El-P has learned a valuable lesson: Don’t get really high and ask people for money so you can make an album full of cat sounds. Because there’s a very good chance that actually might happen.
The New York-based rapper and producer, who’s also half of the hip-hop supergroup Run the Jewels with Atlanta rapper Killer Mike, took it upon himself to set up absurd pre-order packages for “Run the Jewels 2,” the newly-released follow-up to their acclaimed, self-titled debut from last year.
“The concise version of the story is this: I got really stoned and wrote up a bunch of joke pre-order packages for our album,” says El-P, sharing a phone call with Mike from Texas. “And one of those joke pre-order packages was for $40,000: I will remix ‘Run the Jewels 2’ using nothing but cat sounds for music.”
While it’s highly unlikely somebody will pay for the duo’s $10 million “retirement plan” package, where El-P and Mike, both 39, will retire from music and only make one song a year for the lucky purchaser, somebody did take them up on the cat package. Phoenix fan Sylvester Jones launched a Kickstarter page to crowdfund the album, which will be called “Meow the Jewels.” Not only did the campaign meet its $45,100 goal earlier this week, but it also raised an additional $20,000.
“In the process of him doing that,” says El-P, “I contacted him and we talked and I said, ‘Listen, I don’t want people wasting their money on something that was just a joke. But if we can raise this money and give it to something, like a charity for a cause, then I’ll get behind it and I’m sure Mike would get behind it too. And that’s kind of what ended up happening.”
The album will happen, but El-P says proceeds from the campaign will go to the families of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and other victims of police violence. “I look at it as, like, fighting injustice with pure stupidity – intentionally.”
While they may be rapping under purring noises soon, Run the Jewels is still one of the hardest hip-hop duos around. Their sophomore effort continues in the old-school noise-bringing they conjured up together on the last album.
“There’s always a need in American culture for rebel music,” says Mike. “There always needs to be a sense of rebellion about the music, and I think that Run the Jewels is in that vacuum for this particular time. I’m gonna push the rhyme as hard as I can as long as I can.”
Last year, in this very paper, Mike said one of the reasons Run the Jewels exists is because contemporary hip-hop is getting “a little pretty right now.” So, does El-P feel the same way?
“You know, something can aesthetically be pretty, but be ugly on the inside, you know what I mean?” says El-P. “I don’t think there’s a right way to do music, but I think Mike hit the nail on the head. There is a vacuum, and I think that that vacuum, especially when it comes to American culture and hip-hop culture, that type of voice and that type of expression, it’s important. As a fan, it’s necessary for me. You know, like, I need it.”
The second album adds a bit of social commentary/consciousness into the mix. On one track (whose title we can’t mention in a family newspaper), the pair teams up with former Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha as they riff on people rising up and taking revenge on crooked cops – by any means necessary.
“You’re not getting piety here and you’re not getting self-righteousness, you know,” says El-P. “But you’re getting an energy. You’re getting a middle-finger-to-the-sky energy. And I think that we injected this album with a lot more of that than what was on the last album. I think the last album was a little bit more playful, and this one is playful as well. But there’s a harder edge to it, I think, throughout the record. And I think that’s something that we knew that we wanted to bring to the table this time.”
El-P and Killer Mike say they will continue to bring more hip-hop anarchy as Run the Jewels. However, they wouldn’t be offended if, say, a prince from Dubai ever took them up on that retirement plan.
“Actually, you know what?” asks El-P. “I might even retire.” Adds Mike, “I’d just roll around with him, bruh. I’d just roll around with the prince dude from Dubai, like, ‘Yo, bruh, I work for him, bruh. Let’s go!’ ”