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El-P + Killer Mike + Despot + Kool A.D.

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Photograph: Michael Schmelling
El-P and Killer Mike

El-P released a new solo album last year, his first since 2007, but it was R.A.P. Music—a typically grimy-funky production job for the bearish, quick-witted Atlanta MC Killer Mike—that garnered the heavier praise. The benefits were mutual. Reflecting on R.A.P. Music in a 2012 interview, Mike, a longtime OutKast affiliate, recalled what motivated him to partner with El-P, the Definitive Jux cofounder and one of the most respected names in NYC alt rap: “I’m gonna make a fuckin’ record to make all them call and say, ‘Who the fuck did those beats?’ ”

What began as a supergroup-style merger has evolved into a booming start-up: The pair have incorporated as Run the Jewels, which issued its self-titled debut as a free download in June. As evidenced by tracks like “Banana Clipper,” the partnership yields tag-team brilliance: El-P’s bluntly sardonic put-downs trading mike space with Killer Mike’s sinuous drawl. You’ll get a 360-degree view of the duo here, as each rapper plays a full set in advance of the collaborative finale—a little slice of North-South hip-hop heaven.—Hank Shteamer

Follow Hank Shteamer on Twitter: @DarkForcesSwing

Buy R.A.P. Music on iTunes

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