In part two of my conversation we discuss how Run The Jewels formed, the success of RTJ, his respect for Scarface, and future plans for rapping. For those that haven’t checked part one yet do so here.
How did Run The Jewels come about?
Man, me and El just had a ball making R.A.P Music. A fucking ball man. Then I jumped on Cancer For A Cure. We decided when we made Run The Jewels 1 that it was just an homage to the rap group. Times have become so self-indulgent that everything is about solo artists now. Records companies find it easier to control solo artists now. “It’s fuck that group shit. We got this one kid he’s hot.” Are only requirement in doing this like EPMD, like Outkast it was gonna be us together in a room making records like the classic rap groups.
Run The Jewels, this is the second Run The Jewels album and the third album you and El have done in a row. Do you feel any pressure where at this point…I’ll be honest with you the past two years you’ve had the album of the year.
Thank you. Thank you.
With this one it didn’t, again being honest here, connect with me on first listen like the other two but it has grown on me and it’s in contention. People may not be aware of it but when the year-end lists come out it’s Killer Mike & El-P, Killer Mike & El-P, Run The Jewels and this is from major publications. Do you feel the pressure to repeat it for a fourth year in a row, if you two are gonna drop four years in a row?
Absolutely. Success breeds more success. Success doesn’t breed the urge to relax. I don’t know if we’re gonna come right back out in 2015. We prolly got like a year and half of touring ahead of us. This album is only 7 and a half weeks old. It’s been called number one by consequence of sounds. It’s made every major top 10 list from number 8 on Rolling Stone to number 2 on Billboard. There hasn’t been a rap record rated higher. You know I’m here to compete. I’m here to compete with myself. If my last thing was perfect then what’s better than perfect? That’s my job to try to better myself. Do I feel nervous? Do I feel the pressure? Every time. That’s what drives me to keep doing better work. I pride myself on every record I have made has progressively grown me and gotten better. That’s never gonna stop that’s all I wanna do. Till it’s over for me I just wanna keep getting better and better.
The fact that I can sit here with one of my favorite rappers of all time and talk about life, music and politics and things in general. You said that we’re getting another (RTJ album) but there’s no time frame.
Yea man it’s just 7 weeks into Run The Jewels 2 and people are already asking “when”? Cause we went ahead and said yea there’s definitely gonna be a Run The Jewels 3. Like mother fucker we 7 weeks in bruh. Like I just learned all my raps.
With Run The Jewels 2 you went a different way (leaking the record early). You and El are signed to Mass Appeal. What was going into this one cause the first one was a free release…
Yea both of them have been free releases that were also sold. The first one we did with Fool’s Gold. Shouts out to A-Trak and the guys over there. They did a grand job. This one we did with Mass Appeal and they’re doing another grand job. Mass Appeal is co-owned by Nas. Sasha Jenkins is instrumental in running it over there. A lot of people we got love and respect for. Both albums were released for free cause a lot people don’t buy music. We’ve developed and curated a relationship with our audience were if you want the record for free you can have it for free.
All we ask is if you’re compelled to come out to a show then come out to a show. You wanna buy a t-shirt buy a t-shirt. You wanna buy a lighter or grinder buy a grinder cause that helps us to put money in our pocket so we can self finance the next record and do partnerships and not pimp ourselves out in the sense of the traditional record deal.
Another way to see it is the shit’s gonna get bootlegged anyway so why not give it for free?
Exactly. Everybody doesn’t buy music. That’s fine. Think about it we’ve given away two releases and we’ve gone from doing 300-500 capacity shows to sell outs of 1000,1300,15000 capacity. You look at my IG we just played London and it was 1500 hundred people. Three columns of people. It was like being in a Roman coliseum. My expectations next year this time we’ll be playing 2000-3000 people. That’s what entertainers and rappers wanna do. The first concert I ever saw was the Fresh Fest. I was 9-10 years old watching Run DMC rock stadiums. In my lifetime I’d love to rock stadiums. The only way you do that is to get people to hear the music and be enthused about it.
If everybody doesn’t buy music then give it to them free. That way people have a choice. Those that want dope ass artwork and to physically hold. Like I like to physically hold music. My dad was into records. I’m into cd’s. I came up in the cd era and cassette era. People like to collect wax. I’d imagine you’re gonna see a growth in collection of cassette tapes very soon. I like to physically hold things. Not everyone likes to physically hold an album but they’ll come out and buy $600 worth of t-shirts. I just appreciate people’s willingness to like it and jam it. Whether they buy anything or not. If you coming out to the shows and supporting us through merch I really appreciate you. Cause you are life blood that allows us to continue Run The Jewels.
Going back to when you said til it’s over do you see retirement? Are you gonna be one of those rappers that says “My next album is my last” or are you just gonna bow out?
I’m gonna rap til I can’t rap no more. Man my favorite rapper been rapping 27 years and he ain’t never dropped a whack album. His name is Brad Jordan and the world knows him as Scarface. There’s not a rapper better. You can’t name another rapper that’s never dropped a rap album.
I’ve had this discussion with plenty of friends that Scarface is the GOAT. Simply by the fact that name one whack Scarface verse or album you’ve heard.
You can’t. If you want to go all the way back to the 80’s you can. It might sound dated but it ain’t whack. My thing is with Scarface, I don’t even have the discussion. I make the statement and walk out the room. You show me another rapper who has 27 years and not one whack album and then we gonna start talking. I’m gonna smoke a joint and I’ll be back. When you get back and they mind blown that’s when they gotta start questioning they choices. Everybody you tell me better than Scarface is influence by Scarface. Jay Z, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Tupac, Biggie all influenced by Scarface.
All of those that you mentioned have questionable albums and verses.
Something popped in my head when you said name someone better than Scarface. What about your, not to offend you, Outkast. I wanna call them your partners in crime, your former mentors…
Yea. My big brothers. They’re still my mentors. They’re my dear friends. My loved ones my brothers dare I say.
How would you feel if someone put up the case of Outkast as a whole versus Uncle Face
You can’t do that because Outkast is a group and Outkast is the greatest rap group. Outkast has not dropped a record. Face drops one every 3-4 years. Kast is retired. If you’re just saying it for rapping rapping sake then it could definitely be an argument. That being said Outkast hasn’t recorded a record in 10 years. Face has a 17 year head start on them and the last 10 years they didn’t compete. I can’t argue it if they not in the game competing.
This concludes part two of my conversation with Killer Mike. Be sure to check back later this week for part three. We openly discuss the split from Outkast and everything that followed it including the exact reasons why so many people identify with Pledge 2.