Partners in rhyme Killer Mike, El-P combine for old-school rap

CorrespondentAugust 8, 2013 

Sasquatch! Music Festival day 3

El-P performs at The Sasquatch! Music Festival on Sunday May 26, 2013 in George, Washington. El-P will perform with Killer Mike at Cats Cradle August 9, 2013.

JOHN DAVISSON — John Davisson/Invision/AP

  • Details

    Who: Run the Jewels, with Kool A.D.

    When: 9 p.m. Friday

    Where: Cat’s Cradle, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro

    Cost: $18-$20

    Info: 919-967-9053 or catscradle.com

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 Mike’s 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 ain’t fooling – you’ll never hear a Killer Mike project without Jaime again.”

After the critical success of “R.A.P.” (it was number 20 on Rolling Stone’s 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 Fool’s Gold Records website.

Copping the name from a line in LL Cool J’s 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, rap’s a little pretty right now, and it’s kind of gotten off some of the principles it was founded upon,” said Mike. “So we’re 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 doesn’t just stop with their name. The video for “36’’ Chain,” their latest single, is a tongue-in-cheek homage to LL Cool J’s “I’m 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 it’s the powerhouse collaborative album Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Watch the Throne” should’ve been. Mike said he doesn’t have the time or patience for modern-day comparisons.

“I mean, I’m not comparing our projects to anybody because I feel like our project’s better than everybody’s,” he said. “That’s just where I am with it. But anybody who knows me knows that’s where I am with it … Unless you’re talking OutKast, unless you’re talking Dre and Snoop, unless you’re talking Premier and Guru, I don’t think anybody’s doing what we’re 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. It’s two men making a banging hip-hop album that they hope their forefathers would’ve rocked in their boomboxes back in the day. And they’re looking forward to dropping more releases just like it.

“We’re fighting with the ghosts of the people we grew up admiring,” he said.

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