Run The Jewels El-P and Killer Mike talk to Stretch and Bobbito about how they turned slang into a slogan, homophobia in hip-hop, and the importance of cherishing shared humanity over political differences.
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Run The Jewels

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Run The Jewels

Run The Jewels

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ADRIAN BARTOS, HOST:

We're taking our show on the road in front of a live audience where you need to be. On September 7, we're sitting down with actress and activist Rosie Perez and her husband, artist and designer Eric Haze at The Bell House in Brooklyn. Haze, by the way, did the logo for our podcast. You can buy tickets at nprpresents.org. Come out and hang.

ROBERT GARCIA, HOST:

Today's podcast may contain some explicit language. You're warned.

KILLER MIKE: I'm an activist, right? I want everybody to be equal. The day after equality happens, I'm talking shit to everybody.

(LAUGHTER)

KILLER MIKE: Like, language, for me, is a very freeing thing. Now I look forward to the day that literally everyone is equal so we can get back to talking shit to each other.

EL-P: We can all insult the shit out of each other.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARTOS: Yo. Yo. Yo. What's up, everybody? This is Stretch Armstrong.

GARCIA: What up? And I'm Bobbito Garcia aka Kool Bob Love.

BARTOS: Welcome to WHAT'S GOOD WITH STRETCH AND BOBBITO, your source for untold stories and uncovered truths from movers and shakers around the world.

GARCIA: Today's guest is the hip-hop duo Run the Jewels. The critically acclaimed and fiercely independent rap team joins us in the studio to talk about how they learned to have fun with their music and about their unexpected friendship. Stretch, tell me about your favorite unlikely duo in music.

BARTOS: Yeah. You know, we were talking about this. And for some reason, the conversation we had sparked a memory of this performance - I saw the video on YouTube. It was The Rolling Stones bringing Stevie Wonder out on stage, and they do "Can't Get No Satisfaction."

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)

STEVIE WONDER: (Singing) I can't get no satisfaction. I can't get no satisfaction.

BARTOS: And you can hear the excitement in that venue. It's insane. There are about 40 musicians on stage. There's a horn section that's probably about seven or eight people.

GARCIA: It's pandemonium.

BARTOS: It really is. Stevie is going off. You watch this clip and you just can't help but be, you know, just dragged into the euphoria. I've been to a lot of concerts in my life. I've spent hours on YouTube. And this has got to be one of the most joyful and intense performances I've ever seen.

GARCIA: That's an unlikely duo. And we're going to talk to another unlikely duo in just a second. Stay tuned for Run the Jewels.

BARTOS: Word.

(SOUNDBITE OF BETTY FORD BOYS' "THE SYMPHONY (JEEP VOLUME)")

BARTOS: Now that WHAT'S GOOD is up and running, we'd like to hear back from you, our listeners. Please take a minute to answer a short survey about the show. Just go to npr.org/whatsgoodsurvey. Again, that's npr.org/whatsgoodsurvey. That's all one word.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CALL TICKETRON")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Live from the garden.

BARTOS: And we're back. Joining us now in studio is the hip-hop duo and our people, Run the Jewels.

EL-P: What up?

GARCIA: Yeah, Run the Jewels is Killer Mike, El-P. Family to the fullest, although, Mike, your new family - we're forging family...

KILLER MIKE: I am. I'm your cousin from the country.

EL-P: Automatic. Automatically family.

KILLER MIKE: Because - my weird cousin from the country up here for the summer.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CALL TICKETRON")

KILLER MIKE: (Rapping) I'm the shumalumadumalama (ph) danger dick, I'll do your mama. Skeeter (ph) with the peter, never eat her, tell her, see you later. Holler about tomorrow, baby, I ain't got to holler. My Impala pop a pussy, pop a collar. Pop a pill then chill...

BARTOS: Killer Mike is from Atlanta, first rose to fame with the featured verse on OutKast's hit single "The Whole World."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WHOLE WORLD")

KILLER MIKE: (Rapping) Player, I grind. My focus is crime. Raw with the rhyme, I stick with the slime. My words are diamonds dug out of a mine - spit them, polish. Look how they shine.

GARCIA: And El-P is a vet of the New York underground, originally recorded with the trio Company Flow aka Co Flow.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VITAL NERVE")

EL-P: (Rapping) El the maladjusted emcee, Funcrusher. Massive, a sign for my condition automatic. Onslaught, connect thoughts, get jostled at your position. Listen.

BARTOS: Indeed. In 2013, the two teamed up after rhyming together on tour and have since dropped three critically acclaimed and ridiculously successful albums as Run the Jewels. They've now got a huge fan base, and they're selling out gigs across the country. Fellas, it's good to see you.

GARCIA: Yeah. El blaso (ph), el blaso, el blaso. So let's - I mean, Mike, we're going to get to you.

KILLER MIKE: I'm chilling.

GARCIA: We're going to get to you, but we got to establish that El is a dear friend. Like, even though we haven't hung out in wow long, I mean, Stretch and I had a radio show in the 1990s. I'm going to give you some background, just in case you don't know.

KILLER MIKE: OK. Educate. Bring them up to speed.

BARTOS: I'm sure El's never told him anything about this.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: And a young teenage El-P was on Libra Records. And we gave the 12-inch some love. And then he had a little demo called "8 Steps To Perfection."

BARTOS: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.

GARCIA: What?

BARTOS: More than love, I loved that record, burnt the hell out of it.

EL-P: You guys were only people who liked that record.

(LAUGHTER)

EL-P: Like, you literally were the - I mean, you know, I tell - well, I tell Mike, like, I give him the background. But when I tell the story, I keep it simple and I just say, these guys started my career.

GARCIA: Wow. Listen, you told me such a story about how you and your partner Bigg Jus from Company Flow heard Stretch debut your first 12-inch.

EL-P: Yeah. Yeah. We were sitting in my - at the time - my mother's 1985 brown - 1985 Buick waiting because we had given Stretch - Stretch was the first person we gave the record to. And we were like, we knew that he was going to play it at some point. You know, that's a four-hour show, so we were there for the long haul.

We were like in the car, like, we're here till 4 in the morning, you know. First jam - we just heard like - oh, man, it gives me chills. Like, he played it. We heard it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "8 STEPS TO PERFECTION")

BIGG JUS: (Rapping) Rugged like Rwanda. Don't wind up far or get chopped up.

EL-P: And we were like, oh, my God, that's (unintelligible). And then the rhyme started to come in. And we were like, this is amazing. And then he - and it was like ere-ere-zoom (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "8 STEPS TO PERFECTION")

BIGG JUS: (Rapping) Rugged like Rwanda. Don't get wander far or get chopped up.

EL-P: Ran it back again. I think you ran that back about four times before you dropped it. It was such a seminal moment in our lives, you know what I mean? Because we looked up to you guys as the most important thing that you could possibly do.

BARTOS: It meant a lot to us too. I mean, you're describing one direction of this relationship, but for us to be able to champion music that we kind of felt we discovered was hugely important for not just the success of the show but just for our own inspiration and desire to keep doing this. It's equally exciting for us.

But the name Run the Jewels is slang for a stickup. And your logo is a hand in the shape of a gun pointed at a fist holding jewels. Actually, I just realized on the way up here that Def Jux is a pun - jux (ph) is a robbery, a stickup. So what's up with you and robberies?

EL-P: Oh, you know, I just like, you know...

(LAUGHTER)

EL-P: Yeah, you know, it's just something I do on my off time.

(LAUGHTER)

EL-P: I don't know what's up with me and robberies, man. The Run the Jewels thing, you know, it came from - obviously we all know we are from New York. You all know the phrase run the jewels. Even Mike from Atlanta knows the phrase run the jewels. If you were hearing the word run the jewels, then you were in trouble. But I got it from "Cheesy Rat Blues" on the "Mama Said Knock You Out" album for LL Cool J.

Run the Jewels and me and Mike and our connection and everything came out of a time, a period of time I lost - I had personally lost everything, everything that I had been working on, including any personal money that I had or any, you know, the record label that I'd been working on for 10 years and all and friends that had passed away. A lot of stuff kind of fell out from underneath my feet completely. And I - and, you know, I had a period of time where I was - a couple years where I was really - I had been humbled by the world. And I'd been humbled by the universe.

And - but I remember when I started making music and I started to feel good again. And I remember I was listening to "Cheesy Rat Blues" off of the "Mama Said Knock You Out" album. And at the end of that song, he - and this is a song where it's a story about him losing everything, about him being a rap star and him losing everything and the friends that he thought that he had going away and him getting desperate. And it just connected with me at that time, I'll be honest. And at the end of the song, he went, throw your hands in the air, wave them like you just don't care. But keep them there - run the jewels.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEESY RAT BLUES")

LL COOL J: Run the jewels.

EL-P: All of a sudden, it just meant something to me bigger than that. All of a sudden, it felt powerful. All of a sudden, it felt like, you know what? I don't have anything but get ready. I'm going to take something, like - and, you know...

GARCIA: What was your response to hearing the idea, the concept of run the jewels as a group name?

EL-P: Be honest.

KILLER MIKE: Honestly, I was just like, it's crazy. Because it is no more powerful a statement you can hear. If you in the '80s, if you hear run it, you know I'm being robbed, you know what I'm saying? So...

EL-P: But I've got to say, what the original intention of it, it changed.

KILLER MIKE: Yeah, it grew. It progressed.

EL-P: Because what happened was we...

GARCIA: I'm so glad you brought that up because that's what we were about to ask.

(LAUGHTER)

EL-P: Good. Yeah, no, it did. It did.

GARCIA: Yeah, I mean, your fan base is younger.

KILLER MIKE: Yeah.

EL-P: Yes.

GARCIA: So they perhaps don't know the context of run it, run the jewels.

EL-P: Definitely not.

KILLER MIKE: So it became a life-affirming thing for them. Like, kids started sending us pictures throwing up, you know, the pistol and fists on the top of mountains, from their weddings and...

EL-P: Graduations.

KILLER MIKE: Surfing championships. Like, no exaggeration...

BARTOS: Incredible.

EL-P: Professionals - professional, like, Olympic athletes, you know, sending us pictures after winning, like, bronze and gold medals. Like, you know, we started to see people...

GARCIA: What?

EL-P: Yeah. I'm telling you, you know, it went from hey, this is a bad ass rap name to wow, this means something. Not only - and more - not only to us, but it really means something to other people. And it reflected back on us. And it made us take Run the Jewels more seriously. It was also kind of, I think, a little bit of a break from the heaviness of our solo material. You know, we both got a little heavy.

And I know for me, my last couple of solo records were really rooted in pain. They were really rooted in the fact that I had lost a friend, that I had questioned a lot of things. You know, it was dark. And while I stand by those records and I think that they're good pieces of art, there wasn't a lot of joy involved in making those records. And there wasn't a lot of joy involved in performing those records. I feel like they're, for me, important statements as an artist, as a person. But when we got to Run the Jewels, we just wanted to have fun.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TALK TO ME")

EL-P: (Rapping) Brave men didn't die face down in the Vietnam muck so I could not style on you. I didn't walk uphill both ways to the booth and back to not wild on you. You think baby Jesus killed Hitler just so I'd whisper? And you're safe and sound and these crooks tapped your phone to not have a file on you?

GARCIA: Hold on. Hold on. Mike, get off the phone.

KILLER MIKE: I'm telling people I'm doing Stretch and Bob's show.

GARCIA: We lost him. We lost him.

KILLER MIKE: I'm over here like...

(LAUGHTER)

EL-P: Yo, by the way, can I just say something? You guys look exactly the same except your hair. That's it. Like, yo...

BARTOS: Wait. Put the glasses on.

GARCIA: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I have glasses now.

EL-P: Like, Bob, do you plan on wrinkling at any point?

GARCIA: (Laughter).

EL-P: Or is this just a - your baby faced smooth skin, like...

GARCIA: No. No. Listen. like...

BARTOS: So you know about me and Bobbito from the '90s when your cousin from the Bronx would send you tapes to Atlanta. You told me that when we first met. Then, subsequently, you told me that your cousin was gay. And that led into a conversation about homophobia in hip-hop.

KILLER MIKE: God bless the day, Phil (ph) - Philip (ph). Yeah.

BARTOS: And I was just really pleasantly disarmed by how open you were about this. So refreshing to have that kind of a conversation with someone that's in hip-hop, especially in hip-hop, where homosexuality remains such a taboo subject. It was a great way to meet you.

KILLER MIKE: Thank you. Well, I mean, I ain't shy. You know, ain't no sense in being shy, you know what I mean? I was raised by old people, so my grandparents raised me. You got gay people, straight people, black white, white people. People just people. So you guys' show, I couldn't listen every week like El. So, like, it took my gay cousin who just found out I like rap, like, to just start showing love.

GARCIA: Let me interject here because yes, our 1990s radio show did invite a lot of people. But at the same time, we also alienated people because homophobia in hip-hop was something that was rampant on records. And then Stretch and I as announcers and as a broadcast team pushed some homophobic jokes which at the time we thought was funny, right? And it's wonderful to hear that your cousin was sending you tapes and accepting.

KILLER MIKE: And my cousin was funny. Yeah, like, he's just gay. He wasn't a sucker. Like, he talked better shit than my uncles.

GARCIA: So what happened though, one night, a caller is like yo, I think your show is hilarious. You know, Stretch has a big nose. Y'all can joke about big noses. Bob got a receding hairline. Y'all can joke about him being bald. Someone is overweight, y'all can joke around, you know. But he was like, to my knowledge, none of y'all are gay and y'all make mad gay jokes. He was like, you're alienating me and a lot of people in my community unknowingly.

Here we were thinking that we were creating this safe space for white people, boricuas, people in Atlanta, people in Tokyo to hear and learn about hip-hop. And yet, at the same time, we were - we had to look at ourselves and be like...

EL-P: Well, Bob you know, you grow up.

GARCIA: Yeah, for sure.

EL-P: You know what I mean? And I think that when you look at hip-hop now and you look at the culture now and the way that people do it, it's - comparatively to where - the way it used to be, Bob, the way people used to talk.

And it's very rare now for people to really full on say something that's homophobic or say something that's really insensitive to a group of people because collectively, we all ended up kind of educating ourselves a little bit and grew up a little bit, became men.

GARCIA: Of course. Mike, do you have words that you've kind of left behind from your childhood?

KILLER MIKE: You know, I grew up watching Red Fox, Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks. So my thing is, you know, I, you know, when people like - I fight - I'm an activist, right? I want everybody to be equal. The day after the equality happens, I'm talking shit to everybody. Like, I got a gay sister.

Like for - in the confines of my household and the community, that's my family. If you're gay, when you come in the room, oh, I'm talking shit to you and your boyfriend. You know, I'm not going to slander you in the middle of the...

EL-P: But it's because the love is established.

KILLER MIKE: Yeah, but it's established. Like, in my house, like, I'm the fat one with the pretty wife, so I get it. You know, every time I come, oh, you still going to eat? Oh, nigga, you going to die. Some young nigga going to be fucking your wife. Like, that's what the old men say, you know what I mean? My gay cousin - oh, I got company.

GARCIA: Bob's ears, cover them.

KILLER MIKE: Yeah, my gay cousin might come here. Well, I'm not coming if I can't bring my boyfriend. And your auntie come, well, you had a different boyfriend last month. You know what I mean? It's just...

EL-P: You're talking about in the context of knowing somebody and loving them.

KILLER MIKE: Exactly. So for language, for me, is a very freeing thing. Now I look forward to the day that literally everyone is equal so we can get back to talking shit on each other.

EL-P: We can all insult the shit out of each other.

KILLER MIKE: Because that's what I love about language.

EL-P: Yeah. Yeah. I agree.

GARCIA: So I was watching the Tiny Desk NPR performance.

EL-P: Oh, yeah.

GARCIA: Right. And it was great. It was like a very entertaining 10, 12 minutes, you know. Killer Mike, at the end of the Tiny Desk, you said something to sign off that I found really, really interesting and we're going to play it.

KILLER MIKE: OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

KILLER MIKE: At some point in the future, they're going to try to label us a political rap group, and that, we are not. We don't care what party you belong to we. Don't care who you supported. We don't care what you're doing tomorrow politically. We care that socially, every one of you know you're absolutely born free and nothing has a right to interrupt that freedom. We love it.

(APPLAUSE)

BARTOS: I mean, that - that's an emotional way to end a little Tiny Desk Concert.

GARCIA: So understanding that there is a responsibility as public - I mean, you particularly are activists. And you're both public figures. You have a following. Walk us through what you meant by what you shared there.

KILLER MIKE: I mean, I mean it. I don't know. On the other side of the audience, I'm sure there was some Hillary Clinton supporters there. I'm sure some of them liked me, some of them don't based on my support of Sanders. I'm sure there was some Sanders supporters who just loved me to kit and kaboodles (ph). Sure there's some Republicans there...

EL-P: One or two hidden Trump fans.

KILLER MIKE: Yeah. You know, if - I'm sure - if - there's some libertarians that are probably saying, you guys don't know Mike's more libertarian than any of you think, you know. What I care about is that people know we're free, you know. What I care about is - the older I get, the more of an anarchist I become. I didn't, you know, and I don't mean in the punk rock type of way where I just seek to destroy things.

I mean, I believe that truly we're not going to progress as a species until we feel responsible to educate and to bring every part and every person who belongs to this species up to a point where we don't have a need for culture, religion, nations to define us. I'm not saying you can't be your culture, your religion or your nation, but that can't be the only thing that defines you as a human being, you know.

I have to see your humanity before I see a Spanish man. I have to see your humanity before I see a white man. It doesn't mean I don't see a Spanish man, doesn't mean I don't see a white man. It means that I don't let those things that I see, those things, interfere with me respecting and loving you as a human being. That is something sacred.

EL-P: For me, growing up in New York, I mean, and even coming out with my first group, I mean, it was not abnormal to have best friends of different races and to be involved with people of different races.

KILLER MIKE: You don't see that shit where I'm from.

EL-P: For Mike, it was different from Mike. For Mike, I'm probably his first really close partner, like, white friend who's like really every day.

BARTOS: And it's going really well.

KILLER MIKE: Yeah.

EL-P: And it's going all right, you know. No, but...

KILLER MIKE: Maybe my second.

EL-P: But there's something that - there's nothing that we could say on record specifically politically. And that's why I say as Run the Jewels, we don't offer too many details because, to me, it would poison the well a little bit. It's like, look, all of those details are what's got us kind of into trouble in the first place. What are you going to say about two guys standing together, smiling or even hugging on stage together? What are you going to say about that?

BARTOS: Right. You don't have to tell it, you show it.

KILLER MIKE: Yeah. That's my man on the grind. That's my man, man.

EL-P: And that's it.

KILLER MIKE: My sister gave me the best idea in the just - ever before we went on our last tour. She said, y'all go out there, kill them, make a whole lot of money. Southern, you can tell how Southern my sister is. And then you come home and y'all just take a break from each other 'cause that's how groups stay together. You got to miss each other.

So, you know, it's like after this tour, he goes to Costa Rica and is going to hang out. Me and my wife are going to go to Jamaica. After about a week, I know we'll miss each other.

EL-P: And then I just show up in Jamaica. Hey.

(LAUGHTER)

EL-P: Surprise. I'm here every moment of your life now.

GARCIA: The thing that was interesting for me and Stretch though, going back to the '90s when we started out, was that hip-hop music at the time was highly relatable to black power, black power movement And it was identified as black music. You know, when we first got on the air, we both wondered, what right do we have to represent this culture on mic in New York - which at that point, was the Mecca for the movement. And it wasn't something that we struggled with for very long, but it's something that we questioned at first. I mean, you know...

KILLER MIKE: The work that need doing got to get done. You know, decide, you know, take you out to the country. You know, the field don't care who plow it. You know I mean? The well don't care who dig it. It got to be done. Let's give black people and black music some credit, they are a very inclusive bunch. You know, black people don't really keep people out of their thing.

BARTOS: Absolutely.

KILLER MIKE: If you say to a older black woman on the train, I've always wanted to go to a black church, she's going to invite you to her church. You know, if you look at rock 'n' roll, they didn't try to keep white artists out. You know, if you look at jazz and so, you know. So I just like to, you know, if hip-hop was quote, unquote, "black music," it - black people are a good people in terms of culturally sharing, you know, with people.

So as long as you have love and respect and prove authentic, there's always been a way for the people that have been let in the door that did it right by it, you know, because you grew it. You know, we need allies. I am - that is my pet word. Like, we - none of us progress without allies. You know, none of us progress.

So, you know, I am happy that the amalgamation of people it has taken to push my - this art forward, happy - I'm happy it came out of New York. I'm happy a bunch of kids that didn't look like each other dared to say, you know, for fear the muscles (ph) might beat us up, we got to try it, you know. I appreciate y'all for that because had that not happened, Georgia wouldn't have happened in the same way, you know.

EL-P: Well, I'll tell you, for what it's worth - and I don't talk about it that much in the traditional but it's relevant. As a white kid growing up in New York City deciding I was going to be a rapper, that I wanted to be a rapper, I also had that conversation with myself constantly just even just growing up, you know. And it wasn't a conversation in the sense of sitting there questioning myself because I knew why I wanted to do it.

I knew it was the same reason why someone listens to Jimi Hendrix and they want to play a guitar. I wanted to do it because I fell in love with the art form and because it made sense to me. I was in Brooklyn. I was in New York. I was going - riding the trains. I understood graffiti. I understood B-boying. Like, I saw it. I saw people walking around with boomboxes, and that's how I was hearing the music, you know.

I did make up my mind very early. I have to contribute. If I'm doing it, if I'm going to be involved, I have to contribute and not mimic. So that when I walked away from it, someone could possibly say, that guy maybe punched a little bit of room, you know, on either side of the art form.

GARCIA: All right. Well, speaking of music, Stretch and I have a special section of this. It's called the Impression Session. So we're going to take a break and we'll be right back.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARTOS: Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for the Stretch and Bobbito Impression Session.

GARCIA: Word up. This is how it works. We're going to play you music. Now, you can digest it however you want. It's not a guessing game. It can be if you want if you recognize who we're playing. It's really about you listening and whatever emotion that the song evokes. Share it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOLY WAR")

DIVINE FORCE: (Rapping) Supreme wisdom is what I give them. Dressed to kill is how I'm living. I'm Sir I, the God on the microphone. Let me show you why the stage is my throne. Intelligent, individual with intellect. Watch me pick up the microphone and wreck you, you, you and your homeboys too. Your gay posse, group or the whole damn crew. I'm doing casual. I'll come classical. Let's be rational, it's actual. The laws of nature allow me to do this...

GARCIA: "Holy War."

BARTOS: Know what I'm saying? That's the team.

EL-P: Oh, man, I haven't heard that one in like - damn - 15, 20 years or something.

KILLER MIKE: For all the kids in the South who are listening now, before the South, before Lil Jon kind of officially took the airwaves over and everything kind of bent - well, Hot Boys, I suppose, kind of inventing itself. This is like the hip-hop you'd hear. It sounds like something that's traditionally rooted in the East Coast. I like it. It's dope. It's jamming.

BARTOS: (Laughter) It's hot.

KILLER MIKE: Yeah.

BARTOS: I was wondering if you knew that record.

KILLER MIKE: I did. It made it down. It's not one of the ones that I'm just playing at my parties, but it definitely made it down.

BARTOS: Oh, I've never played that at a party.

EL-P: Is that about '90 or '89?

BARTOS: No, that's '87. And for those of you that are listening and interested, the record is called "Holy War" by Divine Force. And the MC is Sir Ibu. It reminds me of the freedom and fun that Run the Jewels - anyway.

EL-P: Oh, that's awesome.

BARTOS: Sir Ibu, someone who never really got his propers (ph), but that is one of my favorite records of all time.

GARCIA: I have a song for the Impression Session for the two of you.

BARTOS: And the label is covered.

GARCIA: I'm going to play it and I hope that you enjoy it. I've bought it on 12-inch.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CLOUD 9")

DONNIE: (Singing) We live from the head down and not feet up. And I'm adorned with a crown that's making this up. And I'm fine, fine under cloud nine. Yes, I wear the lamb's wool, the feet of burnt brass. And the wool defies gravity...

EL-P: Nasty. Nasty. It's either Stevie or someone who's highly influenced by Stevie.

KILLER MIKE: That's Donnie.

EL-P: That's who?

KILLER MIKE: That's Donnie.

GARCIA: So the artist is Donnie. The song title is "Cloud 9" off of his "Colored Section" album.

BARTOS: Ding, ding, ding, ding.

EL-P: Beautiful.

GARCIA: He's an artist from Atlanta.

KILLER MIKE: Yeah. I play that for my little girls.

GARCIA: Is that right?

KILLER MIKE: Yeah, I got music that I play for my daughters, music I play for my sons - when they little girls.

EL-P: I was like, this sounds a little modern to be Stevie.

KILLER MIKE: Yeah, it does. He got a clean voice. And he got Donny Hathaway's name, of course, but he raw. Wow. It's - I didn't expect to hear that record today. That record just made me feel a - and I was already having a great day. I feel even better.

EL-P: I know why Bob likes it because Stevie Wonder is Bob's favorite artist of all time.

GARCIA: Yeah, by far. You know, the reason why I play this for the both of you - well, clearly...

KILLER MIKE: And shouts out to Donnie. You don't get the proper mentions and respect you deserve.

GARCIA: His album, "The Colored Section," was...

KILLER MIKE: Absolutely.

GARCIA: ...I mean, it's top five any genre for me of all time. So he is recording - supposedly, from what I heard - a third album. He put out two albums completely under the radar and, I mean, aren't dissimilar to the two of you but similar to the two of you. I mean, he speaks volumes. So the people who love him like - volumes.

But also, I mean, I thought that you would recognize it from Atlanta. But our relationship, outside of watching "The Matrix" that time and trying to see the "Star Wars" trailer - because I know you're a sci-fi buff - is mostly on the hip-hop side, and so I just want to share a soulful moment with you.

EL-P: Yeah, no, I appreciate that.

KILLER MIKE: I'm going get you that album for your birthday. Don't worry about it.

BARTOS: Amazing.

GARCIA: Well, yo, fellas, thanks so much for coming through - truly.

KILLER MIKE: Thank y'all for having us.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARTOS: That's it for us. We're about to sign off. This podcast was produced by Sami Yenigun, edited by Steve Nelson, N'Jeri Eaton and executive produced by our homegirl, Abby O'Neill.

GARCIA: Special thanks to our VP of programming, Anya Grundmann.

BARTOS: If you like the show, you should check out our interviews with Mahershala Ali and Dave Chappelle. Listen on Apple Podcasts, NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts.

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