The Cinderella Man success story of Killer Mike and his years-in-the-making album Michael got a nice bow on it at the Grammys this past Sunday. The rapper swept all three rap categories he was in contention for, taking home two trophies for his Andre 3000 and Future-assisted cut “Scientists and Engineers” and beating out the likes of Drake & 21 Savage, Nas, and Travis Scott for Best Rap Album. It completes a decade-long arc of Mike betting on himself, pursuing reinvention, reclamation and validation.
But despite Michael being one of the more critically acclaimed rap releases of 2023, Mike’s victory over some of his more commercially successful peers has sparked debate, particularly among young rap listeners and their media proxies, like streaming personalities Kai Cenat and Adin Ross. Cenat and Ross then found themselves engaged in a war of words with Joe Budden, restarting the eternal youth-versus-age divide within the rap community, as well as the idea of mainstream appeal versus quality.
Mike’s Sunday night also took an unexpected turn when news broke that he had been arrested at the Grammys for a misdemeanor allegedly pertaining to an altercation with a security guard, who Mike’s team described as “overzealous” in an official statement regarding the incident: “The situation has been overblown but we are confident that the facts of the case, when laid bare, will show that Mike did not commit the alleged offense and he will be exonerated.”
Days after the Grammys broadcast, Mike hopped on the phone with GQ to talk about the wins, address rap fans who aren’t familiar with his game, react to Drake and Jay-Z’s Grammy comments, and explain how the rest of his Sunday night went.
So, three days after the wins, how are you feeling?
I’m on top of the world. I got a broom, like I’m sweeping my grandma’s living room.
Walk me through that moment, when you heard them announcing you as Best Rap Album and you knew you’d achieved that full sweep.
I had forced myself to just be at a Zen-like place for the last week. I didn’t want to get too excited or anticipate too much. I wanted to kind of live in the moment. I didn’t want to live in the worry that I might not [win]. When I won the first one, I was happy about it. I was excited. It was beautiful. I wanted to make sure I just thanked the right folks, because a lot of people have been believers and worked hard. After that moment, my man DJ Cutmaster Swiff told me, “You getting all three.” And I allowed myself to accept the possibility, but I didn’t anticipate.
But right after that second one, I didn’t walk back to my seat. I just stood there. I was like, This is us. This is us. And I say us because it took a team, but I knew it was my moment and when they said it, as you can see, we looked like the Atlanta Braves right after they brought it home. So a few weeks ago, I was at the Hawks MLK day game and I had said, [my nominations are like] the Hawks and the Falcons bringing their first [trophies] home. It’s like the Braves bringing it home.