Run the Jewels’ El-P: Prince Proved Musical Rules Are ‘Silly’
"When Prince is one of your big first musical impressions," Run the Jewels' El-P says, "the idea of rules seems silly."
The rapper-producer's argument is framed around Purple Rain, which topped his personal ballot for Rolling Stone's newly revised 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. (The 1984 record came in at No. 8 on the overall ranking, which surveyed musicians, journalists and other music industry professionals.)
"Purple Rain contains the DNA of everything I needed to understand about music," El-P added. "It doesn’t contain rap, but it’s still an amalgamation of everything that set me off."
He enthused about the album's seamless stylistic meld: "It was [Jimi] Hendrix guitar over LinnDrum machines: It was soul, rock, and funk, but also it was other shit that hadn’t been combined before. There’s a reason why people across every genre fuck with Prince: There are ideas in the music that are not re-creatable, but lend themselves to some direction. You could take a fragment of what he was doing and build an entire sound on it. People could make their entire musical careers based on a couple of moments on that record."
Both El-P and his Run the Jewels bandmate Killer Mike have celebrated Prince in the past. In 2017, the duo included "Sign O' the Times" on their New York Times Protest Playlist.
"When this came out, it was the first time I had really heard him say anything this directly," El-P said. "['Sign O' the Times'] opened me up a little bit, tuned my brain a little bit more. I started considering a few other things. He’d already taken me this far. When the moment came for him to say, 'Now I need you to listen,' I was right there."
Killer Mike added: "I just thought Prince was about [sex]. As I kid, I picked my place: I picked rap. When rap happened, I didn’t [care] about pop music. Because my world went crazy, from a neighborhood where families had gardens and goats and chickens, and people spoke to each other. Crack ripped through, and it was like Lebanon. I couldn’t make sense of any of that. All I gave a [expletive] about was music that moved me from the perspective of saying that the world is going mad."