When Atlanta native Mike Render, better known as rapper Killer Mike, was at Frederick Douglass High School, he sang in Miss Bishop’s chorus until his voice changed.
Too self-conscious about his squeaky pipes, Render switched to art classes with Mr. Murray and Miss Renfro, who encouraged him to take weekend classes at the High Museum.
After graduation, and a short time at Morehouse College, Render headed back into music from the hip hop direction. (He told his choral teacher Miss Bishop that he was going to be a rapper and she told him rappers were a dime a dozen.) Then he won a Grammy collaborating with OutKast on “The Whole World.”
Art helped Render get his confidence back. “I’m a product of the arts programming at the Atlanta public school system,” he said Tuesday, when it was announced that the rapper will be a new member of the board of directors of the High Museum of Art.
Render is among four new directors on the 85-member panel. The new members include community activist Jean Hanges, Georgia-Pacific executive David Park and Interscope Records VP Keinon Johnson.
“We’re thrilled to add these community leaders to our board,” said the High’s director Rand Suffolk in a statement. “Together they’ll bring extraordinary new perspectives, voices and talents to bear on our mission.”
The High has made a part of its mission attracting a broader demographic to the museum, and Render said he is going to help make that happen.
“I’m looking forward to seeing more people from my part of town, people who look like me, at the High,” he said. “I think you will see the High Museum in a rap video very soon.”
Render was born in the Adamsville neighborhood on the west side of the metro area, and came to prominence guesting on the OutKast single “Snappin’ and Trappin’” from 2000’s “Stankonia.”
In addition to performing as one-half of the rap duo Run the Jewels, he has made a name for himself as a political activist, speaking at Bernie Sanders’ rallies during the 2016 campaign and serving as an adviser to Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
(On Tuesday, primary day, he was tweeting about the prosecutor’s race in St. Louis County, Missouri, urging voters to the polls to unseat the incumbent, Democrat Bob McCulloch.)
In a post titled “3 Reasons We Love Killer Mike,” the Atlanta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau wrote that he is a tireless promoter of the city. “He has been honored for his community work with the Bank Black program, Black Teens for Advancement, the Atlanta/Fulton Commission on Children and its program Kids 4 a Change.”
Render was also honored when the city of Atlanta named its massive tunnel-boring machine “Driller Mike.”
The machine is being used to drill a five-mile, $300 million tunnel that will connect the Hemphill Water Treatment plant, the Bellwood Quarry, and the Chattahoochee River.
(Some residents on the Westside are unhappy with the Driller Mike noise level.)
Render plans to help the High in practical ways, seeking financial support for the museum from his friends in music and entertainment. “I would like to see athletes, entertainers, people of means in Atlanta, make sure the arts remain in Atlanta,” he said.
“We owe it to ourselves to never let that childlike wonder die.”