© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hip-Hop Duo Run The Jewels Plays Not My Job


Mostly today we're playing you things you have not heard before, but now let's hear something you wanted to hear again, our chat with Run the Jewels, also known as El-P and Killer Mike.

BILL KURTIS: And every hop-hip act knows if you want to make it big you have to go on NPR. Here's Run the Jewels from last January.


SAGAL: El-P and Killer Mike, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.


EL-P: Thank you.

KILLER MIKE: Hey, how you guys doing?


SAGAL: Now, I know a lot about hip-hop. I can do practically the first act of "Hamilton" from memory.


SAGAL: But - so I have heard, though, that the story of your meeting is, like, legendary in hip-hop circles, that you were both doing your own thing, pretty successful, but then somebody put you together and sparks flew.

EL-P: Yeah, we had a mutual friend, Jason DeMarco. And he had the very strange idea to put us in a room, and we just kind of fell in love. We made some amazing music and we liked each other, which is just strange.

SAGAL: That is strange. So you guys don't have, like, the - I mean, 'cause all the great music acts of the past, they were always at each other's throats. But that's not you guys?

EL-P: Our idea is that every great act has, like, you know, three to four great records and then a horrible falling out. We're sort of trying to plot that part now.


SAGAL: I got to ask - I've asked this of the other hip-hop guys we've had on the show. How did you get your names? Killer Mike, you first.

KILLER MIKE: I was in a freestyle battle when I was 14 or 15 years old. A deejay named Double D (ph) heard me slaying a bunch of kids. He literally looked at me, pointed at me and said, this kid is a killer. From that day on, no one else called me my actual nickname, Skunk (ph) or Nut (ph). They called me Killer.

SAGAL: Killer Mike.


SAGAL: And how about you, El-P?

EL-P: I wish mine was that cool, but it was just me trying to sound cool alone by myself.

SAGAL: Really?


SAGAL: Is that allowed?

EL-P: I thought that - at the time I was about 14. I thought that the Lyrical Punisher sounded really badass, you know?


MO ROCCA: May I ask what are some of your popular songs?


EL-P: You may not ask.

SAGAL: Now, there is one thing that I think Mo might like. Tell me, if you can, about "Meow The Jewels."

EL-P: "Meow The Jewels" was a nightmare of a promise I had to fulfill. We made a joke that if the fans gave us $40,000 we would remix our album using nothing but cat sounds. I was very high at the time. And then someone started a Kickstarter to get the money, and - which was a nightmare because I really didn't want to do that. And...

SAGAL: Why - no, back up. Why did you even say that? What inspired...

EL-P: I was high on marijuana.


EL-P: I don't know what else to tell you.

ROCCA: I need to know - did you make the cat sounds yourself, or did you actually, like, bring cats into the studio?

EL-P: Played cats. We played the cats. You'd be amazed at how many ways there are to make a cat make a sound.


SAGAL: So wait a minute. So you, like - you, like, held the cats up to the microphone, squeezed them in certain places and they went (imitating cat).

EL-P: Of course. Of course. When we do things, we do them all the way, buddy.

SAGAL: (Unintelligible) That.

HONG: (Laughter).

MAZ JOBRANI: Did you give the cats rapper names?

EL-P: (Laughter) It's better not to get attached, you know?

SAGAL: OK, El-P and Mike, we have invited you here to play a game that this time we're calling...

KURTIS: Oy, Gevalt.

SAGAL: So...


SAGAL: ...You clearly...

EL-P: Can you repeat that?

SAGAL: Oh, let me explain. You clearly run the jewels, so we thought we'd ask you about who runs the Jews.


SAGAL: That is...

KILLER MIKE: Oh, my God.

HONG: (Laughter).

SAGAL: ...Rabbis. We're going to ask you three questions about rabbis.


EL-P: Why does this feel like a setup?

SAGAL: It was one. I warned you.


SAGAL: Answer two out of three questions. You do that, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl Kasell on their voicemail. Are you guys ready to play?

KILLER MIKE: Mm-hm (ph).

SAGAL: Bill, who is Run the Jewels playing for?

KURTIS: David Reed of Missoula, Mont.

SAGAL: All right, guys.

EL-P: All right.

KILLER MIKE: Hey, David.

SAGAL: Here's your first question. One of the most famous rabbis around today is Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. He was a good friend to Michael Jackson and Donald Trump and other outstanding citizens. He's the author of many religious books, including which of these - A, "The Jew's Guide To How Delicious Bacon Really Is"...


SAGAL: ...B, "Dating Secrets Of The Ten Commandments"; or C, "Moses Supposes His Toeses (ph) Are Roses: A Study Of Delusional Schizophrenia In The Torah"?

ROCCA: Wow, that's hard.

KILLER MIKE: I would say B.

SAGAL: You're going to go - that was Mike. Mike, you're going to say dating...


SAGAL: B, "Dating Secrets Of The Ten "Commandments." El-P, you're going to go along with that?

EL-P: I'm just going to go along with that, yeah.


SAGAL: I think - yeah, I can see you guys collaborate so smoothly because you're right. It was "Dating Secrets Of The Ten Commandments."


EL-P: Awesome.

KILLER MIKE: Let's roll.

SAGAL: Yeah, Rabbi Boteach specializes in writing romance books based on Judaism. "Kosher Sex" is another one of them.

KILLER MIKE: Oh, that's amazing.

SAGAL: Yeah. Next question. You have two more chances, but you're already one in. Rabbis - you know, even though, of course, Judaism is an ancient religion with an ancient tradition, sometimes they have to update their teachings as times change as in which of these instances - A, in 2011, a San Francisco Rabbi designed the oy phone with special features for members of the Jewish people; B, in 2009, a Lithuanian Rabbi banned Crocs, those shoes, during Yom Kippur, because those shoes are too comfortable for the required suffering...

EL-P: Got you.

SAGAL: ...Or C, in 2014, a rabbi in New York issued new spiritual guidelines for millennial attention spans, including the two commandments?


EL-P: I'm going to just - I'm going to take a guess here, but it's an aspirational guess. It's a romantic one. I really want the Crocs one to be true.

KILLER MIKE: I do, too. I'm going to go with him on that one. I do, too.

SAGAL: You guys are, like, totally in sync because you're right. It was the Crocs one.



HONG: What?

SAGAL: As you may know, as apparently Killer Mike knows, Yom Kippur, days of atonement. You're supposed to be uncomfortable.


SAGAL: He had - oh, Mike, you explain.

KILLER MIKE: I've attended Yom Kippur with my - with Robert Polay (ph), who's an accountant and works for me. So I absolutely...

ROCCA: Of course.

KILLER MIKE: ...Saw everyone dressed a little uncomfortably, asking for forgiveness.

SAGAL: Mike, you don't have to do it now, you don't have to do it soon, but someday I want you to drop a verse rhyming Yom Kippur.

KILLER MIKE: I - (laughter).

SAGAL: Do that for me.

KILLER MIKE: You - I'll do that for sure.



ROCCA: Very good.

HONG: Hey.

SAGAL: Talent, talent, ladies and gentlemen. Last question - just last November, 4,000 rabbis got together in New York to try to film a mannequin challenge. You know, everybody stands still and pretends they're mannequins while the camera pans around. It didn't work out. Why not? Was it A, close scrutiny of the video showed that at least a thousand of these 4,000 rabbis were just actual mannequins dressed with beards and yarmulkes; B, presidential counselor Steve Bannon heard about that many Jews in one place and his terrified screams drowned out the performance...


SAGAL: ...Or C, it turns out that 4,000 Jews simply cannot go 15 seconds without criticizing each other?


EL-P: I've got to say, you know, I'm going to go with C personally.

SAGAL: You're going to with C.

KILLER MIKE: I'm going to run with C, but not based on the Jewish people everyone's thinking about. The black Jewish guys that argue in front of New York transit stations...

SAGAL: Oh, those guys. I love those guys.

KILLER MIKE: I'm going to go with C and represent for the black Jews out there.

SAGAL: I think you should. It was C.


EL-P: Nice.

HONG: Wow.


SAGAL: If you can find this video, it is amazing because there's 4,000 Lubavitch rabbis. These are the guys - you know, the beards and the hats. And they're all trying to hold still, but all you can hear is, hey, you're moving. You're not supposed to move. Stop moving. And they're pointing at each other. It's hilarious. Bill, how did Run the Jews do on our show? I'm sorry, I just said Run the Jews.


SAGAL: I'll try it again. Bill, how did Run the Jewels do on our quiz?

KURTIS: They did perfect. They got them all right.


SAGAL: Congratulations, guys. Well done. Run the Jewels' new album, "Run The Jewels 3," is out. They're on tour now. You should see them. They put on an amazing live show. El-P and Killer Mike, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

EL-P: Thanks, guys.

KILLER MIKE: Thank you all.

SAGAL: What fun. Bye-bye, guys.


RUN THE JEWELS: (Rapping) It be feelin' like the life that I’m livin' man out of control, like every day I’m in a fight for my soul. Could it be that my medicine’s the evidence for pigs to stop and frisk me when they rollin' round on patrol? And ask why...

SAGAL: When we come back, Tom Hanks gets out of his lane - way, way out of his lane. Basically he's driving on the median. That's coming up in a minute on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.