-year sentence, while it took 500 grams of powder cocaine to merit the same sentence ( Editors 2019).”

This issue of social injustice has been a highly discussed topic in the United States since the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865. Former black working slaves have been expecting freedom for themselves and future generations. Although many factors have changed; modern slavery goes on in prisons. As mentioned in the above paragraph gives eye-opening insights into the mass incarceration of people for minor drug possessions. According to the Editorial Staff of the American Addiction Centers (2021), the difference between crack cocaine and cocaine in the form of powder is a different form and mixture based on the same product. Cocaine is a white powder form that is snorted, whereas crack cocaine is a white rock form and typically smoked. Furthermore, the drug in rock form was cheaper to sell on the streets, which made drug abuse in low-income areas rise insignificantly during the Reagan era.

“Gangsterism in the U.S. had risen during the years of the Reagan administration. African American families were struggling with low income, poor education, not being accepted in the workplace, and many more. Dysfunctional families were the case for many Blacks; cases of alcoholic abuse, drug abuse, rape, or murder were not rare. However, instead of getting help, the majority was charged with crimes without proof or legal assistance. The War on Drugs era and the mass incarceration were initiated by President Nixon. According to the Drug Policy Alliance (n.d.) “in June 1971, President Nixon declared a ‘war on drugs.’ He dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants.” Since Black minorities were struggling with money, they did business with small amounts of drugs, because they needed to provide for their families. It did not mean that they were bad people like society portrayed them (Chamajewa 2020).”

As the following chapter shows, Killer Mike speaks about the above factors in his single as well. One must observe and highlight every verse to understand the meaning behind it.

4 Song analysis

4.1 [Sample: Ronald Reagen]

1. “Our government has a firm policy not to capitulate to terrorist demands. That no-
2. concessions policy remains in force, despite the wildly speculative and false stories
3. about arms for hostages and alleged ransom payments, we did not, repeat, did not
4. trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we .
The intro of the song is a quote from Ronald Reagan’s speech during the Iran-Contra affair during the 1980s. Arms were sold to Iran for the war against Iraq. Killer Mike uses the 40th president as a main character in the song to portray his manipulating character and at the same time to introduce the rap industry as it features the same characteristics. The speech resulted in a scandal and soon after Reagan would apologize for his use of words (Aloisio 2017). This part is spoken in the original voice and not sung.

4.2 [Verse 1]

1. The ballot or the bullet, some freedom or some bullshit
2. Will we ever do it big, or keep just settling for little shit
3. We brag on having bread, but none of us are bakers
4. We all talk having greens, but none of us own acres
5. If none of us on acres, and none of us grow wheat
6. Then who will feed our people when our people need to eat
7. So it seems our people starve from lack of understanding
8. Cause all we seem to give them is some balling and some dancing
9. And some talking about our car and imaginary mansions
10. We should be indicted for bullshit we inciting
11. Hella children deaf and pretending it’s exciting
12. We are advertisements for agony and pain
13. We exploit the youth, we tell them to join a gang
14. We tell them dope stories, introduce them to the game
15. Just like Oliver North introduced us to cocaine
16. In the 80s when the bricks came on military planes

The first verse introduces the topic with a rhyming couplet (AABB). However, lines 12-13, follow a non-rhyming pattern. The structure of the song looks like the following: Sample - Verse 1 - Sample - Verse 2 - Outro. The narrative voice used in the poetry-like song is the first-person narrative “we”. With “we” it seems that the author refers to the rap industry or the black ethnic group. Furthermore, it is a rap song and, therefore, the words are pronounced with an aggressive tone of voice. Since the subject of racism is a sensitive one, the listener feels emotions throughout the song. With its duration of 4:10, it is longer than the average rap song, breaks in between are not included. The standard English rules of syntax are not followed in the song, which is typical for Black-American or vernacular English. There are no rhetorical outstanding rhetorical devices, besides repetition.

When looking at the theme in the first Verse, Killer Mike raps about hidden slavery, political issues, and the image of rap artists. Line 1-6 begins with Malcolm X’s most famous speech “The Ballot or the Bullet where he spoke about violence against black people. Victims should act non-violent when the offender is non-violent but use violence for self-defense only. The following lines continue with Marxist values of working and receiving goods. The wealth gap, which is still existing in America, and the unfair land distribution is also highlighted. Furthermore, “green” could refer to money on the one hand and agriculture on the other hand. All in all, if one does not grow his food, there is no one providing for him. Those who are meant to provide for the people, have too much control over you, hence, the government. (Genius n.d.)

From lines 10 to 14 Killer Mike refers to rappers who are constantly talking about “the game” and leading young people astray, letting them believe that Gangsterism is something positive. “We will tell them dope stories” refers to the hip-hop scene portraying illegal activities as good life experiences. The verse ends with Oliver North, who was involved with the Iran-Contra-Affair. he wants to highlight, that the military was not being charged for transporting cocaine, whereas colored people were imprisoned for several years. (Genius n.d.)


Excerpt out of 12 pages


Anti-Black Racism Portrayed in the Song "Reagan" by Killer Mike
Klagenfurt University  (English Department)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
anti-black, racism, portrayed, song, reagan, killer, mike
Quote paper
Farisa Chamajewa (Author), 2021, Anti-Black Racism Portrayed in the Song "Reagan" by Killer Mike, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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