With genres within the art of music beginning to cross paths more than ever, it is very rare to find an act that is a throwback to the original sounds of a genre. Typical artists are sonically similar to one another due to the high level of influence that exists, and sounds tend to drift further away from their foundations as music becomes more cookie-cutter and widespread. For these reasons, finding an artist whose style calls back to the origins of a genre is extremely refreshing for a hardcore fan. For those searching for a breath of fresh air, look no further than Run The Jewels.
Run The Jewels is a hip hop group featuring underground rap favorites Killer Mike (born Michael Render) and El-P (born Jaime Meline). In what might appear to some as an odd couple at first glance, it is no accident that Killer Mike and El-P have crossed paths. The two were born within two months of each other in 1975, meaning that they were most influenced by the raw and authentic emcees that were active during the “golden era” of hip hop that occurred in the 90’s. El-P, known widely across the underground rap scene as a founding member of the legendary group Company Flow, released music within the group through the late 90’s as a part of the underground staple Rawkus Records. Before long, El-P began his solo discography with 2002’s Fantastic Damage as a part of the Definite Jux recording label.
Similarly, Killer Mike became affiliated with Big Boi of the legendary hip hop duo Outkast while Mike took classes at Morehouse College. Mike made appearances on several Outkast records before releasing his debut album Monster in 2003 via Outkast’s Aquemini Records (which would later be known as Purple Ribbon Records). Since their solo debuts, both artists have gone on to release multiple projects on their own to a high level of critical acclaim.
While recording an album potentially set for release through the Adult Swim brand, Killer Mike was scheduled to work with a number of producers. Adult Swim executive Jason DeMarco played matchmaker, and the first of these producers that Mike got to work with was none other than El-P. After working together for a few records, Mike made the bold decision to work exclusively with El-P for the production of the album, which turned out to be Mike’s R.A.P. Music album. After recording together for a record on El-P’s 2012 album Cancer 4 Cure, the two made the decision to officially form a group and release an album. In mid-2013, the group released their self-titled album for free digital download via underground juggernaut Fool’s Gold Records to an incredible amount of critical acclaim.
The dynamic of the duo is one that sees each emcee complement one another in seamless fashion. El-P is an extremely talented lyricist that brings a grungy-yet-polished flow on whatever instrumental he finds himself rapping over. On the other hand, Killer Mike’s music is laden with powerful messages that blatantly display his affinity for impacting the community through his music. The two play off of one another well when they create, trading verses while integrating bits and pieces of their contrasting styles to create a holistic, lyrically charged, aggressive sound. To top everything off, the group’s production is handled entirely by El-P, whose eclectic musical taste influences each record by hook or crook while managing to remain as true to a classic hip hop sound as any group you can name. The product is simply dope music, and every aforementioned element of the duo oozes through your headphones when you listen to their self-titled debut (which, you can still download for free).
Looking forward, it’s hard to not be excited for what Run The Jewels has to offer for 2014 and beyond. The duo has already confirmed their second full-length album, Run The Jewels 2, will be released within the calendar year. In addition, they are already slated for performances during the Laneway Festival in Australia and New Zealand from January 27th to February 8th, and we have to be hopeful for US tour dates to come sooner than later. The duo has one album under their belts, an enriching label situation, and nothing but time to craft another great project. All in all, when your group is named after a line from LL Cool J’s toughest album, it’s hard to not personify rawness and authenticity (the essence of hip hop) in your music. Protect your neck.