As one half of hip-hop duo Run the Jewels, rapper/producer El-P has seen the greatest success of his two-decade career in recent years, as fans worldwide have truly latched on to the unexpected yet sublime collaborative effort between the Brooklynite and Atlanta’s own Killer Mike. But for those who have been paying attention to El’s career since before the RTJ days, it should come as no surprise that he has a knack for playing well with others.
Here are the Top 5 collaborations that El-P has done over the years prior to the existence of Run the Jewels.
1) “Flyentology” – El-P feat. Trent Reznor (2007)
El-P’s sophomore solo record, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, found the hip-hop producer further expanding his sound and embracing an even darker, more rock-influenced aesthetic. So it’s fitting that he paired with the man behind Nine Inch Nails for one of the record’s singles, the plane-crash-as-metaphor-for-religion song that questions why it is that even the coldest atheist looks to the heavens in times of imminent tragedy. The pairing stemmed from a previous collaboration that the pair created in 2005, when Reznor enlisted El-P to produce a remix for the NIN song “Only.”
2) “Offspring” – Del the Funky Homosapien feat. El-P (2000)
Some collaborations find the participants meeting in the middle, stylistically speaking. But for “Offspring” — a collaboration with West Coast indie stalwart Del the Funky Homosapien — El-P seemingly invited the Hiero emcee over to his house. This is some classic underground word-bending from two rappers with a reputation for boldly staking their claim with little regard to the status quo. Despite the fact that the beat sounds like it would fit perfectly on an El-P project, Del is able to sound like he’s right at home.
3) “Hideyaface” (El-P remix) – Prefuse 73 featuring Ghostface Killah and El-P (2005)
Prefuse 73’s third studio album, Surrounded By Silence, featured a who’s who guest list of rappers and vocalists with some truly interesting combos, not the least of which was “Hide Ya Face,” which paired El-P with the Wu-Tang’s very own Ghostface Killah. El lent his own production to a remix of the song, which traded in the more airy and pensive feeling of the original for a more in-your-face attitude. Once you hear the remix version, it will be difficult to ever prefer the original.
4) “We’re Famous” – Aesop Rock feat. El-P (2003)
Aesop Rock’s Bazooka Tooth album was a demented look inside of the wordsmith’s warped mind, but that personal narrative was pleasantly interrupted by a brief intermission in the form of “We’re Famous,” an El-P song featuring Aesop Rock disguised as an Aesop Rock song featuring El-P. El’s extended opening verse is something of an indie hip hop State of the Union, as he addressed his role in the culture of underground hip hop in 2003 and showed why the only thing more impressive than his refusal to repeat himself creatively was his fearless bravado on the microphone when provoked.
5) “Butane (Champion’s Anthem)” – Killer Mike feat. El-P (2012)
Okay, so you could technically say that this could be considered a Run the Jewels song, but you’d be wrong. One of the stand-out tracks on Killer Mike’s excellent R.A.P. Music album (produced entirely by El-P), “Butane” is something of a proto-RTJ song, as it was the first time that the two rappers appeared on the same song together. The synergy that the duo shared over El’s punishing production set the stage for the enormous success they would find when they went full-throttle with their collaboration.
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