It took only two days for rapper Killer Mike to know that he would be working with fellow rapper and producer El-P for as long as he had breath in him.
The 38-year-old Atlanta-bred-and-based MC (Michael Render) is mostly known for his collaborations with OutKast, as well as being one of the many artists on T.I.s Grand Hustle label. But when Mike got together with the East Coast indie-rap icon and Definitive Jux label owner (known as Jaime Meline, also 38) to produce Mikes critically acclaimed R.A.P. Music album last year, he knew he found a partner in rhyme.
It took two days, and I was calling up my manager and saying, Joe, he has the whole album, said Mike, on the phone from Santa Ana. Look, we aint fooling youll never hear a Killer Mike project without Jaime again.
After the critical success of R.A.P. (it was number 20 on Rolling Stones top 50 albums last year), Mike and El-P went to work on another project, a supergroup called Run the Jewels. Their debut self-titled work was released in June and can be downloaded for free on the Fools Gold Records website.
Copping the name from a line in LL Cool Js old-school track Cheesy Rat Blues, the two men formed the group for no other reason than to make a rap album that sounds like how rap used to sound.
You know, raps a little pretty right now, and its kind of gotten off some of the principles it was founded upon, said Mike. So were just doing what groups do getting together that first time around, talking a lot of (expletive) and providing doper beats and doper clothes than most people out today.
The LL hat-tipping doesnt just stop with their name. The video for 36 Chain, their latest single, is a tongue-in-cheek homage to LL Cool Js Im Bad video, where Mike and El-P go on a violent rampage as they search for their kidnapped puppet pal named Mr. Killums. Both the song and the video exemplify the take-no-prisoners aggressiveness both men invoke as a group.
The album has been well-received by critics, with a few of them even saying that its the powerhouse collaborative album Jay-Z and Kanye Wests Watch the Throne shouldve been. Mike said he doesnt have the time or patience for modern-day comparisons.
I mean, Im not comparing our projects to anybody because I feel like our projects better than everybodys, he said. Thats just where I am with it. But anybody who knows me knows thats where I am with it Unless youre talking OutKast, unless youre talking Dre and Snoop, unless youre talking Premier and Guru, I dont think anybodys doing what were doing.
And once again, Killer Mike reminds us why Run the Jewels both the group and the album exist. Despite the bass-heavy, po-mo electro beats El-P provides, the album is a throwback to the hardcore hip-hop of yesteryear. Its two men making a banging hip-hop album that they hope their forefathers wouldve rocked in their boomboxes back in the day. And theyre looking forward to dropping more releases just like it.
Were fighting with the ghosts of the people we grew up admiring, he said.