Run The Jewels Discuss Artistry, Kanye West With Banksy
(Photo by Gretchen Villaluna for Okayplayer)
Earlier this week Run the Jewels were announced as one of the numerous acts headlining shows at British street artist Banksy's new macabre parody theme park Dismaland. Rather than just rock the show and skip town, however, both El-P and Killer Mike sat down to answer questions from Banksy himself, getting into a serious conversation on the nature of artistry, the social status of Kanye West, the power of Youtube videos and much, much more.
Banksy asked the two flat-out if they'd rather be great artists or nice people, garnering thoughtful replies. "We all want recognition and validation to an extent for our art, but greatness as a trade for decency is a risky proposition," El-P said. "In my life I try to leave the people I encounter with the feeling that they have been respected and treated with warmth and appreciation." Mike, for his part, confessed that the respect he gets for his character does more for him than props on his MC skills. "As good as it feels to get my deserved props, the best part of reading social media after I meet folks is reading: “Mike was a nice guy”. I believe being honourable lasts longer than rapping good."
Elsewhere, Banksy was keen to discuss serious social issues with both El and Mike, bringing incidents in Ferguson and the experience of getting emotional in front of the laptop screen:
The clip of your speech at Ferguson after the verdict [when the jury decided not to charge officer Darren Wilson for the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown] made me cry. When did you last cry watching YouTube?
KM The last time YouTube made me cry was watching Dr John Henrik Clarke speak about Marcus Garvey. I was overwhelmed with pain for a great man that was abused and mistreated because he wanted to better the state of blacks globally. It is scary to think a system exists that wishes not to see all people live with human dignity and respect. I did, however, finish feeling encouraged that day will come.
EL-P When the two guys raised the lion and then set the lion free but they missed the lion and they visited it in Africa and the lion was now king of his tribe and had a wife and children but he recognised the two guys and ran up and hugged them and licked their faces. I wept like a baby.
Banksy and the duo also discussed graffiti specifically. "The bravest artists I’ve ever known have always been graf artists," El-P said. Risking your life and your freedom is no joke." The full interview has been published in The Guardian under Banksy's byline. Read it here, where you'll also find the trio's take on Kanye West's ultimate rockstardum. Their viewpoints might surprise you.