El-P Has Killer Mike’s Back Even Though They Disagree On Gun Control
Over the last decade, one of Hip-Hop’s more unlikely and yet, most enduring super-groups is Run The Jewels. The union began when El-P produced Killer Mike’s 2012 album, R.A.P. Music. The release marked a new sound for the Adamsville, Georgia MC, and a different kind of collaborator for the Brooklyn, New York-based double-threat known for a keystone role in the ’90s and early 2000s Underground Hip-Hop movement.
Starting in mid-2013, Mike and El formed a group of their own: Run The Jewels. With hand gestures signifying an armed robbery, so many things about this group stood apart from the rest of Hip-Hop, as well as Mike and El’s individual histories. After three albums (each more commercially successful than the previous), Run The Jewels stands as a benchmark in both rapper’s extensive careers. This week, R.T.J.’s founders publicly disagreed on gun-control, while maintaining a commitment to the group and one another. The events transpired during a time when Mike and El are on national tour together, in support of Lorde.
On Saturday (March 24), a video released on the National Rifle Association’s NRA TV featuring an interview with Killer Mike. That video, sponsored by gun manufacturer Mossberg, begins with NRA TV host Colion Noir (on camera without Mike) condemning March For Our Lives demonstrators. “What are you really marching for? Because from where I’m standing, it looks like a march to burn the Constitution and rewrite the parts you don’t like in crayon,” Noir says. Cutting to his interview with the rapper, he pivots, “no one can point this out better than Killer Mike.”
The historic event Noir appears to be referring to took place in Washington, D.C., and cities around the nation on the same day that the National Rifle Association published the interview. In the 6:45-long clip, Mike advocates in favor of gun ownership. “My daughter goes to Savannah State University,” Mike says. Referencing the fatal 2017 shooting of SSU student Christopher Starks, the 42-year-old MC continues, “There was also a shooting on that campus. Talked to my wife and daughter after that, the decision was we’re gonna go to Savannah, she’s gonna get a gun and train more.”
Mike’s position on gun ownership is not new for those who follow his interviews and lyrics dating back to his 2003 Monster debut. During his Run The Jewels tenure, Mike has also led public statements, including the #BankBlack movement in 2016 and informing the masses of the racism behind drug laws in the United States.
Throughout the weekend, Killer Mike faced an outcry of criticism for his words and the timing of the video (including by Rap peer Vic Mensa, who challenged Mike to a debate). Last night (March 25), the rapper released a video via Twitter, clarifying his intent, along with the NRA’s manipulation of his support. “I did an interview [with the NRA] about Black gun ownership in this era,” Mike states. “That interview was used a week later to disparage a very noble campaign that I actually support,” he explains. “I want to say first I’m sorry guys. I do support the March [For Our Lives movement]—and I support Black people owning guns. It’s possible to do both.” He also apologized directly to marchers and organizers.“I’m sorry that an interview I did about a minority: Black people in this country, and gun rights was used as a weapon against you guys. That was unfair to you and it was wrong, and it disparaged some very noble work you’re doing.”
During the march, El-P (who lampooned firearms in his “Deep Space 9mm” music video in 2002) advocated on behalf of protestors and victims of gun violence in response to the NRA, specifically the very video Mike appeared in:
After Killer Mike clarified his position, El-P detailed his position on Twitter. “We know [Killer Mike]. It’s what sets him apart in his music and his life. He stands up when others can’t or won’t,” El-P wrote as part of a two-page-letter. “And yet he’s a person. He stumbles and he makes bad decisions sometimes and he doesn’t always get his messages across or even protect himself and I wanna f*ckin’ strangle him ’cause its so stressful to watch when it could have been avoided. But the fact is Mike is someone I and many of you know consistently and ferociously tries to bring some light and love to this world. You simply can’t deny that. So while I’m bummed at the way this unfolded, I will always f*ck with him.”
In the statement, El also spoke directly to protestors, gun violence victims, and survivors. “I am personally incredibly inspired and blown away by the bravery and emotion of an entire generation of young people standing up and trying to change the world. I’ve watched the awe and excitement as the new wave of young heroes has stepped in and demanded to be heard. These are heroes forged in pain and loss and love. They are telling us we have to change. We can not dismiss that.”
The Fort Greene, Brooklyn MC/producer condemned any organization, which includes the NRA, “that opposes, slanders or seeks to discredit these people trying desperately to change their world in some real way for the better.”
Following El-P’s statement, Mike expressed solidarity online to his R.T.J. band-mate. He re-tweeted the letter, adding an apology:
Although Run The Jewels appears in tact, throughout the years, Hip-Hop groups have had moments where social and political controversy affects their personnel, including Public Enemy’s firing of Professor Griff (who has since returned to P.E.).
Run The Jewels is presently touring with Lorde.