Over the past few years, Run The Jewels, the duo of long standing MCs Killer Mike and El-P, has released, rapid-fire, a series of political albums that never hesitate to throw a giant middle finger at the status quo and the powers that be.
Along the way, Mike and El-P have made a point of celebrating weed both on and off the mic. Yet unlike other artists that rap about pot in goofy or loose terms, these guys approach it through the lens of activism with acute observation that reflect their staunch progressive and libertarian political positions. Their most recent album, RTJ3, released last December, offers some of their most explicit, hilarious and political allusions to weed yet.
Even though they sound fresh, both Killer Mike (born Michael Render) and El-P, have been in the music industry for decades. Run the Jewels formed in 2013 after El-P produced Mike’s solo album, Rap Music. Particularly since joining forces with El-P, Mike has become the more vocally political of the duo; last year he became an outspoken advocate for Senator Bernie Sanders, with whom he had an extensive conversation in an Atlanta barbershop that touched on, among other things, marijuana legalization.
Last December, Mike co-wrote an op-ed in Rolling Stone with Eric Nielsen, a professor at the University of Richmond, about the whitewashing of the marijuana industry and the implications of legalization for the African-American community. “The current movement to legalize marijuana offers a small but important opportunity to dismantle [racial inequality],” Render writes in the article. “And yet the people most likely to be victims of marijuana prohibition are the least likely to profit in its aftermath.”
Although the duo’s new record, RTJ3, focuses on parallel issues of injustice (directing a fair amount at a certain scumbag with a “bad toupee and a spray tan”), it was recorded in upstate New York, under pretty mellow circumstances. And a lot of weed.
Mike recently told DIY Magazine just how much weed:
“We average ‘bout a quarter pound a week to ten days. So, that’s on average about a pound a month. I’d say – give or take a pound – and we’re looking at a year here, I’d say honestly no less than six pounds to record an album.”
Since the interview, the good folks over at DJbooth.net did some math; they estimate that the duo smoked at least 2688 joints during the sessions.
All that weed certainly found its way into the music.
“If aliens are here, please tell me how near / Do you come in peace or should everybody fear? / I’ll wait your reply with a blunt and a beer / I be the high guy with the belly and the beard.”
Like with much of their music, RTJ3 captures two middle-aged guys who are still ready to turn up, and are able to see the politics behind the pastime of cannabis. They use it both to interject their verses with a sense of humor – albeit dark humor – but also as just one example of the injustice and inequality all around us.
TELL US, how does cannabis inform your creative process?