Killer Mike and El-P have a bond that goes beyond explanation. Sure, they both make loud, abrasive rap music that often features painful introspection as well as political and societal critiques. And they are equally opposed to the cliquish mindset that is unable to reconcile a boisterous southern rapper -- who burst into the public's consciousness through mainstream Outkast guest features -- working with a brash New Yorker who made his name as a defiantly independent firebrand. But the duo's friendship goes deeper than these shared interests.
You can hear it in their music, dating back to their first full-length collaboration, last year's R.A.P. Music, wherein El-P's clattering, synth-blasted production is tweaked with southern organs to perfectly compliment Killer Mike's impassioned, occasionally twangy rapping. Killer Mike returned the favor by appearing on El-P's densely claustrophobic Cancer 4 Cure, also released last year. The bond is also on full display on this year's collaborative album Run The Jewels, which finds both artists rapping over El-P's beats. Both rappers have taken in each other's influence, and stylistically meet somewhere in the middle to form a lethal tag-team.
But the best place to see the chemistry between Killer Mike and El-P might be in conversation. The duo riff on and expand upon each other's jokes, enhance each other's ideals and come across as old friends who have known each other a lot longer than the few years they actually have. RFT Music was lucky enough to witness this as the pair talked about making a more "fun" album this time around and their upcoming tour, all the while gracefully putting up with our inept conference call interview skills.
Bob McMahon: I was reading about how you two met through Adult Swim. When did you realize that you clicked both as friends and artistic collaborators?
El-P: I mean, honestly? Kind of within a day. Really, no doubt. Like-
[A phone chime announces that Killer Mike as joined the conference call.]
Ohhh! There he is.
Killer Mike: Hey, guys.
El-P: Hi, Mike!
Killer Mike: How are you guys doin'?
El-P: We were already jumping into it. He asked us when did we realize we were clicking as collaborators and friends. I told him about 24 hours into our meeting each other, maybe even earlier.
Killer Mike: Yeah, that's for real. It was very early. I recall telling our mutual friend Jason [presumably Jason Demarco, the founder of Williams Street Records who introduced Killer Mike to El-P] after the first time we were together, "I love this guy." He got us to do the record. So somewhere in the stars, this was meant to be.
Do you think there was any tangible reason for the chemistry, or is it just one of those unexplainable connections?
El-P: We're just brothers, man. We didn't know it, but we are. That's all.
Killer Mike: Yeah, real shit. Like, I can't explain that shit. Like, when I talk about "it's my brother," I feel like I'm talking about my brother of another color from another mother. He's truly my brother. I don't even question shit like that. Too much of my life has been serendipity for me to question it. I just think serendipity has probably been my best friend, and that's my brother. A serendipitous moment. There's nothing wrong with that.
El-P: No doubt.
Killer Mike: I don't even really want to know why. I just want to keep making dope shit, and when we're 80 and about to die, we can figure it out. It's like the end of a Henry Fonda movie.
El-P: That lesson that went tragically unanswered.
Killer Mike: Yeah! [laughs]
El-P: Just when I figure it out, I die.
Killer Mike: Yeah, exactly. "This is why we are meant to be together. Goodbye."
Continue to page two for more of our interview.