In 2013, Run the Jewels, the superduo consisting of veterans Killer Mike and El-P, released its self-titled debut, a confrontational barrage of rap ruthlessness. For follow-up RTJ2 (Oct. 27, Mass Appeal Records), they have doubled down on the aggression and injected more of the sociopolitical commentary found in their solo work. On the eve of the album’s release, Killer Mike and El-P discuss their group dynamic, why Mike’s parents are scared for him, and Meow the Jewels, their upcoming Kickstarter-funded remix LP featuring nothing but cat noises (seriously).
Why did you immediately record another Run the Jewels album instead of returning to your solo work?
El-P: It just felt right. One record would have been a moment; two records makes us a group.
Killer Mike: When the team is clicking, you don’t break it up. There’s no sense f—ing up this momentum.
How is RTJ2 different from the first album?
Mike: The foundation is the foundation: Anytime you pick up Run the Jewels I think the cornerstone is brutal shit-talking. This time we went in. We didn’t go self-righteous, thinking we were making songs to change the world, as much as we were determined to say things in a more confrontational way — criticism of religion, government, police brutality.
Mike, on Run the Jewels‘ “DDFH,” you said your mom told you to stop rapping about those subjects.
Mike: My mom tells me that all the time: “I love you. I’m proud of you. But I really get worried. Why don’t you dumb down and talk about this bullshit?” I’m like, “I don’t have it in me.” She’s afraid because I’m her only son. She asks me not to go hard on the government. She fears for me. And now my dad doesn’t want me to rap about weed or talk about weed on television.
Meow the Jewels started as a joke, but then fans raised more than $40,000 on Kickstarter to make it happen. How are you preparing — hoarding strays?
Mike: I want tiger growls.
El-P: Honestly, I’ve just been bookmarking YouTube cat videos. I have no idea how I’m going to do this shit, but I’m going to figure it out. I’m auditioning cats, talking to different cats, seeing where their heads are at. I’ve met a couple I think have some untapped potential. Cats are apparently popular on the Internet.
An edited version of this article first appeared in the Nov. 1 issue of Billboard.