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Jimmy ‘The Rent is Too Damn High’ McMillan became a household name in 2010 when he ran for governor of New York against major contenders such as now-governor Andrew Cuomo.
His political mantra — “the rent is too damn high” — resonated with many. Although his first fifteen minutes of fame eventually petered out, his slogan still has the juice to fuel his bid in New York’s 2013 mayoral election.
McMillan is back with the same catch phrase, this time delivered over a banging hip-hop track. As his rap anthem “Rent is Too Damn High” (produced by web site Animal NYC) states, he is “back on the scene” looking “lean and mean” — and is apparently just as popular as ever.
McMillan: An ‘American defender’
“I’m an American defender. I don’t make no apologies for serving my country,” the self-described Vietnam war veteran said when he stopped by theGrio’s newsroom last week, an acoustic guitar strapped to his chest.
He was greeted with the warm enthusiasm reserved for folk heroes in these halls. As he sat down to perform an “unplugged” version of his single, McMillan described the attention he still receives when he walks city streets as “crazy.”
Does this make him the best person to run New York City among a wide field of experienced politicos? Maybe, maybe not. But he may have the name recognition necessary to make a big splash during his second brush with viral fame. McMillan’s video for “Rent is Too Damn High” has garnered more than 641,500 views on YouTube since it began circulating last week.
People definitely know who he is. And to hear Jimmy tell it, they also love him.
“I’m 66 years of age and I’ve been single for thirty years. Now I can get a girlfriend if I want one,” McMillan said of his local celebrity.
According to the martial arts teacher, women follow him asking, “can I have your autograph?” Men say, “can I take your picture?” Kids follow shouting, “let me touch your beard!”
And of course the question “whatchu gonna do to lower the rent!?” is often hurled at him, even late at night, the candidate for mayor said.
It’s about “changing the game”
But to him, running for the mayor of New York City is as much about disrupting the status quo of the political process as it is about holding public office.
“I’m not a politician. I’m here to change up” what McMillan called “the old attitude” and address “a bunch of lies that they’re telling.”
Some of those “lies,” he says, include landlords overcharging renters by raising rents too much relative to the renovations they may implement, which they are allowed to do by a limited percentage by law. McMillan also tasks politicians to stop focusing on creating low income housing, when it would be better to revise housing laws to improve existing stock and prevent people from being evicted.
While McMillan still asserts that the rent is too damn high, he also intends to use his 2013 run for mayor to awaken people to the fact that they have voting options — including, of course, the Rent is Too Damn High party.
Have Democrats and Republicans failed us?
McMillan believes that Democrats and Republicans have failed the American people after having had ample opportunity to improve the economy — and of course, housing costs.
“What I do in the city of New York is going to send a domino effect across the country,” McMillan told theGrio. “I’m here to represent the people.”
Look out for part two of our video interview with Jimmy McMillan later this week. Will his political agenda inspire a new perspective on the political system?
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.