TuneDig is an in-depth and informed conversation between two lifelong friends about the power of music — one album at a time.

In each episode, we go down the rabbit hole to spend a while in the strange world we discover. We take an honest look at creativity in all its complexity—from writing and production to history and cultural impact.

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Episode 019

Run the Jewels 3

Run the Jewels

What happens when, after years grinding underground solo, two hip-hop heavyweights discover they make a perfect team? They strike G-O-L-D, finally stepping into the pop culture spotlight and using it to speak the language of the unheard.

Transcript

Note: our transcripts are mostly AI-generated for now. 

Episode 019: Run the Jewels's "Run the Jewels 3": Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Episode 019: Run the Jewels's "Run the Jewels 3": this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

You're listening to TuneDig, a podcast from Music lovers. The premise is simple we dig into an album to discover what makes it interesting and then we dig into the crates for a vinyl copy to give away to one lucky winner. Go to TuneDig.com for your chance to win and follow us on Instagram and Twitter for more info about the album that didn't make the episode Today we're talking about Run the Jewels Three Jewels Jewels.

Michael Rinder is one of my top five all time dead or alive emcees.

I love this record surprise released early by tweet on Christmas 2016, the last time we felt joy. And it was recorded in the time leading up to that, obviously so through September 2016. So I think one interesting lens through which to view Run the Jewels three is this is the Trump era record for them. And yet it was definitely written before the Trump era started.

It's a lot like get out in that way. It is a lot like get out in a lot of ways. And we haven't even plan to address that in any way. By the way, I would have voted for Obama for a third term of like a best president in my lifetime handstand.

And they'd been touring relentlessly. They had been touring like too much younger guys because this kind of success for them had been such a long time coming. And it's been really awesome to watch them not sacrifice one inch of who they are and what they believe, what they don't believe. And to have this level of pop culture infiltration, which I'm sure we'll get into.

Yeah, I think this is maybe a good moment to just say the crossover between people who listen to music podcasts and people who are aware of run the jewels are probably the same people concentric circles. So no reason for us to spend a whole episode just convincing people to listen, to run the jewels or to do a light autobiography. Wait, now autobiographies are about me. No reason to do a light biographical podcast episode on Killer Mike and LP Viewer Alive with a Pulse in the 2010s.

And you don't like Run the Jewels. You're a stupid idiot. Why are you listening to this podcast on the Internet, bro? Christ.

But I think a couple of things we can do today are one, how we can talk about three in relation to the other two and how we got here and why this record is fundamentally different than the two that came before it. And then secondly, I want to give people some other connective points for these two artists. I got some early exposure to LP through I'll Sleep When You're Dead because the first track on that record was Tasmanian Pain Coaster, which has Omar and Sedrick from the Mars bolt on it. And that record has a ton of collaboration with other crazy folks there, Trent Reznor is on that record. It caught my attention while I was in college for that brief stint in the. And it was just great to be able to have experience to run the jewels coming together in a way that was exciting, like when I heard that this was happening. I could imagine how the two of these might work together. They seem like really great people. And it's a true honor to watch them be cultural icons because there's so much joy in every performance.

They're having so much fun with it. Right. Like they're revolutionaries, but they're also like dudes that would have a cheap beer and a cigaret in the back of the strip club. You know, like they contain multitudes in a really beautiful way. And I can relate to that. They're just very human.

And I think I don't want to overdramatize it. OK, but there's also, I think, something really beautiful to killer Mike coming out of Atlanta, out of southern hip hop in the Dungeon Family, first generation, like how how many rappers can say, my first recorded verse, it was on Stankonia. There's something beautiful to seeing someone come out of the Dungeon Family in Atlanta and then seeing someone come out of Brooklyn and the two pieces of East Coast hip hop that were not infused together in the 90s because the New York scene was so dramatically different than Southern hip hop.

Every person 10 years younger than us is like, yeah, of course, dumb idiot. And like, well, they they hated each other in 95. It was a whole thing. Like, it almost got violent at the source awards. This is a thing to be celebrated. There's identity politics at stake with it, especially dudes of this ilk that are students of classic Hip-Hop in the way that these two dudes are.

Yeah. So it's just a beautiful thing to have a couple of folks who earnestly represent the cities that they come from and the scenes that they come from to not only have a musical connection like this, but to truly have what looks to be a real friendship, especially because in addition to just being dope, there's a real message.

There's a point to the whole thing. You know, it's not a victory lap. I read in a couple of the reviews that it was basically everything about what they're trying to do is iron sharpening iron, like they realized that they were making each other better. They'd finally found their perfect counterpoint and one another. And they're like, we have to push harder. We have to make up for lost time. We have to get better and better and just kill.

They talked about Run the Jewels three in comparison to the ones they came before it for us. Run the Jewels won. The hands on the album were about taking what's yours, your world, your life, your attitude and run the jewels to the hands. On the album. We're wrapped in bandages signifying injury and healing, which for us represented the growth in ideas and the tone of that album for Run the Jewels three. The bandages are off, the chain is gone and the hands have been transformed into gold. For us, this represents the idea that there is nothing to take that exists outside of yourself.

You are the jewel and that sums it up really nicely. This is arguably the first real run the jewels record. The first two are Killer Mike and LP record. It's definitely their best bars. The brag rap is like it's super great. Everything is super quotable on this record, but when they get deep, they get deep and a really beautiful way. Not just about politics, not just about externalities, but there's also a lot of vulnerability. It's very introspective. That's a beautiful part of the friendship that you touch on as they allow one another to be vulnerable. That happens again and again and again over the course of these songs. And it's that's really heartening when you think about it in terms of the dynamic between these two dudes.

There's a review in the Atlantic from Run the Jewels three in. One of the first things it says is their work is best understood as an omnidirectional middle finger. And I kind of know what this guy is trying to say, but I think it's worth saying that that is 100 percent objectively wrong and that is a really, really bad take. Unfortunately, I think that's the perspective of the privileged. It's going to feel like your gut, your middle finger out at everybody, because a lot of times they're talking directly to the position of privilege. Mike. Oh, for all that we've heard from them or not, anarchist's, they wrote a manifesto on Run the Jewels three. This is their first really concise and pointed message. And yeah, with even with all the brag rap that that goes along with, that's a part of the package that they're trying to make. And we can even pull that directly from. I love to bring up the end of the album. First report to the shareholders is amazing. One of the lines in here, I think we should take verbatim what I've made for this, but I'm afraid that I might be wrong.

Maybe that one. I'm my. Not for the same part of town, but we both get the same town coming. When I started to say that I had no plans, it is like this isn't a joke.

It's important to be able to get into this thing and hear Bragge rap and hip hop from a couple of guys who are joking around a lot of the time and also understand that's just their posture while they're talking about something deathly serious.

I arrived to sort of the same thought thinking about the first song. It was a really powerful statement to me that the first line of this record is I hope that's the first words you hear. I hope at the highest of hopes, I hope is an interesting choice of words for two dudes that have been making music for like basically 15, 20 years. At this point, it acknowledges that this moment for them has been a long time coming. They know what a special thing they're sitting on, arguably their manifesto, and they're thankful to be here. They're thankful that people are listening and are sharing in the spirit of what they're trying to do. And I love it and I love that it has joy. A legendary Atlanta Orombi singer, that sounds very heavy. It's like a benediction before the speech begins to rise. And Mike has a barbershop on Edgewood Avenue, and it is literally walking distance from Ebenezer Baptist Church where where Dr. King preached, it's just a few steps further from the place where Dr. King was born. So it says a lot about what this record is trying to do, that it starts with a little bit of a benediction and kind of a grounding before it then launches into three or four songs of like basically a pure show of strength, if it had started, would talk to me, which was the first song that anyone heard from this record, because it came out as an adult swim single. It probably would have changed the tone and tenor.

Town from the depths of the family with a gun and a knife in the waistband with the war with the devil escalated, he warned man to pay him spraypaint.

Her plane hijacked by the Democratic Republic of the.

And lest anyone not know, you mentioned Adult Swim, they played a pretty integral part in making this connection between the two people also. So thanks to Adult Swim for your cultural contributions to our modern reality, not limited to, but including Run the Jewels and Xavier Renegade Angel. So talk to me was the first thing that anyone heard off of this album, right? But then the thing that seemed to cement it culturally was legend has it?

What would I say to the business to date? You see this today and we drop the crap. We did a tablet today with the masses, and that's the way we that's the way in addition to the way of the we ought to pay.

It was used in the first trailer for Black Panther, which was aired during the NBA finals. Right. Does this say it was viewed eighty nine million times in twenty four hours?

That is correct. And it was tweeted about more than the game itself. But let's not gloss over the fact that these two pretty extreme against the consciousness of the sound of rap in general. Dudes are the thing that's in in the zeitgeist. Right. Like Black Panther was a culture shifting moment. So that pairing of those two things, I think shows how far these two dudes have come after years and years of toiling in near obscurity and working their way up out of cult status. Again, a lot of it had to do with Adult Swim and that boost and being seen through the popular culture lens because they are challenging. Let's talk about the fact that this is a group that a joke from their e-commerce store turned into a whole record in their catalog like Meow.

The Jewels started as a joke commentary on the like VIP bonus package phenomenon on other artist sites where they were like for twenty or forty thousand dollars or whatever, will make a record entirely of cat sounds.

And then it turned into this thing because of Internet culture. Someone started a Kickstarter or something like that to raise money. They raised like 40000 dollars and they were like, wow, OK, we didn't mean this seriously at all.

So I don't know what's going on here, but but we'll do it. But the proceeds are going to go to the victims of families of police brutality. So let this be a lesson to all of you. Thank you. This turned into a good thing. Don't ever do this to us again.

For example, Once upon a time.

What's what's what's what's the feel of this record, would it be as impactful, I think without LP's production style, any entry point is good to hear LP and his thinking separate from killer Mike, just so you can kind of see the pieces come apart. We talked about some earlier LP work, but then also Cancer for Cure, which came out around the same time that LP was producing Killer Mike's last solo record company.

Green card, who pays coffee, walk with an army on Bigfork by the home and all, but possibly stop me on a radio with adoptee's watching Gotting minions out on the ground in a town up on a couch in front of a model for my car?

I think it also merits saying that it's very analog. Like if you follow him on social, you see what a gearhead he is. He's always playing with old stuff, broken stuff, vintage stuff to excavate weird sounds.

One great example of that on this record is called Ticket run by Religare.

A run of jewels in the garden, the cannon shots that we aim for, the dog is making the half of a target looks up on YouTube.

Nineteen eighty three tickets and commercial downloads and one hundred and twenty eight kilobits per second. There's a there's a reason that this group puts out the instrumentals for every record.

Absolutely. So the production is great. It's really fun to listen to. It's always got a lot of energy anyway. It amps me up whatever and it does that jams for social justice. Giving this an active listen, or at least some of the tracks and really paying attention to the detail in the production, not only will unveil some things you probably didn't pay attention to before, but I think it'll give you a good perspective for why, like when the beat comes in 30 seconds in to talk to me, why it feels so.

You literally have so high now hoping that I it on a Thai state from Thailand on the radio heard a plane hijacked by the Cucaracha.

I don't think I'm doing to transport to the airport.

We talked about the fact that these are their best bars. But truly, where else are you going to find an artist that says just a I mean, it's almost like a throwaway for them all comes in on a very swift remains an about face down in the Vietnam I you.

I didn't walk uphill both ways to the back and up on you go hit them just like Facebook.

If this is a manifesto, Talk to Me is kind of the mission statement of the acknowledgments at the front.

Here's why this book is important. Here's an overview of what you're going to learn today and why we're the best authors in the history of writing books.

It's true. It is sort of like if you had a really great book in front of you. But the author spent the introduction, part of the chapter being like, I am the best I've ever written a book on this subject. If you are to find another book like this subject written by someone else, put it down, pick up this book.

I think the thing that is true, both of the production and of the lyrics, they realize the danger inherently of being quote unquote conscious rappers because I gets real feckless real quick and the beats are really hard, but it's not like trap B, it's not the same old.

There's a clear negative space in everything that this record is not. And it seems to me like everything we're trying to say about it is in contrast to the other things in the landscape.

Yeah, that's a great way of putting it, because it would also feel like, yeah, we've spent a lot of time describing how it doesn't feel on the nose for being angry rap. And that's a great way of describing the nuance of how they work together and make an impact. Like speaking of thieves, there's a line in there in that same song where they have the sample from the MLK speech. They just say fear's been law for so long that rage feels like therapy. And I think you've connected the dots between Run the Jewels and Rage Against the Machine before. And I think there's some sort of spiritual ancestry there because that line kind of encapsulates the way that they're approaching this and why I felt it was important at the beginning to say, like, I don't think they're anarchists. There's no reason to take from what they're saying, that they hate everything or think everything is stupid. They think things are really important, actually. But being able to put this kind of unadulterated rage on top of music that you're proud of feels unique, not for better or for worse, but just different. It is a different approach than a Kendrick Lamar record. It's not quite as intended to jar you. They kind of bring you into the living room and have you sit down and then you're going to get the lecture.

It's a little bit like training day when he's like, smoke this and he's on PCP and it's like, all right, well, now you're in the thing like now you can't go anywhere because again, they know it's like if I don't yell, you don't listen. If I just go in this lane, with all due respect to the commons of the world where it's like an abstract poetry slam night thing and it's going to have no impact, like all of this is design, it's triangulated for maximum impact. So it's got to get a little strip club. It's got to contain all the multitudes that human beings do. I'm sure not overthinking that. They're just bringing their whole selves to the table because I've tried lots of different things over the years and nothing has had the same impact as this. So it's like, well, I've done all this other stuff and it hasn't worked, so why not try this?

And I think we can see them just continuing to go now that they've seen that it works. Not overthinking it now either. Not not trying to one up themselves. I mean, for God's sake, they just played the Super Bowl concert with the Foo Fighters for two hundred and fifty dollars apiece tickets.

We did not go. It's the only one the show in Atlanta that I've ever not been to. We were at the very first one at the masquerade and they came out then, as they do now, to We Are the Champions, which is the perfect statement of who they are, beginning with the song about the end of the game. They've already won.

Any time you spend looking into the history of the interviews from either of these guys pays off, but especially Killer Mike, who I think continue to run with what's come out of run the jewels and allow. Himself to become that cultural icon in Atlanta, that Atlanta gave him permission to be like he got a platform, people listen to what he has to say. And it's a great example of allowing a culture, a city to be informed by or inspired by somebody and not necessarily have to agree with 100 percent of what he's saying. He clearly doesn't fit the mold of a traditional angry hip hop leftist southern Atlantan on top of some of the more lewd things that he promotes on his Instagram and stuff. Like I mean, he's also like a very loud advocate of the Second Amendment, at least as he sees it. He's been a Bernie supporter before and appears to be doing it again. Again, not to say whether that does or doesn't fit, but he's a real human being who refuses. At least it seems he refuses to dilute himself in the name of becoming more palatable to more and more of Atlanta. And I think that choice to represent his true viewpoints and not soften them is the thing that makes him a leader for our city and somebody that we can look up to. He pushes forward. He encourages the black community to take what is theirs, rightfully how to support one another, how to build a community, and never does so at the expense of white people, of men, of cis, gendered people, any number of things. Right.

I just think that makes such a compelling role model and cultural icon that we can look up to you when even the first black president has hugely neo liberal tendencies and bad things are still happening regardless of who's in the big chair. Right. It's nice to see our artists continue to be consistent and to say, no, I want the thing that is going to do the most good for the poor, for the left out, for the people who have not been spoken for. I'm going to speak for those people right, wrong or indifferent. And yet execution get a little wonky sometimes, but it's always there.

I think the best execution of that mission statement. But it goes back to what you said, what you read from. There are a statement kind of at the beginning of the episode, you are the jewel. We began with this benediction, with this statement of hope, and we end with a reassertion of there is no one but us to do this work. Everyone has abandoned us. Everyone has forsaken us. If nobody else is going to do this work, well, damn it, I guess we're going to have to be the people to do it. We'd rather be getting stoned and going to the strip club and having a good time and living a good life. But I guess if everybody else is going to do the same thing, that will be the same people to do it.

Yeah, the example of that that that struck me was in in don't get captured. There's this kind of throwaway line that at least you're literally from the part of Atlanta that you and I are from. You really wouldn't latch on to you. Come to my brother Stanley point they might have been told about. We're here, if you're not from here, you got no idea what he's talking about now. I literally live on the corner of Cabbagetown and another neighborhood, right. You live one neighborhood further away from that, which in Atlanta is just like five blocks. Our neighborhoods are super tiny. But Killer Mike went on to talk about an interview with Complex. He explained that line. But it's really great to hear him bring this out because it underscores the idea that he's doing the work that you're talking about. He's building communities and coalitions together. He's not just calling people out because he talked about, you know, in 95, they started closing housing projects and push people out of the city because we had the Olympics in 96, which was like a really weird deal still. But he talked about, you know, in 96, then the Olympics came. They pushed people out of the city who couldn't afford to live there anymore. Then they cut off bus service.

They gave them one way Greyhound tickets, man. Crazy. It's still unfathomable.

Atlanta has not done the right thing in all capital letters, very often in its history. But he's talking about, you know, they push people out and they push them to the south side of Atlanta and then cut off the connection back into the city. And he goes on to say, people tend to think of gentrification in terms of race because it's presented that way. And I think it's presented that way because in poor cities, that's what's really going on. Besides that, I think that it's presented that way as a way for people who are really pushing it to make it just look like a black problem so people don't care. He goes on to talk about that. This is more than color. This is about class. And to me, that was the line in the concept that underscores this theme that you're talking about, where he is really building a thing and they are building a thing together that they feel needs to be built. And it's not a matter of color. If you find yourself thinking that Run the Jewels is about race, step one LP is in this group. Step two, you have a pretty fundamental misunderstanding of what they're trying to talk to you about. And Michael Rinder, the man goes to great lengths to explain to people that this is not about color. This is about building an understanding of what forces are for and against you in this world and how to take back what's yours. This is about a movement that they're trying to create. And part of the reason why, again, at the beginning I pointed out the omnidirectional middle finger thing is not an apt description. This is not an angry punk band. These are people who probably care about you as an individual. You, the listener, if you were to meet these people, you would more than likely get a kind reception and they would really care about you and where you come from and what forces are for or against you. And you've had the privilege of meeting Killer Mike, right?

Mm hmm. And I bet he was pretty nice. You know, it was really interesting. It was in an event put on by Linda influences everything. And he was in conversation with Dr. Joyce, who teaches the Hip-Hop history class at Georgia Tech in the Q and A. I was the white dude in the front row just so excited to meet one of my heroes. And I ask because you and I are both natives and this place matters a lot to me and we talk a lot about that. I asked him how do we ensure the with the way that Atlanta is changing that the next. Michael Rinder comes from Atlanta Public Schools. And he just looked at me and was like, bro, it's so obvious he didn't say that. But he just looked at me with that face and he said, Just get to know your neighbors. He knew by looking at me like you. You live in town. You are a gentrifier. You bought a house in a neighborhood that was not traditionally for people who look like you get to know your neighbors, be part of the fabric of your neighborhood. Don't be one of those people that post something on next door like suspicious looking person. And we had a little bit of a challenging back and forth.

And then I went up to him afterward for a picture and he was like, great question. And it shows his very real belief in the power of of just dialog, like let's get in the room and challenge each other. We may not see things exactly the same way. The conversation got a little prickly in there a few times. But one of the best things about both of those dudes is they know their perspectives, they know what they stand for, and they have enough experience and enough institutional knowledge to navigate any of those conversations. You know, they're not relying on talking points. They have real rich world views. And that comes to bear over and over again on this record. These are these are dudes that are not afraid to to go toe to toe in a conversation because they know that's the only way for things to get better. We've got to stop talking at each other and move through some of the stuff. This is not just the march on Washington to march this the ten demands of the march on Washington. You know, we want concrete things to happen as a result of us having made this art.

But a TuneDig.com to sign up for our emails and click the link in the email when you want to win. That's up to you, Mark.

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SEASON 5 EPISODES

TuneDig Episode 36: Son House’s “Father of Folk Blues”

All American music traces back to the blues, and deep at the root sits Son House. That the recordings on "Father of Folk Blues" even exist is something of a gray area that cuts to the heart of the great American myth, but wherever you land after hearing these stories, you’ll find that what matters most is what the great Muddy Waters once said of House: “That man was the king.”

Read More

TuneDig Episode 35: Melvins’s “Stoner Witch”

The futility of describing the Melvins has stretched critics in the direction of absurd words like “Dadaist” for nearly 40 years now. They’ve belligerently flogged any attempt to pinpoint their essence simply by being themselves, but "Stoner Witch" remains a reliable mall directory for the Melvins’ vast and wild discography. Grab yourself some pretzel bites.

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TuneDig Episode 34: Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”

We should talk about Dolly the way we talk about Prince. Her extraordinary kindness and unique kitsch both make her universally loved, but what gets left out of the conversation is the very thing that made her famous: the music. Join in as we focus attention on the sonics and songwriting of the low-key masterpiece "Jolene".

Read More

After stepping away from talking about albums in 2020, we took time to regroup and reground in why we started this thing in the first place.

Join us as we share our renewed perspective on music coming out of Hell Year and tee up the special group of albums we’ll be diving into over the next few months. There’s a little something for everyone.

RADIO EPISODES

SEASON 4 EPISODES

SEASON 3 EPISODES

SEASON 2 EPISODES

SEASON 1 EPISODES

BONUS TRACK EPISODES

Kyle and Cliff

BONUS TRACK: How We Got Here

We got a bunch of interesting listener feedback in our off-season, and it encouraged us to shed some light on why we do things the way we do ‘em. Also, we reflect on our first writeup, which was ... interesting.

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ABOUT US

We're Cliff (left) and Kyle (right). We’re two dudes born and raised in ATL with day jobs in tech and entertainment, respectively.

We met in middle school, and in one way or another, music’s been the thing that’s kept us close for the two decades since — whether it’s sharing and talking about new music (like this podcast, except in our texts or over beers), going to shows, or working with our favorite record stores to help them survive and thrive.

We started TuneDig as a little art project that connects us more deeply ourselves and to the world through the infinite gift of music. We hope you’ll join us for the conversations, let us know what you think, and share discoveries of your own.

More About TuneDig

TuneDig began as a little something called MusicGrid.me, which we created after realizing there was no place online to directly exchange music recommendations with your friends. Our aim was simple: to make rating albums simple, useful, and social. We got some love from places like MashableWiredEvolver.fm, and Hypebot. We managed to foster conversation between music lovers, get thousands of reviews, and meet great people.

Along the way, we realized that record stores were an essential part of the music lovers’ community. After many a conversation about how we could helpfully connect them to the people who loved them, we began helping them leverage technology to create new revenue streams and embrace streaming services without giving up what’s unique to them: expertise and curation. (Long live the counter clerk who knows exactly which record will be the right introduction to jazz fusion!)

TuneDig is our vision to connect music lovers with the music they love, because no matter how much has changed in the way we discover and enjoy music, recommendations from people you trust and respect will always be the best way to find new music you’ll dig. With this podcast, we’re channeling the spirit of trusted curation pioneered by record stores, and bringing you something to take you deeper into music you can love.