Killer Mike’s electrifying performance at RiverBeat elevates Memphis rap icons

A memorable night of hip-hop and soul in downtown Memphis
Hulu's "Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told" Atlanta Screening
Hulu's "Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told" Atlanta Screening / Paras Griffin/GettyImages

The RiverBeat Music Festival in Downtown Memphis witnessed an electrifying performance by hip-hop legend Killer Mike on Saturday evening. The Atlanta rapper, known for his thought-provoking lyrics and powerful stage presence, delivered more than just a show. His set on the Stringbend Stage was a mix of hip-hop, church vibes, humor, and serious messages that left the audience in awe.

A southern icon

Killer Mike, whose real name is Michael Render, has been a prominent figure in the hip-hop scene since the early 2000s. His recent work with the duo Run the Jewels has garnered critical acclaim, and his solo album “Michael” was one of last year’s top rap releases. The veteran MC, dressed in an all-white outfit, proudly brought his three Grammy awards back to the South, emphasizing his Southern roots.

Paying homage to Memphis

During his performance, Killer Mike paid tribute to Memphis rap icons. He shouted out the late Gangsta Boo and fellow Three 6 Mafia member DJ Paul, both influential figures in the city’s hip-hop history. DJ Paul played a key role in Killer Mike’s “Michael” project, adding to the album’s authenticity and impact.

Gospel, Grammys, and hard-hitting hits

Backed by Trackstar the DJ and the soulful backing singers, The Mighty Midnight Revival, Killer Mike engaged the crowd with a call-and-response interaction. Quoting from the Gospel of Matthew, he reminded everyone that “wherever two or more are gathered,” something special happens. And special it was! His hour-plus performance included highlights from the “Michael” LP, such as “Down By Law,” “Shed Tears,” “Scientists and Engineers,” and “Exit 9.”

But Killer Mike didn’t stop there. He delved into lesser-known tracks from his catalog and even treated the audience to his collaboration with fellow Atlanta rapper Big Boi on “Kill Jill.” Between songs, he shared insights on relationships, parenting, and addiction, making his performance not only entertaining but also thought-provoking.

What other artists performed at RiverBeat?

Among the memorable performers was the iconic hip-hop group, The Fugees, whose reunion brought a wave of nostalgia and admiration from the crowd with their conscious lyrics and infectious beats.

Grammy-nominated electronic duo Odesza mesmerized the audience with their signature sound, while local favorite Jelly Roll delivered a poignant set that resonated on a personal level with fans.

Other standout acts included Outkast's own Big Boi, paying homage to the festival's Southern roots, and hometown heroes 8Ball and MJG, who celebrated Memphis's rich hip-hop history with their classic hits.

Adding to the festival's diverse lineup were rising stars like Tobe Nwigwe, whose blend of conscious rap and soulful vibes captivated audiences, and indie rock duo The Band Camino, whose electrifying performance showcased infectious melodies and high-energy presence.

A night to remember

As the sun set over Tom Lee Park, Killer Mike’s electrifying energy resonated with fans. His powerful lyrics, combined with the soulful beats, created an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re a die-hard hip-hop fan or a casual listener, Killer Mike’s performance at RiverBeat was a testament to the genre’s enduring impact.