Run The Jewels on Trump: ‘It’s going to be horrible’
Critically adored and politically astute, Killer Mike and El-P mix talk Bernie Sanders, bromance and being in sync
Is there a tax write-off thing for cults or is that just religions? asks Jaime Meline AKA El-P, as he sits in a practise room on LAs Sunset Boulevard, where Run The Jewels are preparing for their forthcoming world tour. The firebrand rap duo of El-P and Killer Mike have built up a cultish following by adopting the tactics of old-time preachers, touring incessantly while giving their music away for free. Indeed, they unexpectedly brought their new album forward and dropped it on Christmas Eve, where it was downloaded 125,000 times from their website alone, by people supposed to be observing other traditional rituals. But now, El-P has ideas about what a real Run The Jewels cult would be like.
Its a very small cult, qualifies El-P, and we dont have any tenets, no ideas about anything; were just going for the tax write-off. Theres only a few cults that have managed that transfer from cult status to religious status, and its all on some tax-break shit.
The big three religions have done pretty good, adds Mike.
The big three are killing the game, says El-P, and the people.
Its an exchange that does a nice job of summing up Run The Jewels: nonsensical musing veering into a sharp critique of organised religion and politics, delivered with comedy timing that Abbott and Costello would be proud of. This mix of serious and silly has proved wildly successful. Since 2013, Run The Jewels have managed to attract millions of believers to their world, where lyrical flow is king, beats are of the chest-pumping variety, and an absurdist ab-libbed joke is only ever a moment away. One minute theyll be releasing a remix album where instrumentals are replaced with cat noises; the next a protest track about hitting back at police brutality. Their festive gift and third album, Run The Jewels 3, which the pair describe as harder, darker and angrier is the latest item off a production line that hasnt stopped rolling.
Were in sync so much now, after two records and several tours and this new one felt like we hit that point in the Rocky training montage when hes just killing shit, says El-P. We hit the point where we are catching the chicken.
Chickens, world tours, cartoon versions of themselves in Marvel comics like Deadpool and Howard The Duck, an appearance in video game Gears Of War 4, self-released critically acclaimed albums. You name it, El-P and Mike seem to be able to catch it. Run The Jewels 3 builds on their popularity as larger-than-life foghorns for the good fight. Recorded in rural seclusion in upstate New York, and produced by El-P, it balances the abrasive cuts of rap braggadocio of their previous two albums with more reflective moments, such as anti-hate anthem 2100, alongside Trump takedowns (Went to war with the Devil and Shaytan/ He wore a bad toupee and a spray tan, raps Mike on Talk To Me). The albums guests are a curveball mix, too certainly not your usual starry rap features. Among them are Detroit motormouth Danny Brown; TV On The Radios Tunde Adebimpe; and avant-jazzer Kamasi Washington, who adds evocative sax to another down-beater, Thursday In The Danger Room. Pretty good for a project which started as an experiment.
There was not a plan, confesses El-P. I dont think there really ever was to be honest. I dont think were a plan type of group. We just say yes because its fun. Thats always been the guiding principle. Its got way bigger than we ever thought it would, straight up. Suddenly the reasons for releasing their album as a free download over Christmas begin to make more sense