Grammy Winner Killer Mike Makes His Money By Betting on Black

Rapper Killer Mike has been in the spotlight this past week for a range of reasons, bringing his name to the attention of many who were previously unfamiliar with the artist. The Atlanta native appeared last week on Bill Maher’s HBO show, “Real Time with Bill Maher” garnered attention for refusing to endorse Joe Biden. Days later, he would clinch three golden statues at the 66th Grammy Awards ceremony.

Killer Mike
Killer Mike, photo via Greenwood Bank

He also made headlines and was plastered across the internet when he was arrested, during the same event, by the Los Angeles Police Department following a confrontation with an “overzealous” venue security guard.

Big Wins Beyond the Grammys

However, Killer Mike, whose real name is Michael Render, is more than the altercation and the big wins. While making his name as a recording artist, he is also an actor, an activist, and a businessman with an estimated net worth of $5 million.

The majority of his wealth has come from his being a musician.

Killer Mike and His Music

Twenty years ago, Killer Mike released his first album “Monster.” The 2003 release peaked on the Billboard charts as a Top 10 Album. Since then, he has released five additional albums including the critically acclaimed “Michael,” which won Rap Album of the Year at the Grammys.

He also had four albums with his partner El-P as the group Run the Jewels. Heralded as one of the best rap duos of the 2000s, their last offering in 2020, “RTJ4” charted in the top 10 spot also, cementing Killer Mike as one of the most bankable rap artists out of the South.

When it comes down to his music, he has been signed to major labels and independent labels too. However, his last project he funded himself, putting up $500,000 of his own money.

“At about a quarter of a million dollars, my wife is going, what the f—k is going on here? I’m making my dream happen!” he said to The Financial Times, adding. “It’s a testimonial that I needed to make before I left the earth. I wanted people to see the man, the whole human being.”

Putting out his own work was liberating, particularly after having a major label experience that “damaged” him.

“[Being on Columbia Records] made me afraid, it pulled me back,” he said. “I hadn’t done terribly on the major. I just, you know, I came out the same year as 50 [Cent] selling 10 million f—king records. I sold, you know, 500,000.”

Now as an indie artist, he gets to recoup directly his earnings from the sale of his project— earning more than he did as a signed artist even while selling a fraction of the albums.

Opening Businesses in His Community

Outside of music, Killer Mike also has practical business ventures that add to his financial portfolio.

Killer Mike and his wife Shana embarked on a new venture, launching a barbershop under the moniker “SWAG” shop in 2011. The name of the shop is a clever acronym representing “Shave, Wash, and Groom.” Moreover, the artist has shared how he has always wanted to own a barbershop.

The SWAG Shop’s resounding success prompted Killer Mike and his wife to expand their barbershop enterprise, establishing multiple branches across Atlanta. These locations include establishments intown, on the south side, and even a shop nestled within State Farm Arena, home to the Atlanta Hawks.

Greenwood Bank and Its Importance to the Killer Mike Enterprise

Killer Mike, together with Ryan Glover and Andrew Young, co-founded Greenwood Bank in 2020.

Named after Tulsa’s Greenwood Neighborhood, once renowned as “Black Wall Street” until its destruction in 1921, Greenwood Bank is an online bank that aids those denied credit opportunities to build credit with its own perks.

The rapper previously partnered with Citizen’s Trust, a Black-owned bank, in 2016, urging people to join.

In 2022, Greenwood acquired The Gathering Spot, an elite membership network for Black professionals and entrepreneurs with membership fees ranging from $100 to $250 per month.

Revitalizing the Community by Sustaining Staples in the Community

Another business that he has is a restaurant with a rapper that he has known since high school, T.I. Harris.

After a major community business Bankhead Seafood closed its doors in 2018, the two chart-toppers developed a plan to open the business back up.

The reopening of the restaurant would mark a significant expansion in the brand’s business model. The new owners enlarged both the parking facilities and the restaurant, doubling the seating capacity. The establishment now has a two-story layout, different from its original style. While a lot of things have changed, the menu and location remains the same. The only difference is that prices will see a slight increase.

Reinvesting in his community is a lifestyle for Killer Mike.

“When I got that first $60,000 check off rap music, I bought my first investment property,” he told My Expert Opinion.

“I said If I wanna be free I gotta be free,” he added. “I have to figure something else out. I can’t keep begging a record company to believe in these radical Black ideas. Eventually, you have to become these ideas.” 

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