Sir Michael Rocks knows more about animals than most people, let alone most rappers. The Chicago artist mentions his affinity for all living creatures in a number of his records, but on “Fuck SeaWorld” from his 2014 album Banco, Sir Michael’s love turns into activism. At the end of the song he adlibs, “SeaWorld, you bitch ass niggas can’t live as long as I’m out here.”
And dude might have been right about that. Following growing protests around the marine park’s practices, SeaWorld announced last week that it would halt its orca breeding program as part of a plan to reform its image and its mission. The changes also mean that so-called “theatrical shows” involving orcas at the park will come to an end. SeaWorld became the object of widespread disaffection, to put it mildly, after the release of the 2013 documentary Blackfish. The film accused SeaWorld of poor treatment of its captive orcas and specifically explored one incident involving an orca named Tilikum, who killed a SeaWorld Orlando trainer in 2010. In the wake of the film’s release, SeaWorld saw a decline in attendance and its publicly traded stock shares fell by half.
It was after watching Blackfish that Sir Michael Rocks decided to make a dis track aimed at SeaWorld. Although most of the song’s lyrics aren’t direct shots at the marine park, a drawn out monologue toward the end of the track, and the music video that accompanied it, definitely went in on their practice of keeping captive marine life. The music video, directed by Unkle Luc, was shot at the Miami Seaquarium. “We just kind of snuck in there with a camera and shot it on some renegade type shit,” says Sir Michael.
The Miami Seaquarium, like SeaWorld, is a marine park, which focuses on entertainment first and foremost. Whereas a public aquariums are typically education and conservation focused, privately-held marine parks like SeaWorld have traditionally spotlighted their shows and entertainment segments. According to its recent announcement, SeaWorld plans on shifting its focus, especially where orcas are concerned, to public education and conservation efforts extending outside the confines of the park.
Sir Michael says that as a kid he wanted to be a zoologist. The former member of the Cool Kids’ childhood fascination became the source of his continued passion for animals, which remains a vivid influence on his aesthetic, as well as his lyrics. In the music video for “Memo,” he goes on safari in the Everglades, checking out alligators, birds, and raccoons. In “Alone” from last year’s Populair he raps about watching Animal Planet in his spare time. For Sir Michael, his opposition to the parks comes down to the intelligence of the animals and their awareness that they aren’t in a natural environment. “They get depressed and they just go insane and hate their lives living in there, man,” he says.
Though he does agree that SeaWorld’s reforms are a step in the right direction, when asked if they’re enough to squash the beef, he responds, “They’ve done so much wrong over the past decades that they’ve been open that I feel like they should just get the fuck outta here and just close.”
[Update 3/23/2016: This story has been corrected from an earlier version, which stated that SeaWorld was not accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.]