After his impassioned speech about the death of George Floyd went viral, Killer Mike and his rapping partner El-P explain why a mix of serious politics and surreal goofiness makes their music perfect for our times
Run the Jewels have enjoyed one of the more improbable rises to fame in recent hip-hop history. Two figures nearing 40, from the genre’s margins – Killer Mike on the fringes of Outkast’s Atlanta-based circle of rappers and producers, his partner El-P a founder member of Company Flow and longstanding critical darling of east coast underground rap – who pooled their resources to record a mixtape. They gave it away and watched, astonished, as it and its two successors became runaway successes.
It happened despite the fact that their music – political, angry, more about lyrics than hooks – is grounded in the golden age hip-hop of Public Enemy and EPMD, and swims against the genre’s prevalent trends. Yet for all they profess a certain mystification over Run the Jewels’ success, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that they’re the right band for the moment: an alternately surreal and furious response to a world spinning bizarrely, horribly out of control.