Miami Kaos is a prolific artist who has illustrated mixtape covers for hundreds of rappers and DJs from around the country. Some of the more vivid images he’s created include 50 Cent reimagined as the Batman villain Two-Face, DJ Mo Hustle holding the decapitated head of Donald Trump, Rick Ross punching through the chest of Young Jeezy, and rapper Marc Shyst about to get hit with a tidal wave of syrup. But followers of this Harlem-bred comic book lover may have also noticed that in recent years his Twitter feed has taken a predominantly political bent. More specifically, he’s started to espouse views in-line with conservative, right-leaning thinkers.
Vocalizing these perspectives are rare in the hip-hop world, where if political support is given, it’s usually show to Democrats. We got Miami Kaos on the phone to discuss his frustrations with discussions about black on black crime, the current presidential candidates, and his problems with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Were you always interested in politics?
Yeah, but I’ve always kept it quiet. Politically I consider myself a Conservatarian, a Conservative/Libertarian. I definitely knew I wasn’t a Democrat or on the left, and culturally when you have those views, you keep them to yourself because you’re the minority. But then I started seeing the propaganda, and at some point you open your eyes to some of these things. I was looking around and everything I was seeing and what people were saying, it wasn’t really matching up to what I thought. Not to say stuff didn’t happening, it just wasn’t as bad as y’all were making it seem. I just wanted to be more vocal about it.
When did you start being more vocal?
About two or three years ago. I wasn’t very happy with Obama’s presidency. I felt that with the state of the country he should’ve focused on more job creation instead of healthcare. He took that route and bailed out everybody but the people. Big auto got bailed out, the banks and all that. Everybody got bailed out except the people that lost their homes, and I thought that was wrong. There was no stimulus package, there was no program to suspend mortgage payments for at least a year so people could get back on their feet. They didn’t do that, they just took people’s houses.
Did you grow up with conservative leanings?
I came to them on my own, but one of the things I would say is that I did grow up in a home with a mother and a father present and I had a lot of male influences in my life, I had mentors and uncles. If you see me on Twitter, the same way I talk is the way people would talk to me. I’ve always had heavy-handed guidance, no one ever sugarcoated anything for me. Even in school, if I brought home an 85 and my grade use to consistently be a 90, I wouldn’t get, “Oh you still did well above the passing grade of 65.” Instead, I would get, “You know you can do better than this.”
I was raised with accountability, and I do not see any accountability in my culture. That’s what started turning me off to liberalism. I started reading up on Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, and Jason Riley. I started reading about the soft bigotry of low expectations.
When you look at liberals, all they talk about is police reform. Nobody says, “You know what, be compliant when a cop stops you, don’t argue with the police.” And again, I was raised that way. I was raised by cops. My mother is a cop, my little sister is a cop, my uncle is a cop, so I also grew up with NYPD surrounding me, literally. When I was a kid growing up in Harlem, my mother told me, “Beware of the people outside the door, those are the people you have to steer away from more than anybody.” And it’s true. The first the person who ever pointed a gun at me was somebody who looked like me. The first person who ever said I was ugly or called me a nigger was someone who looked like me. I’m 42 years old, and to this day no white man has ever called me a nigger.
“No one ever told me I’m a victim or I can’t do anything, and now you’re telling me I’m powerless? Every decision I’ve made in my life, I made that decision, good or bad.”
Do you think you’re fortunate that that’s been your experience, or do you think that level blatant racism no longer exists?
I think it’s a reaction to what goes on. Have I ever run up on white people cursing or doing something crazy? No, maybe that’s why I never elicited that response [of being called a nigger]. But has a white person just seen me in passing and called me a nigger in their head, sure, but I don’t worry about that because I don’t know about that. It’s the whole tree falling in the forest, you know?
When Obama went to the memorial [for the police officers killed in Dallas], he kind of was lecturing the cops, and some of the cops started tweeting, “Why are we being spoken to like this by the president?” So we were talking about the cops and my friend said something along the lines of, “When a white cop see you, he thinks you’re a nigger.” And I said, ‘If that’s what you want to believe, that’s cool, but don’t project that on me.” That shows how our people go through their lives thinking, they think that somebody sees you and is thinking, “You nigger.” And that’s liberalism, liberals feel like they have to protect everyone and they tell them they’re victims.
It creates this dichotomy that I find funny because on one end if you have black pride and you’re like, “We did this, we built civilization,” and then on the other hand you’re powerless. The new definition of racism—because we’re in a George Orwell era with the whole new speak—is that in order to be a racist you have to have the power to oppress somebody. Therefore, if you are not a racist you do not have the power to oppress, which means you are powerless. No one ever told me I’m a victim or I can’t do anyting, and now you’re telling me I’m powerless? So I refuse that. Every decision I’ve made in my life, I made that decision, good or bad.
You said earlier that people should be compliant when dealing with police. Many would argue that even if you’re not totally compliant, that doesn’t justify the use of lethal or excessive force. Do you think there should be reforms on how police interact with people?
There are a lot of police out there who shouldn’t be cops. They should definitely do mental checks on a lot of these guys. There’s definitely police misconduct.
But look at crime situations. Imagine getting out of a cop car and trying to subdue somebody who is resisting and all around you, you have cameras on you, you have people yelling and screaming at you, you never know when a gun is going to come out of the crowd. That’s not an easy thing. So for me, wouldn’t it be easy to make to make [a police officer’s] job easier?
How would you make his job easier?
To comply. There was one shooting, Charles Kinsey, when the dude totally complied and the cops still fired. That was gross incompetence. Whatever that cop’s punishment, he should take it, whether it’s firing him or sending him back to the academy. He’s not ready to be on the street, maybe he should be behind a desk somewhere, but he shouldn’t be in high-pressure situations like that. But when [the police] see somebody with a gun or they know they have a gun, it’s kind of hard to sit back and judge how that person should react when trying to secure a gun from that person.
“A lot of these people would have no career now if suddenly we weren’t talking about race as much as we do. So that’s the racket.”
What are your thoughts on Black Lives Matter activists?
I’m against it because my main goal is for ending black on black crime, that’s where this all started from. I was seeing all the numbers of black on black crime, and black on black murder, and I just kept trying to figure out why we can’t end this. I started looking around trying to see how many people were actually speaking on it, because I thought if enough people speak on it, maybe it would end. I started with rap, maybe if they would speak on it, then maybe people would listen. But they wouldn’t speak on it. Then I started looking at it politically, and I said, “Who’s speaking on it?” And I saw the right was speaking on it.
If somebody is talking about it, then why isn’t there any change being affected? Then I looked at the left and I saw how immediately the left would shoot [people speaking about black on black crime] down. So I started looking at what people call “vested interests.” If this side stopped yelling that people are racist, how many people would be out of a job? Al Sharpton, his thing would be down. Jesse Jackson, there would be no place for him. You start looking at a lot of people: MSNBC, [Marc] Lamont Hill, Touré. A lot of these people would have no career now if suddenly we weren’t talking about race as much as we do. So that’s the racket.
Then Black Lives Matter came up, and nobody is still talking about black on black murders. That had me automatically against them because that’s what I want, I want to end black men getting killed everyday. Why is nobody talking about it, really? Everybody tables it. Whenever somebody on the right says, “What about black on black crime?” the left automatically goes, “This isn’t the right time to talk about that.” So when is the time we talk about it?
On social media when you bring it up, people say, “We’re not talking about that right now.” When are we going to have that discussion? It’s the same thing with the racial discussion. You know when we can end racism or at least get it back to where it used to be? When people from the left stop calling people racist for having opinions.
You told me you believe that the country is more divided than ever. Do you think Donald Trump is the person who will fix that?
No, he is not, he definitely won’t.
Who is your ideal presidential pick?
I like John Kasich, I almost would have went with Cruz as well. Ted Cruz’s policies are kind of good, but there is just something about they way he looks, he just looks distrustful. But the one thing I will say is that I will never [vote] Democrat again.
Had you previously voted for Democrats?
I was one of the people who voted for Obama in 2008 just because he was black. All I knew about him was that he was a first term senator from Chicago, which I didn’t hold that against him. When I [later] got on the crime stats, I realized this dude is from Chicago, but he never talked about Chicago. I subscribe to the Chicago Tribune and every Monday morning I get the stats: Sixteen shot, four killed between Friday and Sunday night. Every weekend there is double-digit shootings.
Are you going to vote in November?
I am going to vote in November. I may vote for Jill Stein, but I know I will not vote for Hillary. That’s the one thing that boggles my mind.
Why aren’t you interested in voting for Hillary Clinton?
The fact that she represents the establishment. Most of the things that I feel have gone wrong with the country, one point or another, she’s part of it. Her name is on the Iraq War, Afghanistan… Bush gets blamed for it, but she agreed to it, too. She represents the establishment, she represents corruption. I’m one of those people, I believe the definition of insanity is if you keep doing something over and over again and you keep getting the same results. At some point you need to try something different.
You’ve said a lot of the issues you have with Black Lives Matter and the left is that they’re not addressing the violence within the black community, but you work with many rappers. Some would say that the ideas that rap is putting out there and profiting on are ideas you disagree with. How do you reconcile working with people who some argue promote the problems that you feel are not being addressed?
If you’ve seen some of my work in the last few years, I really made a huge effort to not depict gun violence on the covers. And thank god, we’re in a free market society where if someone really wants me to do something, if I don’t want to, I say no. That started with religion. I’ve done a lot of covers over the years, and if you look through them, you hardly see any religious imagery in there. Me being a Christian, I felt like that was something that I’m not going to do. Only one time, with Remy Martin, I did her crucified and it took a conference call of people to talk me into doing it. And sidenote, when that cover came, within a month or two she shot the girl and ended up going to jail.
Or in some cases, depending on my relationship with the artist, I talk them through it. Within the last month, I got about five people I knew, they all wanted to do projects depicting cop killing. And I’ll just tell them nope. Either I tell them, “No, I’m not doing it” or “Look, do you really think that’s something that you want to put out right now? It could lead to you being investigated. It could get you attention that you don’t want.” When I was more closeted with my views, I did a few [covers of cop killing]. I don’t want to censor people. If it’s somebody that I have a big relationship with and they really want something, I will try to find a tasteful way to do it. I don’t want to glorify gang banging and drug dealing, and I don’t want to glorify killing cops, and I don’t want to glorify killing innocent black people. And vice versa I wouldn’t do a cover if somebody said, “I want you to draw a cover of a cop shooting a little kid.”