Interview :: Killer Mike – Run The Jewels
January 30th 2014
After climbing the ranks of the rap game alongside the likes of Outkast, Atlanta heavyweight Killer Mike will be heading to Australia for the first time for his Laneway Festival appearances as one half of Run The Jewels.
Flog writer Anthony Wallace spoke to Killer Mike as he waited to receive a haircut at his own barbershop in Atlanta. And despite going by the first name Killer, he proved himself a kind-hearted giant who is passionate about making dope beats with musical partner El-P, and who was coincidentally born on 4/20.
AW :: You’ll be in Australia for the first time next week for St Jerome’s Laneway festival. Do you have plans for the trip apart from touring?
Killer Mike: I’d like to check out the arts and culture sections of each city. I’d like to grab some authentic Australian cuisine. And I would like to learn some Aboriginal history. Whatever it takes to get those three things accomplished, I’m gonna do.
With last year’s album Run The Jewels you re-opened me to a world of rap, and I’ve been listening almost exclusively to rap ever since. Is accessibility something you try to aim for in your work?
Thank you very much. I don’t know what I aim for in my work. When I’m doing Run The Jewels, I’m aiming to be rapping my ass off over dope beats. That’s pretty much it for me. I’m not an advertiser, so I don’t really understand crafting music for a particular purpose besides the principles of rap, which was to make dope music and rock the party. It’s about that uncomplex for me.
That’s Run The Jewels stuff. You know, when I make Killer Mike stuff it’s social consciousness and bold stuff. The Killer Mike stuff can be a little heavier, the EL-P stuff can be a little heavier, but Run The Jewels gives us a vehicle just to not give a shit and just to ultimately make you jam with the hardest shit we can possibly be.
How do you and El work together? How do you make music?
We get in the same room, we eat mushrooms, we drink whisky, we smoke weed, we argue, we make dope music.
Does El-P come to you with a beat, or do you start off with a lyrical concept and work from there?
Usually he comes with the beats, he comes with the tracks. Sometimes I like them, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes he likes my raps, sometimes he don’t. And we figure it out.
You know, it’s honestly man… I read a Dave Grohl quote that’s like, the American Idols, going on TV and getting a record deal quick, this stuff is kinda ruining music. Music should be a bunch of kids in a garage with real shitty instruments. And years later those kids would become Nirvana, because he was like “that’s what happened to us.”
El and I, from the rap perspective, we make music in the same way. We try to stay 16 years old in terms of our enthusiasm for making music. We sit in a room, we’re enthused about rap music, we have a little booze and a little weed, and we just make music to impress each other, to impress ourselves, and to impress our audience. It’s that simple. I don’t want to overcomplicate the formula because it took too many years to understand that it’s not a complex formula. It’s just about doing the dopest shit you possibly can do, and then getting it to people in a fresh and innovative way.
Anyone who follows you on Twitter, knows that you celebrate 4/20 almost daily.
Does that help you in your work?
It does. It doesn’t create for me, but interestingly enough I was born on 4/20.
Yeah my birthday is really 4/20.
My mother has been a marijuana smoker my entire life. She didn’t smoke while she was pregnant with me and my sisters, but she’s a smoker. And for years I had resisted smoking marijuana, until I got a record deal. Because I sold marijuana before I got a record deal, I didn’t see the purpose of smoking and selling your own product. I smoked with Big Boi from Outkast and it changed my life.
Has it absolutely made me a better human being? Yes it has. Do I advocate legal marijuana for adults to consume responsibly? I absolutely do.
When can we expect a second Run The Jewels album?
Shit, we’re already working on it. We started working on it a couple of months back. The demos we worked on a while back, while we’re in Australia, I’m gonna be tweeting some verses and beats of my demos up, and when we come home, we’re going to LA and we’re gonna do the next phase.
Usually what we do is get together in one to two week blocks and record. We record better together. So that’s what we’re gonna do. I’m gonna be in a room with him [El-P] after we leave Australia, we’re gonna hang out in LA, and we’re gonna finish Run The Jewels 2 this late spring, and it’s gonna come out this late summer/early fall.
What can we expect from a Run The Jewels live performance?
It’s N.W.A., The Ramones, sprinkle a little Sid Vicious in there. If you mixed all that shit up together with a little Suicidal Tendencies it’s gonna be that. It’s gonna be maniac. It’s gonna be movement. It’s gonna be bedlam. And I enjoy every minute of the hour we’re up there.
Is there going to be any freestyling?
We don’t necessarily start the show to freestyle to the absolute finish, but if freestyle happens we don’t hold back. But it is absolutely rapid-fire rap from start to finish.
How’s the barbershop business going for you?
The barbershop business is growing exponentially man. We started as just like a little laidback shop and we built it into one of the most beautiful barbershops in the world I think. It’s called Graffiti’s S.W.A.G. Shop. We have these $1500 leather chairs for you to sit in, we have hot towels, we have shaves and washes, we got a beautiful shop girl who works here, we have five males, one female barber. It’s a positive vibe and kids get free Hot Wheels. It’s a great service. For $20 I don’t think there’s a better way to spoil yourself as a guy. And we’re about to come out with some products. We have some grease and hairbrushes and stuff like that coming soon, for all your shave, wash and grooming [S.W.A.G.] needs.
Have you got your barber license?
I have not, but I’ve started apprenticing under the barbers. They started showing me the basics of a proper haircut, so this time next year I expect to be doing full haircuts.
What will be the price for a haircut from Killer Mike himself?
From me? Haha. People are probably gonna try get it on a discount because I own it. I think I’m gonna be in charge of a $50 haircut sesh.
And just lastly, have you had the chance to listen to any Australian hip hop?
Not Australian, but New Zealand. There was a Samoan brother, Savage, who made it stateside. I know he’s not Australian, but I’ve heard it’s a vibing scene. And there’s this kid there… Godamn what’s this kid’s name, shit he’s dope…
Flume! I did a record with him. It’s a dope ass record. Apparently he’s blowin’ over there.
That record was the Deluxe version of Flume’s debut record, and the track Killer Mike featured on, Insane:
Catch Killer Mike at his many St Jerome’s Laneway Festival dates and sideshows, including this ripper rap package deal:
WHO :: Run The Jewels (Killer Mike & El-P), Earl Sweatshirt, Danny Brown & Citizen Kay
WHAT :: St Jerome’s Laneway Festival Sideshow
WHERE :: Enmore Theatre, Sydney
WHEN :: Tuesday 4th February, from 7:30pm
HOW MUCH :: $69.95 from here
Last year’s self titled debut album, Run The Jewels, is still available for free download from Fool’s Gold Records.
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