El-P and Killer Mike

For letting goodwill drive their music business.

El-P and Killer Mike
A great run: Hip-hop duo Killer Mike (left) and El-P [Photo: Ben Sklar]

Hip-hop duo El-P and Killer Mike have each enjoyed long, successful solo careers, but their music really took off when they teamed up under the name Run The Jewels–and decided to give their first album away online for free. The duo released its second album in 2014, the critically lauded Run The Jewels 2. It has now been streamed almost 25 million times on Spotify, sparking sales of concert tickets and merchandise. “Run The Jewels is not a thinking operation; we’ve been a heart operation this whole time,” says El-P. “We believe that we will create a business around goodwill, and goodwill can come from making good, heartfelt music that people enjoy.”


Bonus Round

Where or how do you seek out creative inspiration?

MIKE: Marijuana, mushrooms, and the strip club.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

MIKE: Smoke marijuana.

What is one thing about your job that you think would surprise people?

EL-P: It never fucking ends.

What’s your favorite Twitter or Instagram account and why?

MIKE: Dan Bilzerian. He’s a millionaire, billionaire poker player who travels the world with naked women shooting guns. That is ultimately what I want to do when I retire from rap. My favorite Twitter is probably Kanye West because he doesn’t tweet very often so he doesn’t crowd my timeline.

EL-P: My favorite Instagram account is a woman I know who’s a good friend who’s a brilliant photographer named Amy Touchette. She takes these really wonderful and warm and human portraits real New Yorkers–not the glamorous ones, not the ones that are pushed as a part of the image of what New York has become. She’s captured a soul of my city, underneath all of the infusion of money and nouveau culture, there’s a real living breathing New York City. My girl @judnikki has an amazing Twitter account just because she’s amazing–she’s one of the most shit talking chicks on the planet.

How do you keep track of everything you have to do? Can you send us a snapshot of your to-do list?

MIKE: El-P will call me and ask me, “Mike, why are you late?”

EL-P: And I keep track by our manager.

What are some things you do to refresh your mind when you’re in a rut?

EL-P: Did we mention weed?

Who outside of your field inspires you the most and why?

MIKE: It’s Dick Gregory for me because he’s old, he’s mean, he’s ornery, but it comes from a place of love and he’s said some real trill shit. If Run The Jewels were an 80-year-old black man, it would be Dick Gregory: He’s funny, he’s angry and he takes no shit from the establishment.

EL-P: People like Bill Hicks and George Carlin–those are thinkers. I really think Run The Jewels is to some degree the Bill Hicks of rap music. In the sense that he’s a fucking degenerate, he’s a fucking smoker, he’s a fucking drug user, and he’s also viciously intelligent and he’s not taking shit but at the same time he’s not so serious. He knows when to be ridiculous and he knows when to say something that’s heartfelt.


About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.