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Killer Mike helps the Atlanta Hawks with their 2023-24 schedule release

Grammy-winning hip-hop artist talks about the upcoming season, the team’s connection to music and what it means to be ‘True to Atlanta’

The 2023-24 NBA schedule will be released today. Usually, teams will highlight their marquee matchups, but the Atlanta Hawks are using a more creative approach with Grammy-winning artist Killer Mike.

An Atlanta native, Michael “Killer Mike” Render grew up a fan of all things Atlanta. He’s seen the city grow from the times of the Atlanta Thrashers, and the talent of ‘Prime Time” Deion Sanders in a Falcons uniform to now watching the Braves dominate the National League in MLB.

His never-ending love for the city has led to new business, from multiple barbershop locations to being a part of the Hawks schedule release for the upcoming season. To mark the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, it only seems fitting that a local team brought in one of the biggest names to ever represent the city within the hip-hop industry.

The Hawks highlighted the biggest matchups of the upcoming 2023-24 season with a special script read by Killer Mike in a video that debuted across social media channels and in their press release said, “Father, husband, activist, business owner and Michael ‘Killer Mike’ Render is as synonymous with Atlanta as Coca-Cola and The Varsity.”

Killer Mike sat down with Andscape to talk about his thoughts on the upcoming year for hoops and hip-hop, his personal career goals, thoughts on his partnership with the team and the city of Atlanta’s overall culture.

Rapper Killer Mike of Run the Jewels performs in concert during So So Def 25th Cultural Curren$y Tour at State Farm Arena on Oct. 21, 2018, in Atlanta.

Paras Griffin/Getty Images

With this being the 50th anniversary of hip-hop and you being from Atlanta, is this a special year for you?

Absolutely it is. I’ve just been filled with grace. You spend 20 years on a journey, you don’t know that your flower just starts to open, so this has just been amazing. And being a longtime fan of the Atlanta Hawks, it’s been amazing to see us grow into a team that’s expected to win. I’m excited because Atlanta deserves a winning team because we’ve been a winning city. Whether it’s my album “MICHAEL” being the soundtrack of this season or knowing that our team is excited about getting in and making some folks happy, I’m excited about the rest of this year.

The Hawks have taken numerous steps over the years to incorporate hip-hop into all forms of entertainment for the fans. In your opinion, how do basketball and hip-hop tie into each other?

My New York homies will call and say that we’re [New York] the Mecca of hip-hop and I’ll say well we’re [Atlanta] the Medina then. Basketball has been far more progressive socially and it has brought people together who don’t look alike. What I love about this city is that it puts people together who, in other places, wouldn’t congregate together. Everyone may not go to church together, but everyone goes to Hawks game together. I love that hip-hop and basketball are linked, whether you’re talking about Rucker Park or even Dominque Wilkins having a huge effect on the culture of Atlanta. Like hip-hop, basketball has style and flare and also like hip-hop it brings people together and I’m proud of that.

You have your own barber shop located in State Farm Arena. Is this new partnership with the Hawks even more special than that?

Any time you get to trash talk on the behalf of your team, it is a little more special. We know we [Atlanta] have the best clubs, we know we have the coolest bars, we know we have the greatest artist but what we’ve never had is a team that’s dominated in the same way that our culture has, but all of that is changing now. And if people think sports don’t matter past points, I’m here to tell you different. It was because of the old Hawks owner, Ted Turner, you would get free tickets to Hawks or Braves games when I was a kid if you got good grades. I think that’s what our team does, it inspires people to be their very best.

With this video partnership you got an earlier look [at the schedule] than just about everyone. What are you looking forward to from the Hawks this season?

I’m expecting a good season because our team has had a taste of success when we went up against the [Milwaukee] Bucks when they won [the NBA championship in 2021]. It’s like the first time I won a Grammy. I won a Grammy with Outkast for the song “The Whole World.” This year, I’m marching in the Grammys and getting my own. That taste of it made me want it and to chase it to the next 10, 20 years. And that taste of success, you can see it in our guys’ eyes and it won’t be quenched unless they get some rings in the spring and I’m cheering them on every step of the way.

You’re Atlanta to the core. You went to [Douglass High School] and even briefly Morehouse so when you hear the phrase “True to Atlanta” what do you think of? What does it mean to you?

It means that I am willing to cooperate and collaborate for the best of this city and the people are in it. It doesn’t matter to me if you live in Zone 6 or Zone 1; it matters to me that people know that they are loved and respected and that kids are filled with confidence that they can achieve anything. Atlanta has been radically different than other Southern cities. From 60 years ago in the times of segregation, Atlanta chose to stay committed to integration that gave people an opportunity. It has stayed that way since Maynard [Jackson] and it has stayed that way throughout mayors and even Hank Aaron, Dominque Wilkins and Deion Sanders. People don’t go to the same churches, go to the same schools, work at the same places but people cheer the same team. The garbage man and the corporate CEO cheer the same team, even from different seats within the arena. That’s what I think of Atlanta.

Lawrence Goss, a 2024 Rhoden Fellow and senior broadcast journalism major who hails from Atlanta, has worked as an anchor at Rattler Take, the school’s news platform. He holds an active leadership role with three on-campus organizations and serves as the lead sports editor for the school's newspaper, The Famuan.