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Run The Jewels

Run The Jewels

Interviewed by
Martyn Pepperell
Monday 13th October, 2014 1:19PM

In 2012 New York's alternative hip-hop supremo EL-P produced the album R.A.P Music for outspoken Atlanta rapper Killer Mike. That same year, Mike returned the favour by guesting on EL-P's solo album Cancer 4 Cure. As it turned out, they had a lot more in common than just a shared love of wall-of-noise Bomb Squad style hip-hop production, which led to them recording and performing together as Run The Jewels.

At the end of the month, Killer Mike and EL-P will release their second full length album together via Nas' label Mass Appeal Records. And come early January, the dynamic duo will return to New Zealand for two shows alongside hotly tipped young NYC talent Joey Bada$$. In anticipation of these two events Martyn Pepperell spoke with them for Under The Radar...

UTR: I feel like duality plays a big part in Run The Jewels. For example, Killer Mike, you made an amazing appearance on CNN talking about the Ferguson situation. At the same time, El-P, with the Meow The Jewels campaign going, it looks like you might have to remix the whole new album with cat noises?

Mike: If you are just talking about the fact that these things are happening simultaneously, I think that's just part of the human condition. In the middle of a funeral you can think of a funny instance about the deceased, and that mourning turns into laughter commiserating another time which wasn't that bad. I absolutely understand how on one hand you can have the Meow The Jewels campaign pushing further along, because it's almost due to the spirit of the fans. If we really push you guys along, what are you really willing to do from a fan's perspective.

With that said, I think that people who are into Run The Jewels and into whatever I said in regards to Ferguson, I think they are human enough to understand this is something they should care about in a different way. Sometimes humans need to relax or blow steam off, and I think that Meow The Jewels is that. It's an intimate thing between the fans or constituency if you like, and the band. They have an affinity with us, and they care about greater issues than just music, you know?

EL-P: It should be noted that with the Meow The Jewels thing, if it actually happens, we're going to donate all of the money to the families of Eric Garner and Mike Brown. Those two things, the humour, and the reality and tragedy of what is going on around us, those are very much parts of what me and Mike do. They don't exist in our music as separate entities.

This is gallows humor, you know? I could be being forced to dig my own grave at the business end of a rifle, and if my executioner farts, I'm going to laugh. The fact of the matter is that Run The Jewels, and what me and Mike do, is very much about that. I think it's about simultaneously being somewhat hilarious and irreverent, and at the same time, completely engaging with really serious ideas that really mean something to both of us.

Your mother used to crush up your medicine and feed it to you in applesauce when you were a kid right, or in pudding, or whatever? I think to some degree that's what Run The Jewels can be in certain times. We surround the ideas that are important to us with a whole lot of shit talking. I think it is the combination of those elements that makes it interesting and fun for us. I don't think there is a clash. I think a well rounded man is someone who is able to simultaneously see the humour and the depth of the situation.

Killer Mike, on Run The Jewels recent single 'Oh My Darling Don't Cry', you rap a three-part line, "That fuckboy life about to be repealed / That fuckboy shit about to be repelled / Fuckboy Jihad, kill infidels". There is a club night in New Zealand called Fuckboy Jihad...

Killer Mike: [laughs].

EL-P: I don’t even know what to say about that. It's a club night? I guess it's actually real.

Could you guys explain what a fuckboy is, and the best ways to identify or spot one?

Killer Mike: They way you can identify fuckboys is because they are always doing fuck shit. Just the dumbest, weirdest, lamest possible shit ever. Fuckboys will jump in front of a girl [lining up to get a photo] and say, let me take a picture first. Fuckboys just do all the shit you can't believe at the time. You know, the cops pull you over and ask if anyone has marijuana in the car. That one friend who says, 'Yes officer I do', he's the fuckboy in that situation.

EL-P: Me and Mike are actually working closely with Apple to develop an app that is going to be stored on everyone's phone. You can use it to locate and identify the nearest fuckboy within two miles. This is strictly a navigational app, just so you can keep your distance.

What are your thoughts on the recent international return of long sleeved t-shirts with arm prints on them?

Killer Mike: Hold on; long sleeved t-shirts with arm prints? With printed words on the arms? I can't really speak on those. I just found a picture of myself in one a long time ago with my cousin. So I am out of the talk-shit market on that, as I probably contributed to that fashion faux pas.

EL-P: I don't want to say anything because I feel like it might spoil my book, Long Armed Sleeves With Words On Them And The Effect They're Having On Children In Modern Society.

Killer Mike, could we talk about your really great Ferguson interview? How much time did you have to prepare before you spoke on CNN?

Killer Mike: We got the call that night. We had about six or seven hours, so thanks to Brooke and Catherine who helped get me over there. It was very short notice. What I wanted to do on there is what I did. I knew going on CNN I would have to defend my name Killer Mike. I didn't want to get into a defence argument, so I just put it out there, this is what my name is, this is what it means. If you're intelligent you get it, if you're not you don't.

I know how people who watch mass media view pundits, and I didn't want to come off as a regular pundit. I'm not. I'm a young man in the world of politics, an O.G in terms of rap. I'm someone's husband, I'm someone's dad. I'm the son of a cop, and I'm a gun-toting American at the same time. I co-exist in this weird conundrum, so I think I'm perfect to talk about this situation in a way that is different than the polarised way in which it is talked about in my country. I had no doubt I would express an honest view. I'm glad that honest view resonated with people.

EL-P, how are you preparing for the possibility of having to remake the album using cat noises?

EL-P: I'm going to various shelters, talking and having conversations with different cats. I'm trying to understand what sort of caliber of talent is out there. Ultimately I hope to sit down with a couple of notable cats in my neighbourhood and pick their brain musically. I think this is going to be a real collaboration between myself and a couple of really talented cats. I'm excited about the possibilities. If everything goes well, I'll be taking about thirty cats on the road with us. A "catestra" if you will?

Mike, could you quickly tell us about what you have been doing with your barbershop and other community activities?

Killer Mike: The last thing we did was with Sprayground. We gifted some kids with some exclusive book-bags full of school supplies that were pretty cool. They had a couple of motivational speakers come out. We mentor kids, our barbers have kids who come in, sweep the shop and get some life lessons and stuff. We do haircuts for the homeless over thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. More importantly we employ about ten people, and we're getting ready to open another shop.

We're just trying to be a part of the community from a small business standpoint. We bring jobs to the community and offer a service that is a real premium, a real value for your dollar. Our prices are five, ten, fifteen bucks. You get great service. Everyone is loving it. Hopefully we will be coming to New Zealand and every other country on earth that will have us real soon.

You guys are great. People are really looking forward to seeing you play out here again next year.

EL-P: That's great man. We're super excited to get out there again. The audience when we were out there earlier in the year for Laneway Festival was so incredible. The shows were crazy shows. Hopefully it just continues. We really enjoyed ourselves out there. People are freaking out at the shows lately, it's such great energy. That's that Run The Jewels shit. Thank you guys for making that a pleasurable experience. It's been really good.

Run The Jewels will return to New Zealand in January for two shows along with Joey Bada$$. Head over here for more details.

RTJ2 is due out 24th October via Mass Appeal.