The Drive Interview: Killer Mike from Run the Jewels

The rapper-turned-entrepreneur sits down to talk ’95 Impalas, learning to tinker on a Plymouth Volare, and why he daily drives a Hellcat.

byJonathon Klein| UPDATED Feb 6, 2020 12:36 AM
The Drive Interview: Killer Mike from Run the Jewels

It doesn't matter whether it’s a room filled with a thousand screaming fans or a more intimate space with just you and a photographer. No matter the size, if Killer Mike is talking, you’re hanging onto every consonant and vowel as he welcomes you into his world of music, politics, wisdom, and tire-smoking machinery.

Killer Mike, whose driver’s license says Michael Render, is an Atlanta native representing one half of the bombastic rap duo Run the Jewels. Known for their cutting and politically charged lyrics, its ability to transcend cultural groups, and for recording absolute bangers for in-car stereo test tracks—"Legend Has It" is currently #1 on The Drive’s own list—Run the Jewels has propelled Mike into the spotlight where he’s used it to better himself, his family, and feed his insatiable appetite for all things supercharged.

Mike’s gasoline indoctrination began, like so many of our own histories, with his family. Both his biological and adoptive father were car addicts, as was his grandfather and much of his extended family. His childhood was filled with Hot Wheels, go-karts, Camaros, a Ford Galaxie, and a handful of other muscle cars stoking the fires of fanaticism. It’s a trend that continued into adulthood where, as is a common thread connecting enthusiasts, Mike’s life would be shaped in far greater meaning by these supposedly inanimate objects.

Jonathan B. Harper

Though Mike was under the tutelage of Outkast’s Big Boi before he and El-P—Jaime Meline, the other half of Run the Jewels—got together, and had a number of small successes on the music charts, the idea of a successful rap career began to dwindle in 2011. Never being one to sit on his hands, Mike switched gears to start a barbershop, The SWAG Shop, with his wife Shana in Atlanta. But starting the business required selling one of his most prized possessions: a mint 1995 Chevrolet Impala SS.

As Mike describes it, the sale of his Impala still feels like a fresh wound. But through strife comes reward, and not only is The SWAG Shop successful with a second location open in the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, it was soon after the sale that Mike and El-P joined forces. Run the Jewels’ success gave him the ability to buy another Impala, along with a Buick Grand National, a Mercedes-Benz S550, and a Hellcat he affectionately calls ZombieCat. He still pines for his Impala, and he’d be more than happy to drop a few notes to have it back in his garage if the man who bought it ever wants to sell it back.

Mike’s political activism has extended his reach further than just his music or his car affair could have allowed and brought him to national attention with his Netflix show “Trigger Warning,” his routine appearances on Real Time with Bill Maher, his endorsement of Bernie Sanders for President, and Run the Jewels’ ability to speak to a nation’s populace who are coming of age in one of the most turbulent political times of the past 50 years. 

The Drive caught up with Killer Mike while he was in Los Angeles recording Run the Jewel’s fourth studio album, RTJ4—dropping sometime this spring—to talk about what makes a great track for cruising, why muscle cars have a certain aromatic smell, his take on electric cars, why it’s important to have a conversation with fellow enthusiasts, and what he still wants to achieve.

Jonathan B. Harper

The Drive:

Can you talk about this love of talking with fellow car people. Why is it important to have a conversation with other fellow car people?

Mike Render: 'Cause in a world where, from the time you're probably, say, four or five, when you first get indoctrinated in school, everyone tells you about separate and rarely do we talk about the connectivity between people. Cars are one of the things that connect people and it makes it easier for people to converse and build relationships and friendships around. And that's a dope thing, you know?

You can have whatever cultural assumptions about one another as a group of people that live separately, but at the drag strip, everybody's betting green money to see who gets that car down that strip. Don't matter what color it is. I'm going for the team with the most wins, you know. I've had more cool conversations around things like that.

Last time I was out here, me and my manager just seen this clean car with an old man driving it. I didn't know what the fuck it was at first. It was an Oldsmobile, I think he later told me it was a '62. It was a coupe. It was black. It was badass. Pipes out the sides, but it was so clean. I'm like, this is not a hoopty. Somebody’s restored this car. Old man looks like he could be anything from a successful agent or a fucking accountant or lawyer. White shirt, suspenders. He catches me looking, rolls the window down, lets me know what it is, hits the motor and, man, rips on it. He had to be in his early 70s. I could tell that was the joy of his life and, you know, I enjoy watching it happen. He knew that.

TD: Right, he knew you were a gearhead.

MR: Yep. Same as when I pull up in a Hellcat. I pulled right next to this SUV as I was leaving Atlanta to come here. Pull up a next to a family, you could tell they were from the suburbs. The parents don't even notice. The kids are going fucking nuts in the back.

TD: They're going bananas.

MR: Yeah. You know what I mean? 'Cause not only do I have a Hellcat, but it's also lowered, it's all blacked out, it looks like the Batmobile. So, in that instant, I roll up, the dad looks over and I say, "Your kids are looking in the back." And he looks and smiles and I just burn rubber right off. It was the most joyous thing of my childhood when my dad took me to the track. You know, I grew up in a very insulated world in Atlanta. Most of my neighborhood was black. My teachers were black. Schools were nothing but black people. My mayor was black. My police chief was black. You know, getting that interaction [at the track], it just helped me be a better human being.

Not better than anyone, but to be the best possible Michael I can be. It helped me to not go into the world with as many prejudices that the world gives you. You know, every prejudice you get isn't even out of a place of hatred. Some just fear. I remember listening to the radio in Atlanta, to talk radio when I was in high school and there was this one guy who, all he did was just tell people in the suburbs, "Be afraid of going to Atlanta. You're gonna die."

So, I used to look back and, like, why were the Hawks games underrepresented at times, with the seats being filled. It was simply because you have someone actively telling people to be afraid. And I'm just an encourager of people knowing one another and knowing people who don't look like them and the best place to do that around, for me, has been around cars, whether it's toy cars like Hot Wheels or being at the drag strip or going down to Daytona. You know, all of that shit to me has put me around people I normally would not have been around.

TD: Right, right, right.

MR: But you put these two groups of people together and here we go, having a ball to the smell of burning rubber and gasoline around us.

Jonathan B. Harper

TD: That's the way to do it. At least for us. Let's go a little bit further back. You talk about your dad and the track. But you posted a picture on Instagram recently of you in an IndyCar kid’s car. Was that from your dad too?

MR: My grandpa.

TD: Your grandpa?

MR: Yeah, my grandpa. You know, I have two dads. I have a bio and non-bio dad. So, one of my first memories of my bio dad is he had a ‘74, ‘75 Camaro. It was white, all black interior, and it was dope. Like, I’d be in the front, no seatbelt, or in the back, just fallin’ asleep right there…

TD: I'm old enough that I remember those days, too.

MR: Yeah, so, I remember my dad selling this car. I was fucking heartbroken, which is why you will hear me, in interviews, tell dads, "Don't sell your car."

TD: Ha, you’re getting ahead of me right now with that!

MR: [Laughs] All right. So, that was that and my non-bio dad was into Fords. So, he liked Ford Galaxy, shit like an old Chevelle. I saw both of them, though, kind of sacrifice their cars. It's just like, goddamn, to become family men, which is why my philosophy is, you know, buy your wife an SUV, keep your car and tell wife, "It'll keep your husband home."

But it was really my grandpa. I would see him and my uncles…my uncle, for 30 years, did transmission repairs at Sears. So, my uncle did transmissions there for 30 years, but he also had his own shop that would run while he was at work and then he would run it on the weekends himself. So, I'd go up there and my uncle would pay me to clean off the tools. He would pay me to put things back in order. I had another uncle who did bodywork. I worked more closely with him because I was more into taping off stuff, learning to paint, which I never got very good at.

But my grandpa saw me imitating my uncle, so, he bought me that IndyCar. And that IndyCar turned into another one because I fucked it up going under it, trying to work on it, fucked up the battery. And then it turned into, like, “Let me get this kid a real go-cart.”

He got me a go-cart and I’ll never forget, he put a little two or four horsepower, um…

TD: Like a chainsaw motor?

MR: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, man, when he put that motherfucker in there. I was like, "Oh, I'm primed." Then I got into motor scooters and little minibikes for a second, but the minute he let me get in a four-wheel vehicle again, I was like 13 or 14 years old and it might have been a shitty little Plymouth whatever, but the way I rolled around it and I got looked at ... boy, I was like, "This is it." Yeah. This is it for me. This car shit is what I'm about.

So, my grandfather nurtured my love of cars. Every time we went to K-Mart, he'd buy me Hot Wheels. My non-bio dad would buy me model cars you put together yourself. My dad still sends me them. He drives trucks, so he'll still be out in the middle of the country somewhere or in the Southeast, he'll find them that I don't have, he's like, "I got two. One for me and one for you."

The men in my family love cars. I remember my cousin had a nasty-ass Ford Galaxy. Another had a mean-ass IROC that was just vicious. A couple of my uncles had Monte Carlo SSs. It was a part of the culture, boys in my family, you know. It was either cars or motorcycles and for me it was cars.

Jonathan B. Harper

TD: Are you passing that down now to…

MR: To my sons? Yeah, absolutely. I bought a '66 Skylark. It was interesting. My son and nephew are so close in age, they're like brothers. So, I was like, "Let me get these guys a car."

I bought the Skylark, which I never, like, loved it. I mean, I liked it. I bought it and I got it at a great price, but I can't say it was one of the cars I loved and I had to have. But the same year I bought it, my son and nephew went crazy. In school, they just started doing boy shit.

You start smelling yourself a little bit. So, I'm just like, "Well, I'm definitely not gonna give them a car now." The car was just sitting there. Now, me at their age, had that car pulled up in my driveway…

TD: That would be all you did.

MR: Yep. I’d be a model citizen. Yeah, I'm whatever you want me to do. I got that. My boys are just kind of like, "I'll Uber." I said, "Oh, okay." Now they're finally saying, "Well, I want a car." I'm like, "Well, your mom got a fucking Civic."

So, I parked the [Skylark] at Cutmaster Swiff’s. He's a big brother to me, Dre, and Big Boi. He's Dre's and Big Boi's touring DJ. He's been a literal big brother to us for forever. I told him the boys weren’t getting it. I liked the car but he literally loved it. I saw him washing the car. I saw him take care of it. He always talked shit to me, "Why you drive a fucking Hellcat every day? You've got this beautiful car." And I'm just, "Uh, air conditioning?" You know what I'm saying? It's the fucking summer.

TD: It's Atlanta. Humidity is a thing.

Jonathan B. Harper

MR: Exactly! So, his birthday's in August and, to be honest, when I was on my ass, he gave me a place to record. He gave me encouragement. He did what a good brother does after they're done beating you up. They put their arm around you and say, “Hey, we go this.” The whole Pledge series of tapes, he's a part of that story because he helped me record it. I owed him something and that car was it.

I saw how much he loved it and I called his girl and I was like, "Yo, Kitty." And she was like, "What?" I told her, "Um, don't tell him but the car that y'all got parked in y'all’s driveway? I'm giving it to him. It's his." And she started crying on the phone. She just said, "He loves it." I was like, "I know." And when he got back, I came over and I gave him the keys. I told him, "I just want to tell you happy birthday."

It was the closest I ever got him to crying as a big brother. You know…

TD: So close. So close.

MR: (laughs) But since then, man, he’s let loose. He put the pipes on it, peeking out behind he back wheel, kept the buckets on it. It was crazy. You know, cars are an endearing thing. He’s now got a clean-ass '66 Skylark that's burnt orange and riding on buckets. It was already tuned up, too. The guys over at East Atlanta Motors put it together and that motherfucker scoots.

TD: What engine was that?

MR: It's 350. What's crazy, they tuned it so they got it moving nice, but it's still a pegleg. They didn't posi the rear.

TD: Oh.

MR: But I think he loves it. Shit, even peglegs are nasty, it moves.

TD: It'll still burn that one wheel off.

MR: (laughs) Exactly, exactly.

Jonathan B. Harper

TD: Your own car collection isn't the norm, Hellcat, Impala SS, S Class, and you’re working on a Grand National, right?

MR: Yeah, I got a Grand National out here that Ron [Baugh] from Hoonigan is looking after. We grew up in the same neighborhood.

TD: Really?

MR: Yeah. His grandfather was one of the highest-ranking black officials coming out of segregation in the Atlanta City Police Department. My biological father was a policeman and we grew up in Collier Heights together, which was an enclave of working-class, middle-class, and upper-class blacks that they essentially gentrified from poor whites in the '50s and '60s. Dr. King's parents lived there, too.

I was in the middle-class section a little deeper in but, yeah, we’ve remained friends. He came out to USC and got into the car world, car culture. Me, him, and Mike Musto are like the trifecta, the three musketeers. But we’ve been putting that together out here and his friend Anthony, shout out to Anthony, let us store it out here in his garage.

TD: It's always great when you have people that you can store things with. It's like, “I'll be back in like three months.”

MR: Yeah, yeah. Those people that definitely are on my list. It's crazy 'cause the Grand National was actually my dream car. And, probably one of my three favorites…it's my favorite muscle car. The GNX is evil, but the Grand National is yeah, it’s my favorite.

TD: Right. What stoked this love of more esoteric cars? Was it your later financial success? Is that kind of what made it not the flashy type of normal?

MR: Nah. I like what I like. I like American muscle and I like engineering. I will do the old man shit in a few years and get a Porsche. You know, I'd get the 911, just go GT, just go all fucking nuts, get it lime green. I'll be gray-haired and shit (laughs). Like, I'm gonna do that but in the immediate, man…what I try to do is fulfill all the dreams of the 12- to 15-year-old Michael.

Hence, I'm wearing infrared Michael Jordan's. I drive a Hellcat every day or a '96 Impala, you know. There are things that you want as you're a young adult, as a teen. I don't want to be trying to keep up with other rappers or other people.

You know what I mean? A lot of rappers, they'll buy things like Ferrari, they don't know what it means. You know, it's cool to have, to have Ferrari's 458, 488, but do you understand Enzo Ferrari only built the car company because he cared about racing. He didn't give a fuck.

TD: He hated road cars.

MR: Yeah! You're only driving one of the most beautiful, memorable cars in the world because a man so passionately cared about racing.

You know, we only have Lamborghini as a company because that guy went to Enzo and said, "Yo, I think I have something to fix your oil leak crisis." And next thing you know...

TD: Enzo tells Ferruccio, "Fuck off."

MR: (laughs) Exactly. That to me, that's amazing. That's what, you know people think it's just mechanics and machines and they are but there's a soul that goes into it. You know, there's a, there's a real soul. So, yeah, I buy the cars that move my soul. The '96 Impala. I want it. I had to sell my '95 Impala to buy my first barbershop. It was heartbreaking to me.

Jonathan B. Harper

TD So, how do you feel about that? Like, now that you've achieved this success, The Swag Shop is doing really good, you are going into the Hawk's stadium…

MR: We're at State Farm Arena and our plan is to expand to 10 more in the next 18 months and then a 150 probably the next round.

TD: So with that success, does it still hurt knowing that you had to sell that car?

MR: Abso-fucking-lutely. You don't get over it. I'm very happily married. You know what I'm saying, it still hurts a little bit that Keisha left me for Gary or whoever the fuck his name was. You know? It absolutely still stings but I know I sold it to a good guy. I sold it to a guy in Mississippi and he took good care of the car.

But if he ever calls me and wants to sell me my fucking car back, I'll buy it.

TD: Immediately.

MR: Yeah. Currensy is a friend of mine. He has the '94, '95 and '96 and he don't let me forget it. He reminds me.

TD: Just sends you pictures.

MR: Exactly. He’ll send me, "I got the trifecta, bro." I'm just like, "You only got one kid. I got four." But my plan is to have all three years in all three colors.

TD: That’s how you one-up him. Going back to why parents shouldn’t get rid of their cars. Is it to keep them in the community? Is it to keep them busy? Is it keeping them from doing stupid things on the side?

MR: It's a little bit of all of that. My mother-in-law called my wife and said, "As long as he's giving his money and attention to cars, he's not giving it to other women. Leave him alone." And, I think that cars do that. You know, they make you learn some stuff on your own.

My grandfather, when I remember when my grandmother and him brought that '85 Regal home, it was shiny, it was beautiful, it was gorgeous, and I knew I couldn't touch it. But with that said, their old Plymouth Volare, that's where I learned how to change brakes. That's how I learned how to change oil. That's where I learned how to do even the shit I didn't end up doing for myself. He made sure I learned and knew. So, that's what it does.

You're a dad, have a kid, you keep the car you love. It keeps you and your kids interested, whether it's a girl or boy, you can show them how to change oil. It keeps you focused on that car and family versus adventurous things in the streets. And cruising is a family thing. I believe that. Me and my wife, she cruising in the S550. That’s hers.

Jonathan B. Harper

My thing is, with her, when we're riding around in the S550 playing fucking Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, listening to jazz, talking shit, we’re just cooling, you know. When we're in my Hellcat, which she hates some days, it's a fire ride. We're listening to the fucking rap music or rock. I'm doing donuts, going sideways down the street. But if I had to give that car up, it'd crush me. So, and I love her car, it's a spaceship, but it's a radically different feeling.

TD: Very.

MR: I'm a fan of dad's keeping their cars. I think you're a better dad. Not better in terms of…I think dads that try hard to be better dads are better, period. I think it grounds you. You know, that car keeps you at home. That car keeps you and your kids next to each other on Saturdays, bullshitting around with it and the woman that you love will find that the love that you pour into that family. The happier you are around that car, you seem to be a happier guy around the house.

I'm sad as shit when I can't drive something fast.

Jonathan B. Harper


(laughs) I don't know if my wife used to think I was bullshitting her that I would get angry and would just fucking drive around 285. So, the city of Atlanta is within the expressway called 285. It's like a big donut. I would just drive that motherfucker sometimes, just vroom, but I know where to look out for cops and shit and where I can kiss a 100 and where I can't.

She got pissed with me a few nights ago and she did the same thing. I was like, "I told you. Shit's kind of refreshing, right?"

TD: 100 is great. Go to Germany and you're...

MR: That was the only thing I regretted when we toured Germany. We were in a fucking Sprinter and we…

TD: You're still probably doing a 120.

MR: Yeah, but I would love to be behind the wheel right now.

They're very American in their confidence in Germany. America's like, you're here, buy a Ford, buy a muscle car, speak English. And the Germans are kind of the same. We have Porsche, learn some German, go fast, go…

TD: Figure it out?

MR: Figure it out. And I love it. It was a great country to show the love of cars. I've been really kind of harping on my wife about I want to get a 63 or 65 Mercedes [S-Class] but she said, "I'm about to get another one, so just drive this S550 to get comfortable."

A friend of mine out here, Big U, has an S63 out [in LA] and at the end of the day of driving it, I was like, “You probably need to get transmission looked at. It’s pausing.” I wanted to donuts and everything in it.

TD: What year?

MR: '17.

TD: Yeah, that gearbox isn’t great for donuts.

MR: That's what I'm saying. They've got so many safeguards.

TD: Except the E63. That thing is a hooligan.

MR: Yo, my wife and I did Gridlife. So, you're with drift cars, drifting and I'm in the camera car behind them. The camera car's relatively safe, but we're fucking bumper to bumper. We were so close that when they slid, we’d come out the smoke, it'd be them sideways and us. It was pretty amazing. That I think was the E63.

TD: People that photograph drift stuff, they’re...

MR: Larry Chen is fucking the bravest motherfucker in the world.

Jonathan B. Harper

TD: Totally. A colleague did it with me. He was in a 911 behind me and in the front trunk, hood open, being driven by one of my friends with no visibility, going about maybe 65, 70 miles an hour.

MR: Fast enough to die.

TD: Maybe four feet off my bumper as I'm completely sideways in a ZL1 1LE Camaro.

MR: That's amazing, man.

TD: And were just like, hey, we made it out fine.

MR: That's adrenaline. You get geeked off that shit. I can't say it's better than sex but it's damn close.

TD: It's real close.

MR: Yeah, I can't even front.

Jonathan B. Harper

TD: Back to the S550, you're probably the perfect person to ask this. You’re a master of rhythm and flow, what is the perfect driving track? What's the perfect track for testing audio and why is one of the best tracks to blaze through the desert RTJ's “Love Again?”

MR: [Laughs] An audio test track is…so, I went and beefed up the Impala’s system. When I'm listening to some shit straight out of the studio, some rap shit, the Impala is where I want to hear it.

I remember seeing Ludacris and Lil John do the same thing. They’d leave the studio right from a Stankonia session and walk out to their car. They’d put a CD in and crank it up. Because you want a certain amount of knock and sub, you want it warm and that's what the Impala now gives me. It gives me a real feel for what the track sounds like. I've got everything done right, but it really is for the warmth of the base. The feel, how it's gonna feel, because if it feels right in the car, you know how it's gonna feel right in concert, too.

In terms of what's a great track to arrive in the S550, I like anything Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Donald Burke is dope. Miles [Davis] always. It's cool to get a little stoned and ride to Miles. Now, I'm not driving. I say riding because my wife is usually driving at that point. I also like Zeppelin. Dazed and Confused in my wife's Mercedes is a beautiful experience coming home from the club.

I don't know, man. It just feels perfect. Like, the interior lights are beautiful. The lights come on at night and you're in a spaceship. You know, it's easy to get up to a hundred in that car and not even know you’re doing 100.

TD: Very easy.

Jonathan B. Harper

MR: Yeah. So, you're doing a 100 mile an hour, I'm listening to, "I've been dazed and confused" and you're coming home, it's like being in a Tarantino movie.

You look around you. My wife's next to me. There’s one of our homies in front of me. The brake lights are kind of shining on her. It's just this beautiful red but, if that's not there, it's just beautiful blue that illuminates her from the car.

So, dazed and confused is...leaving the strip club, you're a little dazed. Like, how the fuck did I spend a thousand dollars and my wife helped me? I love the drive home. But, if I had to say, during the day, I'm on some Sinatra or some Nat King Cole or something, but at night it's Zeppelin. You know what I'm saying?

TD: Something to go along with the moment?

MR: Exactly. It makes it feel cinematic. And when I drive my old schools, I get to use CDs again. It's all the shit we loved in the '90s. Some Snoop, I might be playing Nine Inch Nails, you might hear anything from the '90s like Cyprus 'cause then I'm a teenager getting to drive a car for the first time again.

TD: It brings you back to that time.

MR: Exactly. Exactly.

Jonathan B. Harper

TD: Changing it up, you're an outspoken activist who's funneled a good portion of your own earnings back into your community. Given your love for cars and your penchant for starting businesses, is the car world something you'd want to enter in some fashion?

MR: In some capacity. It's just about the opportunity. I don’t go into everything. I got to make money but I just want to make money doing cool stuff. I have to have a passion for it. I got a call [recently] from a friend of mine who's a car guy and he's like, "Yo, I've been thinking about starting this little niche business around the toy cars that we collect." And I was like, "Damn, that's actually a pretty good idea. It's pretty cheap to do and toy stores are nonexistent anymore." So, I might be doing something cool.

TD: Interesting.

MR: That doesn't involve me having to manufacture a rim. That doesn't involve me starting a shop and over-promising and holding people's cars, two, three, four years, you know what I mean? That's just from a very simple entryway and what I mean by this, if you bring your kid to get a haircut at my barbershop, he gets a free Hot Wheel and if his sister's with him, she does, too.

TD: I can't go to the store without getting my daughter a new Hot Wheels.

MR: [Laughs] That's how I rock. I knew that if I went to the store with my grandma and grandpa when I was younger and I just acted halfway decent, just resist the fucking urge to spaz out, I knew I was gonna leave with a Hot Wheels or a GI Joe doll, you know what I'm saying?

TD: She now just sees us pass the Hot Wheels section and she just points. And she's just looking and I'm like, “Not yet.”

MR: Like, “Let me have it.” [Laughs] I would pop the motherfuckers open right there at the store.

TD: So does she.

MR: [Laughs] My grandmother eventually learned to get them on the exit 'cause if she gave it to me when we first walked in, “POP." That thing was getting popped.

Jonathan B. Harper

TD: So, you tend to exist outside of society's labels. You shrug off things that you should or shouldn't care about. How does that work with looking at the future of the car and perhaps it being electric?

MR: I argue with my friends all the time. I have a friend who is all about Tesla. I'm not the biggest fan of them. Not because I'm not a fan of the technology. Love their door handles.

TD: Eh.

MR: I do. I do love the door handles. I mean, I love the concept. Let me say that.

TD: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The execution, maybe not…

MR: Right. But I love the concept of having the smooth body lines and I get why people are into it. But, just as a car, it just looks plain to me. It's like, “Oh mom, you got an electric Mazda.” That's how I feel about them.

TD: It really does look like an electric Mazda.

MR: No bullshit, that ain't hate. A developer who's a friend and mentor to me and this man is rich, rich. I asked him, “So, why do you drive a Tesla?” He looked at me and said, "Same reason you drive the Hellcat. It's just a toy. I've had everything else." And I was like, good answer.

TD: Solid answer.

Jonathan B. Harper

MR: I don't think America's gonna go totally electric, just to be frank, people like gasoline. People like the smell of burning tires, burning fuel. People like being able to burn rubber.

TD: Fuel and tires are great things to immolate.

MR: Exactly. I don't see that ending. Now, I do see certain cities like Los Angeles, New York lending themselves toward that way but I'm from the South. There's still a lot of land, still a lot of green shit, still a lot of racetracks.

I don't think I'm ever gonna see an electric Daytona 500, you know?

TD: I don't think so.

MR: I think for the average, everyday citizen whose car is just a tool for them to get back and forth, they may eventually go electric. I think that enthusiasts, like the guys in this room, I think you're gonna get some type of hybrid, maybe. Maybe there's one electric car in the household, but fuel is always gonna be the way for me.

You know, even though we're not on the carbureted side anymore, there's just something about the exhaust.

TD: There's a scent.

MR: Yes. There's literally a smell with the carbureted car. There’s nothing else like it. I remember my grandfather taking me out in the cold, showing me you have to adjust the carburetor depending on what season it is like. That just gives you a more intimate love and feel of your car. I don't ever think we're gonna do away with gas.

TD: Would you ever get an electric car?

MR: (laughs) Fucking no.

Jonathan B. Harper

TD: (laughs) So when someone comes up to you with, like, the new Lotus electric hypercar. Does that have something to make you even consider it?

MR: I'd have to see. I mean, am I gonna come home tired and shit from the studio and plug up my car? Probably not.

Is there a gas station an eighth of a mile from my house? Yeah. You know what I'm saying? I haven't seen one that was cool enough to drive me crazy yet. That's it. Part of the love of cars is just the scene. It isn’t there yet for electrics. Like, I saw my buddy the other day, my old ... my, I wanted my oldest son's first car to be and IROC Z from the '80's because I remember...

TD: 'Cause it's rad.

MR: Exactly. And the lines are forever. I remember the people liking the Trans Am more. I can remember people liking everything else more and me being a kid like, “How the fuck don't you like it?” My mom went and got the Firebird and I told her, “Why didn't you get Shell's car?” It was her best friend and her cousin. I'm like, “Shell got the IROC. Why didn't you get the IROC?”

And the Firebird, she hated it within four years. It was, this shit's weak. But the IROC never got weak and now I'm seeing young guys get it. I just saw a young guy at the oil change center. I was like, "Is this your Camaro?" He's said, "Yeah, yeah. I wanted the IROC but I don't make enough money to drive a V8 yet." He had the V6 version but it looked beautiful.

The IROC time is coming. You know what I'm saying. I wanted my older son's first car to be an IROC but was into skateboarding. He wasn't as into driving as we were. I mean, he's got a car now. He just got a girlfriend. That'll fucking change it.

TD: Immediately, “Oh, I don't really want to be driven around by my dad and my mom.”

MR: Exactly.

TD: I almost bought one two years ago.

MR: Yeah, I almost bought the IROC. I really have to stay off the buyer’s pages. You know, my wife's watching. [Laughs]

TD: [Laughs] My wife tells me, "All right. You need to log off."

MR: If I get rich for real, I'm gonna be like Reggie Jackson. Reggie is the man. People see Jay Leno as having this amazing collection, but for American muscle, there's no beating Reggie Jackson. He’s the king of that shit.

Jonathan B. Harper

TD: Last question, after everything you've accomplished, what do you still want to do?

MR: What do I still want to do?

TD: Yeah.

MR: Oh, man. I don't fucking know. That's crazy.

You know, for music, I'd like to get into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As a husband, I'd like to live a very long life with the woman I'm deeply in love with and, you know, we grow to be old together and talk shit about adventures and travel the world, you know, while we're doing the next 30, 40, 50 years, whatever we're blessed with.

As a dad, I would like to be a human being who raised four independent human beings who carry my family's name as I tried to do for my grandparents and my parents. As a businessman, I would like to be someone who leaves a legacy of entrepreneurship that provided jobs, income, and resources to people. As a philanthropist, I would like to be able to have done things that helped create other needs.

And it's not like I'm the best. It's not like I'm the prototype for the best. What I am is a working-class kid who, through education and hard work and talent and belief in himself, has given himself an opportunity to work himself out of the working class into the middle class and provide his family with another plateau to another plateau to raise my family up.

My great-grandparents were landowners. My great-grandmother, who I knew until I was 10 years old when she died, her mother was a slave. Her mother died two years before I was born. Her mother taught her to sew. When I sewed the hole in my wife's pants last week at a convention, that was taught to me by my great-grandmother. So, the daughter of a slave taught me that. They also were wise enough to buy and own their own land. We still have a 33-acre farm in Tuskegee, Alabama. Every house that my grandparents owned, my sister and I own, including my mother's and my grandfather's rental house.

That's, to me, a legacy of hard work. That's the American dream. To have something to leave to the next generation so your family does not have to hit restart and start from a place of poverty. So, I would like to leave for my family, you know, the legacy of my business. I'd like to leave that for my children to have, you know, to be not greater as in better but greater as in the resources they have. And from a philanthropic standpoint, I would like to be able to help create other kids like me that, that take their family name, make good of it, and leave a pathway, um, to further success in this country for the, for the people after them. I want to be the first of my family, not the only.

And, that's what I'd like to be for my community. You know, the first not the only.

TD: That's a great answer.

MR: [Laughs] It's the truth.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.