Atop hard-hitting beats and ominous production, Killer Mike and El-P trade aggressive and often wryly comical rhymes, touching upon social issues, life and death, and a heavy dose of chest-thumping bragging.
Formed after EI-P produced Killer Mike's 2012 album, R.A.P. Music, the duo released their debut offering Run the Jewels (Fool's Gold). Critically popular and with a sizable underground fan base to boot, Run the Jewels quickly garnered national attention. Their sophomore effort, 2014's Run the Jewels 2, marked the pair's first appearance on the Billboard 200. RTJ2 featured appearances by Boots, Travis Barker, Gangsta Boo, and Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha." A crowd-funded remix version of the album -— with all the music replaced by samples of meowing cats — was released in 2015 as Meow the Jewels. It featured guest appearances from Portishead's Geoff Barrow, Dan the Automator, and Internet feline sensation Lil Bub. The group ended the year with the single "Rubble Kings (Dynamite on the Street)," released by the Adult Swim label.
In 2016, the duo announced RTJ3, which was set for release in early 2017. However, on Christmas Eve 2016, they unexpectedly uploaded the album as another free download. Featuring appearances by Joi, Trina, Boots, Danny Brown, Tunde Adebimpe, Kamasi Washington, and the return of Zack de la Rocha, RTJ3 debuted in the Billboard Top 20 and topped both the Rap and R&B/Hip-Hop charts. Promoting the effort over the coming years, they headlined multiple festival stages across the globe and joined pop star Lorde on her 2018 Melodrama World Tour. They also continued recording, issuing a collaboration with Danger Mouse and Big Boi ("Chase Me") which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Song. Another track, "Let's Go (The Royal We)," landed on the soundtrack to Venom, while the pair lent their familiar vocals to DJ Shadow's "Kings & Queens."
With a new decade came a new RT J era. Run the Jewels 4 arrived in June 2020 amid a global pandemic (which postponed a world tour with Rage Against the Machine) and a nationwide movement in the U.S. protesting police brutality. RTJ4 featured guests Greg Nice, DJ Premier, 2 Chainz, Pharrell Williams, Mavis Staples, Josh Homme, and another de la Rocha collaboration.