Nothing is sacred in rapper turned TV host Killer Mike’s new show from Netflix.
Michael Render, AKA Killer Mike, is equally at home making freestyle threats to “duct tape your infant daughter” as he is sitting down with Bernie Sanders for a nuanced conversation about tax reform. He’s a rapper, one half Run the Jewels, a talking head on American panel shows, an articulate defender of the United States constitution, an NRA member and advocate, the owner of a chain of barbershops, and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Atlanta’s strip clubs. Now, Netflix has given him his own TV show and, happily, we can report that Trigger Warning with Killer Mike is just as joyous, immense, intelligent and intransigent as its star.
In a press release, Render says the programme is “about examining cultural taboos and giving viewers the space to examine the ‘what ifs’ and ‘why nots’ that limit how some people move and operate in the world… we explore the human condition using non-traditional approaches”. Which is, basically, a highfalutin way of saying that Netflix has forked out a stack of money so Killer Mike can pursue some controversial and offensive projects.
In one episode, for example, he produces a series of educational pornographic videos to help unemployed people find work as labourers. Then, he founds a religion based around sleeping, strippers and Ariana Huffington. The series culminates in Render and his wife buying a plot of land and starting their own micro-nation, New Africa. Think The Chaser’s War on Everything, but bigger, blacker, and better.
If you’re able to watch Trigger Warning in its entirety without finding something repugnant, you probably haven’t been paying attention. This reviewer, for example, thought the New Jesus episode distasteful and poorly thought out. Render takes issue with repressive representations of ‘White Jesus’, and asserts that black people should leave Christianity to worship ‘somebody who looks like them’, disregarding that A) the church has often sought to enculturate itself into different ethnic communities—for example, St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Adelaide features a portrait depicting Mary and a young Jesus as Indigenous, B) that Hindus worship a God with blue skin, another with a cow for a head, and a lady with umpteen arms, despite few Indian people having those particular physical characteristics, and C) that 1.5 billion Muslims exalt Mohammed, who doesn’t ‘look like’ any of his followers, because his depiction is verboten.
Other viewers will, no doubt, be ‘triggered’ elsewhere by Trigger Warning—say, when Render signs a confederate to a hip-hop supergroup, or uses his business acumen to help out the Crips, or tells little school children to abandon their dreams. Does the show explore “the human condition using non-traditional approaches”? Sure, but, it’s also “balls to the wall, put your nuts on the table” TV.
Were a lesser human being at the helm, a show like Trigger Warning might have been nothing but pointless, edge-lord unpleasantness. Yet Killer Mike, a profound and thoughtful individual, holds it all together. Like South Park before it, Trigger Warning almost always manages to find something transcendent within shock. Thank God for Michael Render.
Trigger Warning with Killer Mike is now streaming on Netflix