Run the Jewels have only been a group for five years but have toured all around the world as solo artists for a few decades. From growing up as kids in the 80’s to becoming established forces in the industry, they talk about how the music scene has shaped how they procure their sound and influences as artists and not just hip-hop.
After their show at the Myth nightclub in Maplewood, where they poured out every ounce of energy they could conjure on stage, I talked to Killer Mike and El-P about their Minnesota connection and formative years.
I asked the two about their first impressions of Minnesota and El-P responded with candor.
EI-P: First impressions? I’ve been coming to Minnesota for 20 years!
He and Killer Mike then proceeded to discuss with great passion how they hold a special place in their hearts for Minnesota and the artists central to it.
El- P: I appreciate it very much because I grew up a Prince fan so for me, I was in my head in Minneapolis. The first time I got to play First Avenue was like a religious experience for me because I grew up watching Purple Rain and one of my most important musical influences was Prince. Then coming up in the scene in the 90’s and in the early Def Jux (El-P’s record label) days and in the early 2000’s we were very much aligned with and friends with the Rhymesayers guys, so I’ve always been very connected, and it’s always been a friendly town for me personally.
Killer Mike: My son is huge Atmosphere fan, so I have a lot of respect and admiration, love Slug, Rhymesayers of course are hip-hop monuments, and he (El-P) loved Prince which everyone loved, and I love Morris Day and the fuckin’ Time.
El-P: Yo, respect to the Time, not shitting on the Time, they were in the movie too.
Killer Mike: It was the Times’ albums that changed my life, so the music scene has always been there and I’m a Vikings fan, so I grew up watching those guys. My impressions were, they got dope football and music, and it’s held true. Great people here too.
El-P: All of my experience with this whole area has been music for me. First just being a fan of the whole scene and then just being allies with everyone I mentioned. I’ve been able to come out and perform here since the late 90’s and it’s been amazing to watch that grow. I’ve been around long enough that you start to really appreciate like oh man, I’ve been coming to this city for a long time and never stopped supporting it, it’s gotten bigger, so you just always appreciate that type of thing.
El-P goes on to talk about where he was when Prince died. He just happened to have a connecting flight to Minneapolis at the time purely out of coincidence while on the road. He decided to stay for a little while to pay homage, revisited First Avenue and Paisley Park to pay his respects to the legend.
Above and beyond traditional hip-hop Run the Jewels seemingly have transcended the genre and add an element to their songs and performance that is raw. Their energy proves that this is more than just a rap group for them and the fans. In the song “Chase Me” for the soundtrack of the movie Baby Driver, Killer Mike includes a reference to hardcore/punk legends Bad Brains. From these roots, I inquired as to how this has influenced Run the Jewels attitude.
El-P: I don’t know if there’s a direct influence except to say that maybe there’s a spirit that we share. I grew up in New York City where the New York hardcore scene and the rap scene were happening at the exact same time, so people a little older than me were going to CBGB’s to see Bad Brains and to see Suicide and a lot of shit that was poppin’. I was more on the rap side, but it was always very prevalent, and I think I discovered more of it as I went on because you just collect music. My punk was Run DMC.
Killer Mike: The punk shows is what affected me. Even to see a still picture of a punk show. We have an RTJ t-shirt, me and El facing the crowd and this chubby kid literally looking like he’s gonna tear his fucking face off. That happened right after we were attacked on stage earlier in the day…my rotator cuff was torn in my right arm and my arm was virtually fucking useless. I was in hella pain, we drudged through like 4 shows that day and by the time we got there, being that close to the crowd and raging out and literally smelling the sweat of the crowd is just what we needed. From a music perspective, I think the rawness and the attitude. If there’s anything we took directly from punk it’s that give no fucks, leave it all on the stage attitude.
El-P: There’s an energy that hip-hop has that punk also has. It’s not all artists, not everybody has shows where the crowd turns into a mosh pit like RTJ but that’s the energy from music. We need a lot of different energies from music and that’s one that we need to have on some release shit.
The energy is real no matter what musical genre it’s coming through. You see it, you know what it is, and you recognize it. – Killer Mike
Talking to them you can tell that as artists they weren’t just about throwing together some beats and rhymes but were truly inspired by their environment and different scenes that pulled them in along the way. Truly they are exceptional lyricists and El-P’s beats are contagious, but they appear to be bigger than that as expressed by them in many different forms.
In attempt to get a sneak peak into the near future, I asked if we should we expect any new projects from Run the Jewels sooner than later.
Killer Mike: I would imagine Run the Jewels 4! El’s scoring a movie next year and I’m doing a TV show and hopefully, we get around to the Run the Jewels movie asap and start recording Run the Jewels 4.
El-P: We’re a creative team we got our own little things in the chambers but more than anything we have this thing that’s been bringing us so much joy. We’re not gonna be fulfilled until we have a movie until we have a lot of shit, so I think that no matter what you’re just gonna be seeing a lot of creative output from not only both of us separately but as a unit.