Five reasons to check out Killer Mike and El-P this Thursday

Killer Mike and El-P
Presented by the Mission Creek Festival, Killer Mike (left) and El-P will be in Iowa City on Thursday, July 18.

Fresh off the release of their first collaborative album as Run the Jewels, Killer Mike and El-P are in the midst of a nationwide tour that brings them to Gabe’s this Thursday. This show is going to be special, and here is why:

1. Killer Mike exudes charisma

Killer Mike is one of the best stage performers I’ve seen, hip hop show or otherwise. his charisma isn’t borne out of some sort of image or personality, but rather, his utter adherence to earnestness. There’s no hot air with Mike, just truth. He doesn’t bullshit, he doesn’t patronize and it’s these traits that make Killer Mike one of the most admirable hip hop artists out there.

One of my favorite moments from the 2013 Mission Creek Festival was when Mike took a break between songs to talk to the crowd a bit about how one Iowa’s more well-known bands, Slipknot, impacted his creative process. I don’t have a whole lot of Slipknot on my current playlists, and I doubt most of the crowd at the Blue Moose Tap House that night did either, but that was beside the point. It wasn’t the fact that Killer Mike made an easy call-out to Iowa, but rather, it was his conviction with which he spoke that really affected the crowd. Mike wasn’t just flattering us. Mike doesn’t do flattery.

2. Victor Vazquez is opening

Rapper and visual artist Victor Vazquez — known professionally as Kool A.D. — has released a number of mixtapes since the arguably premature breakup of Das Racist. The Bay Area rapper’s most recent material is punctuated by trips into the avant-garde, serving as a very accessible starting point for hip hop fans looking to dip a toe into the world of post-structural/post-rap music. Listen to Kool A.D.’s latest mixtape via Bandcamp.

3. Run the Jewels is a must-hear (free) album

Not only is Run the Jewels one of the most exciting hip hop albums of the summer, it also happens to available for free via Fool’s Gold Records. Killer Mike and El-P have collaborated on previous projects, but Run The Jewels represents a sort of next-level metamorphosis for the hip hop duo.

In an interview with Little Village‘s Kembrew Mcleod, El-P said:

The record is really a psychedelic record. It is. The songs we put out there [in advance of the release] are things that we thought would get people excited in general, but when you get deeper into the record you’ll hear that a lot of it was written under the influence of psychedelics [laughs]

As far as why the album was released free of charge, El-P said:

Yeah, it costs money, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat these days, you know? Let me put it to you this way. Mike and I had a great year, last year, and we were in a position to fund this record. It just felt natural. We didn’t want to ask a label for money and all that goes into that, waiting to schedule a record, that process. Why not invest in ourselves and put something out into the world that is great, and see what comes back to us? It’s a little bit of a risk, but then it’s a risk to do anything. More than anything else, it felt right. Fuck it. We’re not here to compete on an industry level, so we just wanted to put a record out that says none of that matters. We wanted to put out a record that can compete artistically, and on that merit alone. Who cares what we sold the first week? I’ve been in the industry a long time and I’ve done it every which way, and I’m not convinced that doing it the traditional way is really the best way anymore.

[Download Run the Jewels]

4. Despot is opening

Alec “Despot” Reinstein doesn’t have a solo album of his own, but the hip hop artist has been a regular on the New York underground rap scene for over a decade. Despot has toured alongside the likes of El-P, Das Racist and Ratatat in recent years, earning him a broader following and leading many to question when his debut solo album will finally drop. In a 2012 interview with Rap Genius, Despot indicated it might be a while.

People think I’m a perfectionist, but I’m really just lazy,” he said, admitting that he’s seen friends and acquaintances, particularly Das Racist, gain success while he did not. “I’m not bitter at all. They worked on that shit. All those dudes have worked really hard, and I haven’t really worked at all.

Bottom line: If you want to see Despot, this is probably the only chance you’ll get for quite some time — barring some kind of miraculous and unanticipated album release/tour.

5. Run the Jewels’ first video dropped yesterday

And it’s great. This doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the upcoming show itself, but it’s worth noting for fans regardless. Sensitive viewers be warned: Killer Mike and El-P have a proclivity for cartoon violence (There’s one particular scene in Killer Mike’s “Bad Beast” video that would make filmmaker Paul Verhoeven proud), and this video is no exception. The video also features an extended cameo by party god Andrew W.K., because why not?

Watch this video while you reflect upon how hard Killer Mike and El-P are going to bring it this Thursday.

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