Music & Misery: Looking Out For #1 with Run The Jewels
Since the beginning of the medium, rappers have wielded a rhetoric of unbridled confidence and braggadocio. This bravado is often emitted as a victory anthem for those whom have emerged from difficult upbringings, reflecting the realities in which the artist lived. And according to many of these musicians, contemporary life in urban America doesn’t sound easy at all, but the pressure does seem to create powerful music.
Throughout my life I have been predominantly informed of this experience by rap and hip-hop artists, however I’ve rarely been able to fully relate. Growing up in suburban Canada, I enjoyed an upbringing that simply does not compare to what is most commonly said over a beat. But as I have wandered further away from my own comfortable upbringing, I have begun to appreciate the ruthless dedication to self-preservation that is continuously celebrated by hip hop’s best. And lately no group has represented that sentiment better than Run The Jewels.
Over just a couple of years, Killer Mike and El-P have carved out a creative outlet that seems to have transcended their previous solo work, fusing together musical personalities in a process that results in a product greater than the sum of its parts. Throughout the two albums Run The Jewels have released so far, the duo have reflected on contemporary life in America, coming after hypocrites, profiteers, and Fuckboys alike.
Of all the wonderful questions and answers found in the interview above, El-P’s thoughts regarding the name Run The Jewels are telling when it comes to the group’s ethos.
“A purposeful statement of intent: Run The Jewels. We’re taking it. Everything. From our pride, to our truths, to our mistakes, to our world. And I like the fact that we can give that attitude to someone.”
Which makes me happy to report that I recently took this sentiment and ran with it, and the only thing I regret is that I didn’t embrace the words sooner.
Over the last few months I made my first attempt at joining the business world, working for a consulting start-up in Vancouver. It was my first desk job related to the things I supposedly learned at school, and so I was taking myself very seriously at my new gig. Having previously worked in a union environment in which everything was regulated, the shift was startling.
Over the next few months I slowly learned that there were no rules in the private sector, and with every week I seemed to relate more and more to Run The Jewels’ audible assault on hypocrisy. Much to my chagrin, my new employer, which posed itself as a #sustainable member of the #local #community, was nothing of the sort.
Despite my own personal protest, I was asked to lie, cheat, and steal on behalf of my company. When I did get the nerve to question my assignment, I was belittled by my boss in front of a colleague. It was all part of client services, I was told.
And while I tried to tell myself that things would get better, the voices of Killer Mike and El-P kept telling me I was about to have my jewels run. And they were right.
While clients were the first target, I quickly earned myself a bull’s eye on my back by daring to negotiate what I thought was a reasonable wage. The lies, greed, and ultimatum that followed were a complete validation of the worldview spouted by hip hop’s top contemporary duo.
Now I presume El-P was thinking of someone a little younger when he said he hoped to share his attitude listeners, but I personally couldn’t have received the message at a more opportune moment despite the fact my 25th birthday approaches on the horizon.
After months of lies, disrespect, and negotiations in bad faith, I drove into work two weeks ago this Monday with Lie, Cheat, Steal rattling my rear-view harder than ever before, and I took ownership of it all – my pride, my truths, my mistakes, my world – and I quit. By embracing the sentiment of Run The Jewels, I’ve freed myself from the Early routine, and I’m already on the way to replacing it with one I can be proud of. (An even earlier one, ironically enough.)
“Lie, Cheat, Steal” might be an incredible song, but it’s an awful way to run a business. And while I may have had my jewels run by my former boss, thanks to Killer Mike and El-P I know never to let some Fuck Boy (Or girl) do that to me ever again.