Since the release of their debut album in 2013, Killer Mike and El-P, the two members of the rap group Run The Jewels, have been kicking a consistent amount of ass. Their most recent album, Run The Jewels 2, received considerable critical acclaim and launched them into the festival circuit. They're also remixing their album using only cat sounds, announcing yesterday the album will probably be done by September. Really!
Who are they?
Before RTJ, Killer Mike spent most of his time in the Atlanta rap scene, appearing on songs with Outkast in the early 2000's but generally remaining underground. El-P, too, stayed out of the mainstream for most of his career, first garnering respect for his production in New York in the late '90s before branching out into rapping. Run The Jewels is the most culturally resonant project either rapper's been a part of, which is crazy, because it's essentially unprecedented for two rappers to peak in their late 30s. Understandably, they're loving every minute of it. From an interview with El-P in Stereogum:
“It’s been the most productive time of my life, and the reason is because it’s been fulfilling on a personal level as well as on a musical level,” El says. “You don’t meet your brother 35 years into your life, usually. I didn’t have a brother when I grew up. And I feel like I got one now. And that’s a fact.”
Okay, so, why did they make an album with cat sounds?
It required some pretty perfect internet synergy. Run The Jewels, for lack of a better term, make rap nerd music—it's well-produced, there's an attentiveness to lyricism, and both Killer Mike and El-P are technically gifted. As a result, they've become quite popular on the Reddit hip-hop forum /r/hiphopheads, especially after the release of Run The Jewels 2 and the subsequent critical fawning.
And because it is Reddit, they also love memes, and so one user—after seeing El-P jokingly offer to remix the entire album with only cat sounds for $40,000—launched a Kickstarter to fund the cash. The initial momentum for the drive sprung from a popular Reddit thread, but slowly died out after people likely realized the idea of the joke was funnier than the joke itself.
How did it get funded?
Just as the momentum started to die down, El-P acknowledged it on Twitter:
someone made a kickstarter to fund the "MEOW THE JEWELS PACKAGE". if this gets funded i will make this album.https://t.co/6tvzp2Z3rF
— el-p (@therealelp) September 17, 2014
After he registered his official endorsement of the project, the funding picked up steam, reaching the $40,000 mark with ease, thanks to another boost from the good people on /r/hiphopheads.
Well…the money's going to charity? I guess? That doesn't feel like a convincing enough of a reason, but it probably has to do with a combination of factors: a decent joke, an act of benevolence, a fun way to remain in the news cycle when not making music, and this from an Entertainment Weekly interview in October:
Marijuana. I was sitting at a table and I was just joking around and I just decided, on the spur of the moment, to come up with a bunch of obviously completely ridiculous and joke pre-order options, one of which was, that for $40,000, we will remix the record using nothing but cat sounds and call it Meow the Jewels. Of course, I didn’t expect anybody to actually start a Kickstarter to get that going.
What does it sound like?
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.