And I think that when you look at hip-hop now and you look at the culture now and the way that people do it, it’s – comparatively to where – the way it used to be, Bob, the way people used to talk.
run the jewels 4 – Run The Jewels Rtj Tee Volcom
El-P and Killer Mike, two of the most distinctive and celebrated names in rap, might have seemed like an unlikely pairing on paper, but the duo subverted and pulverized all expectations with their critically lauded Run The Jewels collaborative LP. Tapping into the creative synergy they’d discovered in 2012 on Mike’s R.A.P. Music album (produced by El-P) and El’s Cancer 4 Cure album (featuring Mike), Run The Jewels cemented their musical alliance with a set of uncompromisingly raw, forward thinking hip-hop, garnering limitless critical accolades including the likes of Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, XXL, SPIN, New York Times, and many more. About five years ago, Killer Mike and El-P were rappers in their late 30s seemingly destined to be underappreciated for their talents and rich recording histories. Then Run the Jewels happened, and the two seemingly mismatched artists — Killer Mike from the Atlanta orbit of OutKast, El-P from the New York City underground — became one of hip-hop’s most recognizable and beloved duos. They’re now touring 5,000-seat theaters in America, playing to audiences 10 times the size of ones they could command individually.
Killer Mike: Yes. You can do it like this. We average ‘bout a quarter pound a week to ten days. So, that’s on average about a pound a month. I’d say – give or take a pound – and we’re looking at a year here, I’d say honestly no less than six pounds to record an album.
I think that we’re tapping into a zone, and we need to hold onto that. We have got to a point in our lives where we are properly set up to be doing this, so I’m gonna keep going. I never rush anything – but when I’m inspired, shit just happens. That’s why the records have been coming quickly, and working with Mike has been great. There’s an energy between us that we’ve been able to harness, and that’s made us both a lot more productive than we were without each other. We have a lot to do, a lot on our plate, but it’s cool to have a partner in crime. Mike motivates me, and vice-versa.
Both together and apart, Killer Mike and El-P have collaborated with a long list of legit hard rockers and metal masters, including Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and the Mars Volta. Travis Barker turns up behind the drums now and then, adding to RTJ’s wild mix of good times and bad vibes, equal parts psychedelic and menacing, comic and tragic. The result can be as ominous as Sabbath, or as speedy and unstoppable as classic Slayer — not unlike Killer Mike’s early hero Ice-T, who helped originate gangsta rap before taking his free-speech battle into heavy metal with his band Body Count.
But that was apparently easier said than done, because Run the Jewels 3” opens with a Killer Mike-rapped indictment. KILLER MIKE: (Rapping) Player, I grind. My focus is crime. Raw with the rhyme, I stick with the slime. My words are diamonds dug out of a mine – spit them, polish. Look how they shine.
Mike: I liked the way he thought as a human, the conversations he had. We really agreed on the contrasts that we had were interesting enough, so that we wanted to keep communicating. And I’m a rapper, so the fucking beats. Insane maniac beats. I watched a lot of sport. You see a quarterback throwing the fuck out the ball you want to be on that team.
The collaboration created sparks that surprised both MCs, and prompted them to explore and expand areas of their art in a way that led to some of the most indelible music of their careers. Both were coming off career high-point solo albums in 2012 — Killer Mike’s El-P-produced “R.A.P. Music” and El-P’s “Cancer 4 Cure” — when they began touring and then collaborating.
EL-P And BDP Boogie Down Productions used a straight-up Black Sabbath sample. When that started to penetrate rap music, that was when, “Oh, rap music is tough.” It’s not just you’re dressed well and you’re smooth — not everybody wants to be that. When rap music became badass is right when me and Mike started getting obsessed with rap music. This was probably in the mid-Eighties.
El-P: I have a few theories. It takes a long time to change the mindset of a population. I don‘t think that that kind of music is encouraged. I think it’s discouraged and a different set of values are promoted in the music industry ‘cos the power structure got a little freaked out after the 60s. The media conglomerates that own everything have an agenda just like they do with the news. Also music has to be interesting and good to people and you’re fighting an uphill battle if you’re being lecturey.
Method Man & Redman have only two albums to their name and one of them, Blackout! has an all-time classic opening salvo in Da Rockwilder” not to mention their How High” collaboration. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince? RTJ has leapt past them, even if Summertime” is the most eternal summer rap track of all. Where in the macro of it all, where the only mainstream duo working are two brothers from Tupelo, Mississippi and are creating massive party records and cranky old timers like The LOX are still keeping the idea of a group, much less a duo alive? Killer Mike & El-P arrived at this point after having solo success on their own terms. Then they together became famous on their own terms, wrote their narrative into Marvel comics, Late Show skits with Colbert, festival stages and more. On Cali Ticketon,” they playfully question the idea of performing inside of a sold-out Madison Square Garden.
The self-titled Run the Jewels debut in 2013 had the hallmarks of a one-off: two gifted MCs reveling in big, boastful and wickedly funny putdowns and battle-rap rhymes. But since then the work has become more intensely personal and political. The duo self-released its latest, “Run the Jewels 3,” in December with the country still reeling from a contentious presidential election, racial strife and overseas conflicts.
In the micro, RTJ3 exists because of the work provided on the previous two RTJ albums. The album came out on Christmas Day, two weeks ahead of its original January 13 release date. Yes, people screwed up their year-end release lists once they found out that Mikey and Jamie decided to give the world a Christmas miracle with their third effort. Did they announce, “our bad”? Not really; they moved on to questioning whether or not Drake’s liaison with Jennifer Lopez really needed an insider” to determine whether or not it was real. Or whether or not Soulja Boy was telling the truth in an awkward retelling of a robbery attempt at his studio. RTJ should be the main topic of discussion at the moment. It’s a passionate, almost crossroads moment for both El-P and Killer Mike, and yet it’s flying under a pretense of merely existing. RTJ3 has moments of existential crisis for both men.
KILLER MIKE The other thing that pulled me deeper down the dark rock wormhole is the Road Warriors, the wrestlers. They used to enter the ring to “Iron Man” and they would beat the shit out of their opponents in, like, 30 seconds, give the best interview ever and walk.
KILLER MIKE: It’s easier for me when I got El in there. It’s easier because I got someone who absolutely knows me. I got someone to bounce shit off of quickly. With solo projects, you get in your own mind-that’s a fucked up place to be.
KM: Absolutely. Kids, that’s what I’m seeing. I’ve got a 16-year-old daughter, and I’ve been amazed at the amount of 16- and 17-year-old children I’ve seen at our shows. Y’know, we’ll be in some places where part of the crowd is sectioned off by a rope. You’re like, Why is that section roped off?” Oh, yeah, those are the children.
That same day, Run the Jewels ‘ official Twitter account shared an Instagram post from El-P teasing the duo’s ongoing work on the album with a photo of a keyboard. back to the filth #RTJ4,” his caption reads, to which the RTJ account added only the eyes emoji.
El-P: Tough question. The banana dick apeshit line from ‘Panther Like A Panther’ is pretty impressive. ‘My dick got a Michelin star’ ‘Talk to Me’ was a pretty good one. I think there are only about three dick jokes on the record, but when we do them, we try to make them count, at the top of the art form. On the unicorn horn for a cock line in ‘Legend Has It I love the fact my girlfriend came in and I had her do the ‘stop’ bit. I thought that was funnier. We’re one part heart, and one part completely ridiculous asshole.
I think the messages on this record definitely have more intention. You still have lines like Top of the morning, my fist to your face is fuckin’ Folgers,” and You can all run naked backwards through a field of dicks.” There’s still that humor and it has to be there.
KILLER MIKE I was a Rage fan. I was crazy about the moment in the Nineties into the early 2000s where you had aggressive rap groups — like a Cypress Hill, Ice Cube and a PE Public Enemy — and you were able to see them with a Rage, Deftones or Linkin Park. You were able to see all this shit together.
Killer Mike: I said in an interview before, I will get out there and fight as hard for the Ku Klux Klan to be able to protest as any black kid because at the end of the day, because at the end of the day, I’m black and I have not experienced the full constitutional rights as a U.S. citizen, and I want that. And I care about that more than I give a fuck about your dog-fuck political agenda. So if you want to march in front of the Georgia state capitol, I don’t give a fuck. In fact, I support it. I will vote for you to be able to because that’s your constitutional right. But with that said, motherfucker, if you’re really about upholding the U.S. Constitution as a Klansman, your ass should be right out there in Ferguson because that child was denied, no matter what you think about his skin color, due process.
Were the stories told by the labels accurate, we shouldn’t even know who Run The Jewels and these two artists are, never mind being able to watch them explode onto the scene in the way they have. This is a success story that needs to be bookmarked and used as a rebuttal against those that say music must not be given away for fear of artists failing to make it.
GARCIA: Today’s guest is the hip-hop duo Run the Jewels. The critically acclaimed and fiercely independent rap team joins us in the studio to talk about how they learned to have fun with their music and about their unexpected friendship. Stretch, tell me about your favorite unlikely duo in music.
GARCIA: We’re going to get to you, but we got to establish that El is a dear friend. Like, even though we haven’t hung out in wow long, I mean, Stretch and I had a radio show in the 1990s. I’m going to give you some background, just in case you don’t know.