Killer Mike is on a mission. Now that he’s perfected his skills as an MC, established himself as a community activist, become an outspoken advocate for marijuana legalization, evolved into a political dynamo intent on making a difference, and can juggle his responsibilities as a dedicated family man, the Run The Jewels juggernaut is focused on his health.
“I just don’t want to have gotten rich and die early,” he says matter-of-factly from his home in Atlanta. “I don’t want to die with someone humping on my fine ass wife while I’m [in] the grave.”
As of February 2023, Killer Mike has dropped somewhere between 40 to 50 pounds by watching what he eats, drinking lots of water, and hitting the gym with his trainer—but he has some serious goals.
“I’m looking to turn it up and hopefully by the end of the year, if I half-ass it, it will be 30 to 50 pounds, but if I get really disciplined it will be 50 to 100 pounds, so we’ll see,” he continues. “Either way, moving your body more, drinking more water, and eating better is good for you.”
Third grade was a pivotal year for the young Michael Render and he says he suddenly just “ballooned” up.
“My grandma used to take me shopping in the husky aisle,” he says with a laugh.
But his grandmother’s famous Southern cooking also thwarted any attempts at losing weight—simply put, it was just too good.
“My grandmother raised me, so of course your grandmother wants to overfeed you,” he says. “And my grandmother had like seven sisters, five of which were alive and still around, so I was everybody’s chubby little boy to feed. What I had to learn is if you’re going to eat your oxtails, you don’t have to have too much rice. Eat your oxtails, eat something green, eat a sweet potato, you know what I’m saying? You don’t have to have all the cornbread you want. Just have a small, simple piece. So what I’ve learned is moderation, and I’m learning food really is a love language for me.”
Killer Mike looks to his grandfather, who suffered a mild heart attack when Mike was a kid. Following the health scare, his grandpa stopped drinking beer and other alcohol (save for the occasional sip of moonshine), quit smoking unfiltered Camel cigarettes, and had Mike’s grandmother cut down on his portions of food.
“My grandfather would tell my grandmother, ‘Feed me in a saucer’ instead of a plate because my grandmother overfed him,” he explains. “She didn’t say I love you as much as she’d make you a big ol’ plate. So moderation and portion control is something my nutritionist will talk to me about and I’m like, ‘Oh shit, it’s like what my grandfather did.’ He just ate less and decided to move around more. I’m learning those two people probably gave me everything I needed to know that I pay people $100 an hour for now.”
As Killer Mike got older, he discovered smoking weed didn’t exactly help control his appetite, so his relationship with it looks slightly different these days.
“My days used to start off like this: I’d wake up, smoke a joint, eat too big of a breakfast, hang out, figure out going to the studio and shit,” he says. “Now that your wife just went into full Claire Huxtable mode, you can’t get caught eating a hoagie. So now, I get up, work out with my man Al Claiborne at FITEFX and after I get all the endorphins of exercise and that high going, I take it to another level and usually smoke a joint. I usually roll one-gram joints, and I used to roll around with seven to nine one-gram joints.
“Now, I’m generally rolling around with three [joints]. One joint will get me through the day, and the other two are for sharing with my wife. We used to go through about an ounce every couple of days, now we’re about an ounce every three to four days. We buy in quarter- and half-pounds at a time. We only smoke very heavy indicas. We’re not really into sativas ‘cause my mind already moves a lot, so I don’t want things to speed up my thinking. I need to slow down and zone in, so I’m a fan of very heavy indicas and my thing is if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, so OG Kush is just my favorite.”
One of Killer Mike’s most recent Instagram posts is a close-up of him blowing a billowing cloud of OG Kush slowly out of his mouth while rocking wife Shana Render’s Louis Vuitton sunglasses. It’s a reminder of the couple’s close relationship, one that isn’t found too often in hip-hop.
“The cool thing about my wife and I is we travel together,” he says. “We’re a helluva blended family in that I kinda came with the kids. It was like, ‘Hey, will you marry us?’ So she gets to be a helluva bonus mom and she is one, but it also gives her freedom. We lost a child early in our relationship and couldn’t have another, so she’s been able to just be with me.
“I love it. This is nothing bad, but that’s my dawg. That’s my dawg. That’s just my friend. That’s just my partner in life. We love figuring it out together. We smoke together. She just came off a 21-day fast where she didn’t smoke and I was like, ‘Man, I really miss smoking with you.’ She just came off her fast. I was like, ‘Goddamn, what were you praying for?’ She was like, ‘You!’”
As “committed marijuana smokers,” Killer Mike says he and his wife have a marriage “tailor made” for them. She can tolerate the occasional trip to the strip club and a packed touring schedule that so often comes with the lifestyle of rappers—not all women could or would, for that matter.
“I’m just happy that she’s choosing to walk this journey with me,” he adds. “I love her a lot.”
As much as Killer Mike loves weed—he’s the star of Vice’s Tumbleweeds with Killer Mike after all—he does have some concerns when it comes to younger kids smoking solely for recreational purposes.
“You know that old adage that it robs you of ambition?” he asks. “I don’t think that’s true once you’re a purpose-filled person. So Michael Phelps was fucking ambitious. He had to swim those goddamn laps, so marijuana is something that probably helped calm and focus him. But when you’re in the ninth grade and it’s either go to swim practice or smoke with the homies, it’s not the smoking that keeps you from being effective. You just like hanging with the homies more than practice, so I told all my kids after you’re 18, we can burn it down. That’s no problem. But I don’t want you to feel good without having to do something, which is why I stopped smoking before the gym. Now I smoke after the gym because I want the gym to give me the first feel good of the day.”
Nevertheless, Killer Mike is still hoping to see the day when marijuana will no longer be illegal on the federal level. At this point though, he’s asking the question: “What the fuck is going on, President Biden?” Marijuana is still a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it supposedly has a high potential for abuse.
“You [Biden] could re-schedule this from a heavy narcotic right now,” he says. “Why aren’t you doing it? Kamala Harris, former prosecutor, why aren’t you in the old man’s ear every fucking day when prosecutorial offices are being clogged with bullshit marijuana cases and convictions? Let’s give the Black community, who gave you 94% of their votes, and the progressive stoner community, who also gave you a bunch of their votes, a break and decriminalize. While we’re at it, let’s create a pathway for those who are in jail for nonviolent marijuana convictions on a federal and state level, be it leaders, to show the states what to do by doing it federally. Let’s release some people because you said you did it, but I haven’t met one person who said they got released yet. Honestly, I think Americans should just start with a quiet protest. And that quiet protest could go, ‘As a police officer, I’m not locking someone up for marijuana.’”
But until then, Killer Mike is beyond content blowing his Kush and putting the finishing touches on Run The Jewels’s next album, the aptly titled RTJ5. The project will serve as the follow-up to 2020’s wildly successful RTJ4.
“The album is literally two days away,” he says excitedly. “I have to go in tonight and change two lines on a song. I’m just waiting for some drums from [producer] No ID and we’re done.”
Killer Mike never imagined when he first enlisted his rhyming partner El-P—who he unapologetically says he “loves”—to produce his 2012 solo album, R.A.P. Music, what would transpire when they joined forces as Run The Jewels.
“I didn’t see it for exactly what it was because I’ve never been here before, but I knew we were something badass and we were going to be big,” he says. “Big is relative. Coming off the underground, big is just, ‘Hey man, I went gold,’ and I can play small clubs. Did I see us doing 100,000 people in England with [Labour Party leader] Jeremy Corbyn? Did I see us opening for the Foo Fighters at the Super Bowl in Atlanta? Did I see us doing Pitchfork Music Festival with 40,000 kids? No, I did not. I am so, so grateful.
“A group is a precious thing. Run-DMC will never be the same. De La Soul will never be the same. A Tribe Called Quest will never be the same. I value every single day of the last 10 years. I value the mistakes we’ve made. I value the grievances. I value the arguments. All of it, because this journey don’t always last, but so far, it has been an amazing one.”
This story was originally published in the May 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.