Sometimes the greatest successes come at a time when it’s seemingly the last shot for them. Such is the case for both the translucent ginger bearded El-P and the moutainous neckbearded Killer Mike, who together in the last three years have emerged as rap’s most formidable duo while both being well north of 35 years old. But their rise to the top was anything but overnight.
Hailing from Brooklyn, El-P cut his first records with the beloved Company Flow collective, which famously held the motto “Independent As Fuck”. After the group’s dissolution, El struck out on his own both creatively and in the business realm, founding and running the Definitive Jux record label, which gave a platform to such amazing acts as Cannibal Ox, Murs, and former beard of the day Aesop Rock. All three of El-P’s records are considered masterworks in both dystopic lyrical density as well as otherworldly production reminiscent of the walls of sound once produced by Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad.
In early 2012 he was put in touch with Atlanta’s Killer Mike through a mutual friend at Williams Street Records, the label that’s associated with Adult Swim, which is also based in Atlanta. Mike came up through Outkast’s Dungeon Family, with several critical acclaimed works of his own while also occasionally stealing the show with guest verses on Outkast tracks, most notably the incredible “Flip Flop Rock” on Speakerboxxx, where he stood among the giants of industry in former beard of the day Big Boi and Jay-Z.
The two developed such a rapport El-P produced Mike’s brilliant R.A.P. Music in 2012 and became fast friends, leading them to collaborate on a project they called Run The Jewels, named after a brief stick up scene at the beginning of LL Cool J’s “Cheesy Rat Blues”. Backed by El’s assaulting production, his lyrical dexterity has perfectly complimented Mike’s fiery political delivery, and the two have surged to the top of every critic’s best-of lists with two albums that contain absolutely no filler and are even more bone crushing live. Run The Jewels 2 was widely regarded not only as the best rap record in ages, but also as the best record, period, of 2014, and it along with its predecessor were released completely for free.
So now that they’re here, there’s only one way to keep what they’ve got, and it’s an appropriate message now that the postseason has reached June: Lie, Cheat, Steal. Kill, Win. Everybody doin’ it.