By Rahul Lal
Run The Jewels has one of the hottest albums out today with their latest effort, Run The Jewels 3 and they recently sat down to have a drink (or ten) with Drink Champs hosts N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN. Run The Jewels is comprised of solo artists Killer Mike and El-P who each had successful solo careers before pushing to the next level as a duo.
“We wanted to be a real group so we were determined not to try [to] play it as solo artists and the first record made such a splash after we got off tour,” said Killer Mike. “The first album was an homage to groups that we respected. We said ‘We’re going to be a real rap group, and if you’re going to be a real group, we got to have four classic albums like EPMD, we got to have chemistry like Mobb Deep, I want the longevity of 8 Ball & MJG and I want to be as outrageous as OutKast. Not in the literal [sense] but I want us to be a true group.”
N.O.R.E. mentioned that the duo is like the modern-day OutKast, because their sound and look are so unique and different, and that makes them stand out as Outkast did during their era.
“That’s such a humbling compliment,” El-P said with pride. “Thank you, man. If we could get there, if we could mean as much as they meant to us to somebody then that would be amazing. We look at that like an example of something you can do with a group and they hit the apex of music really in their genre.”
What’s even more interesting about the unique duo is that El-P was born in New York City and provides more typically east coast beats and sounds while Killer Mike brings his southern flavor and reps Atlanta. The two sounds provide such an interesting contrast but, with the South running hip-hop these days, Killer Mike wanted to emphasize that unity among Southern rappers is imperative.
“The worst thing the South could ever do is to start to self-identify too much with all the cities and states,” he explained. “We used to have to identify as a region because it was just like, if you talked with an accent, you from the South. Miami and Houston set it off, Atlanta and Memphis came as a tier and then you started getting other cities but when we start to overly identify our particular city we’re bad. We ain’t got all the way off but when we do that, it’s never good for us. When we go ‘I don’t f— with other n—-s because they’re from Houston and I’m from Atlanta,’ that’s when they f— it up.”
The new era of hip-hop is largely influenced by the sound in the South and Killer Mike expressed that he loves the new sound. But back in 1997, N.O.R.E. recalled that people criticized his style because he didn’t conform to the traditional sound.
“Everybody don’t understand that’s how you understand a record,” he explained after talking about the importance of a sound to an entire region. “I don’t give a f— if the n—a is from Oklahoma, I don’t give a f— if he’s from Utah, I don’t give a f— if he’s from Tallahassee, if you go to that town and you understand that town, you will understand why this record is a hit record.”
Revealing that he grew up listening to versatile music like OutKast and Goodie Mob all the way to Wu-Tang and Nas, Killer Mike has always been able to appreciate different styles. He had an interesting theory about people who hate on today’s music and their personal lives.
“A lot of n—-s that say that not getting any p—-,” he said while laughing. “Every n—- that say that is a non-p—- getter. You can’t be with no hoes, women, ladies or females. You can’t be with them and not hear the jams. You just can’t. A lot of them like jams that’s real, or not real, depending on how you see it but man, if you’ve ever been in an Atlanta club and motherf—in’ Migos came on and you was half a bottle or half a blunt in, you walk out of there understanding.”
As Drink Champs does each episode, N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN couldn’t let Run The Jewels walk out of the studio without getting a story about an industry legend. Killer Mike explained that no artist has only one sound and they go through their career searching for the right sound and the person who helped him find it and unite with El-P to make the sound happen was the Bad Boy himself, Diddy. After, Diddy was trying to persuade both Killer Mike and Big Boi to work with Bad Boy Records and gave the most-Diddy pitch ever.
“That n—a gave me one of the most crazy a– speeches. It scared me, I thought he was the devil for like five minutes,” said Mike about Diddy. “This n—- said ‘Yo, you got to get your boy Big. You got to get this n—- to sign the contract, Mike. This n—- want a couple hundred thousand, we going to make that back baby! Look, we get the leather jackets, we start vibing, we jumping off cars, we jumping off trucks, we jumping out of planes. I ain’t never did this s— but I know y’all South n—-s, we going to get the Bad Boy chains.’ I had the froze face and the n—- looked me dead in my eyes and said ‘Yeah, you like that, don’t you?’ He don’t twist your arm, that n—- could sell water to a whale.”
To hear the full interview with Run The Jewels including some more of their influences, stories about working with Nas and their hopes for future work, listen to the latest episode of Drink Champs on CBS Radio’s Play.it podcast network.