Run the Jewels are hip-hop's preeminent anti-oppressor, anti-sucker, anti-wack-shit menace: the party band for the revolution or the apocalypse, whichever comes first. A collaboration between two veteran rhyme-slayers — Brooklyn's El-P and Atlanta's Killer Mike — Run the Jewels have gone from a whim-driven underground rap project to a worldwide sensation, headlining festivals, topping critics polls, nabbing Grammy nominations, soundtracking movie trailers and striking fear in any group unfortunate enough to follow them on a concert stage.
Mixing the industrial grime of New York City with the vibrant bounce of the dirty South, Run the Jewels forge hip-hop's future while adhering to the core tenets of its bedrock: gymnastic displays of skills, incendiary political rhetoric, furious scratch solos, merciless braggadocio, battle-honed assholery, R-rated punchlines and a back-and-forth that brings the interplay of the shell-toe Adidas era screaming into our contemporary nightmare.
The group's four critically acclaimed albums — Run the Jewels (2013), Run the Jewels 2 (2014), Run the Jewels 3 (2016) and RTJ4 (2020) — form a suite that marks perhaps the strongest run from a hip-hop group since the heyday of EPMD, garnering a Best New Music nod from Pitchfork upon every release. The group's iconic "pistol and fist" hand gesture — which evolves on each album cover — has graced covers of Black Panther and Howard the Duck comic books and shown up in multi-million-selling video games. A modern staple of music supervisors, RTJ's boom-and-pound has soundtracked Academy Award nominated films like The Big Short and Baby Driver; box-office-topping popcorn-movers like Deadpool 2, Venom and Bad Boys for Life; Emmy-winning TV shows like Silicon Valley; and massive video games like Cyberpunk 2077 and NBA 2K20.
Before accidentally conquering the world on their own terms, the two members of Run the Jewels thrived in divergent galaxies of the hip-hop universe. In the late '90s and early '00s, El-P was a beacon in the doggedly independent world of underground New York hip-hop, paving a path for DIY rap success with game-changing trio Company Flow, then nurturing a stable of artists with distortion-flecked record label Definitive Jux. Killer Mike was a major label artist bumrushing MTV during the crunk era and a member of Atlanta's thought-leading Dungeon Family — his very first guest appearance was on nothing less consequential than Outkast's four-times Platinum LP Stankonia.
After being introduced to each other by Cartoon Network's Jason DeMarco, El-P helmed the production on Killer Mike's fifth solo album, 2012's corrosive R.A.P. Music. Though emerging from different scenes, sounds and regions, the pair — born less than two months apart — found common bonds in the golden-era hip-hop that raised them. They dropped their self-titled, 10-song debut in 2013 and slowly grew one of hip-hop's most loyal and rabid audiences through a series of website-crashing free album downloads, relentless touring and colorful vinyl variants.
In December of 2019, the group's boastfest "Legend Has It" became their first Gold certified single. The following year, RTJ4 became their first album to debut in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200. As but one example of their ever-expanding influence, Rep. Stacey Plaskett quoted a line from RTJ's "Early" during the 2021 impeachment hearings of former president Donald Trump.
The group will appear on 37 dates of Rage Against the Machine's Public Service Announcement tour, should we be fortunate enough to reach 2022.The duo's intrepid "third member," Trackstar the DJ, holds down RTJ both live and on wax, and can be heard every Friday night from 10 pm to midnight EST on XMRadio's Shade45.