Did you know Grammys rap winner Killer Mike is also a very astute businessman?

BY Nii Ntreh February 5, 2024 8:53 AM EDT
Killer Mike rapping.
Michael "Killer Mike" Render. Photo Credit: NME

More than two decades after he first grabbed a golden gramophone at America’s most celebrated music awards show in 2003, Killer Mike was back again on the night of February 4, 2024 to accentuate his legendary status among rappers in the annals of history. The Atlanta-born rapper swept the rap table, taking home the nods for Best Rap Album, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song.

Michael Santiago Render, as he was named at birth, is a veteran whose music career started in 1995. But fame came with a feature on Outkast’s 2000 album Stankonia in which Render added a verse to Snappin’ and Trappin’. The following year, Outkast had Render on another song, a bigger one titled The Whole World, which won the Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.

His debut album, Monster, came out in 2003. He then had a second released in 2008 even though it was recorded in 2005. From the 2010s, Render was better identified as one-half of Run The Jewels, a duo that has had moderate success over the last decade.

Although Render, 48, has not been very commercially successful with his music, there is a general agreement among rap enthusiasts that he is perhaps one of America’s most exceptional lyricists who has stayed artistically relevant in multiple decades. That is, in truth, not a mean feat given certain factors such as the volume of rap music that is annually produced, the number of new artists springing up every week and the fluidity of the sound and sensibilities of rap.

This fact itself was not lost on Render who received his Grammy saying, “if you’re 78 rapping about how many girls you got in the nursing home, make sure we keep hip-hop alive.”

After he had received his award, Killer Mike also said backstage: “At 20 years old, I thought it was cool to be a drug dealer. At 40, I started to live with the regrets and the things I’ve done. At 45, I started to rap about it. At 48, I stand here as a man full of empathy and sympathy for the things I’ve done.”

While music provides an outlet for his ingenuity, the rapper does not limit his business aspirations to what he raps in the booth. Since 2015, Render has held himself up as a model for what high-achieving Black individuals must be connected with: opening up places of work for members of the community. This economic dimension to Killer Mike’s popularity received further boost through his friendship and erstwhile support for Vermont senator Bernie Sanders when the latter run for president in 2016 and 2020.

Graffitis SWAG Barbershop

Along with his wife Shana, Render opened a barbershop in Atlanta named Graffitis SWAG (shave, wash, and groom) in 2011. He had wanted to open the business for the better part of a decade before 2011 but his wife was the one who interrupted his procrastination.

Graffitis SWAG has gained popularity in Atlanta owing to its peculiar decorations and functions. The walls of the barbershop honor iconic Black people. This is a move Render hopes would lift up men (who are more likely to be seen in barbershops) to pursue and opportunities for real “economic elevation”. Graffitis SWAG has, in more than a decade, become a gathering place for many people in Atlanta, even to the extent of hosting events in the city.

Render has in the past revealed plans to open 150 shops across the United States with particular focus on predominantly Black communities.

Online banking

Render also boasts investments in online banking. In 2020, he, in partnership with digital media producer Ryan Glover and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, founded Greenwood, an online bank. Greenwood’s products were advertised as targeting Black and Hispanic communities and “anyone else who wants to support Black-owned businesses.” Greenwood was valued around $300 million in 2021.

In 2023, and despite initial challenges, Greenwood bought Kinly, a mobile banking app that offers a suite of financial services, including mobile check deposit, peer-to-peer payments, and budgeting tools. This was read as part of Greenwood’s intentions to expand, diversify its portfolio and maybe even pivot in the future in response to challenges.


Music is not the only art form Render thrives in. He has acting credits that go back to the 2000s and he has appeared as dramatized versions of himself or taken on the role of characters. To date, he has about 20 films under his belt, some of which includes voice acting.