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El-P on 'Meow the Jewels': 'Hopefully we'll make stupid album history'

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Run The Jewels
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Run the Jewels’ second album is available for pre-order nowas are several bonus packages, including one called “The F— Boy Revenge Package” that promises the rap duo, made up of El-P and Killer Mike, will take revenge on your greatest enemy in exchange for a cool $100,000. Worth it?

The bonus packages, which range in price from $7,500 to $10 million, were never meant to be taken seriously: El-P just got stoned one day and decided to write up a bunch of funny extras for the pre-order site. But a dedicated fan latched onto one of the extras, the “Meow the Jewels Album Package,” which promised that Run the Jewels would “re-record RTJ2 using nothing but cat sounds for music” in exchange for $40,000. And now it might be happening.

Although Run the Jewels made sure to specify that they reserve “the right to take your money and not fulfill any of its obligations as outlined in any package,” El-P saw a fan-made Kickstarter and realized he could donate the $40,000 to a good cause. From there, he was in. If the Kickstarter raises the specified amount by Oct. 28, Meow the Jewels will become an album.

A slew of producers, including Zola Jesus and Just Blaze, have already promised to help, and thanks to them, Meow the Jewels might come out sooner rather than later. “It will be quicker now that I’ve got a bunch of other producers who are all going to be battling to see how good they can get with cat noises,” El-P, who says the album will most likely come out in 2015, tells EW. 

El-P called up EW to talk about his favorite cat noise, what he got left with when he and his ex broke up, and where all these cat sounds are going to come from.

EW: Where did the idea for Meow the Jewels come from?

EL-P: Do you want the real answer?

Yes, please.

Marijuana. I was sitting at a table and I was just joking around and I just decided, on the spur of the moment, to come up with a bunch of obviously completely ridiculous and joke pre-order options, one of which was, that for $40,000, we will remix the record using nothing but cat sounds and call it Meow the Jewels. Of course, I didn’t expect anybody to actually start a Kickstarter to get that going. And that was how it started. We did that, we sent that out to all the people that had gotten our album. Someone decided, probably also as a joke, to start a Kickstarter fund to do it. I kind of reached out to the guy, and I was like, well, this isn’t a real thing but I’ll get behind this if you want to make it about charity. For me, I saw it as an opportunity to possibly do something good in the stupidest way possible.

I saw that part of the money will go to Mike Brown and Eric Garner’s families?

I intend to put all the money. Every dime. I’m not going to pocket anything. That was the only way that I would be involved in it. I don’t know exactly how to do that, but we’re working on it. My intention is to get it equally into the hands of, or to benefit, the families of Eric Garner and Mike Brown.

What does Killer Mike think of all this? Is he equally on board?

Oh, 100 percent. I mean, fighting injustice with stupidity is kind of the way that we’re looking at it. [Laughs]

I was looking at the other pre-order options, and I was dying laughing. Did you and Killer Mike write these together?

No, I wrote them. But Killer Mike approved of them by laughing hysterically. I took it on myself to write them. They’re Killer Mike-approved, absolutely.

If somebody was going to take any one of those seriously, besides Meow the Jewels, which one would you want to do the most?

Personally, I would like someone to purchase the “We are Gordon Ramsay Package.” That’s my personal favorite, just because I’m a huge Gordon Ramsay fan. I think that Gordon Ramsay is maybe of the most entertaining people ever on television. And I would love to pretend to be Gordon Ramsay and walk into a restaurant uninvited and attempt to make them change their menu. It’s just a personal fantasy of mine.

Onto cats: Are you a cat guy or a dog guy?

I’m a cat guy. I’m absolutely a cat guy. I grew up with cats. My cat, Mini Beast, of 18 years just died this year, actually.

Who’s your favorite pop culture cat?

Garfield. I definitely grew up on Garfield. I just loved his pessimism.

Do you have a cat right now?

My life is not one of being at home right now. I’m on the road all the time. So having a cat right now doesn’t make much sense, as much as I miss the little guy. I’m going to take this opportunity to not own a cat for a while. [Laughs]

That’s responsible of you.

I’m going to back up off of that one for a little while until my career dies. And then I’m just gonna have 50 cats. I’m going to become an old catman.

That’s the dream. What is your dream cat name?

The name of a cat has to come from something that just occurs to you by interacting with the cat. Mini Beast got the name “Mini Beast” because she was just a terror when I first got her. My ex-girlfriend, when I was 21, brought her home, drunk, to my apartment one night. And I woke up the next day, and she was like, “What’s this cat doing here? ” [Laughs] When we broke up, I was like, “Get out! Cat stays!” But the cat was just a terror. Like an agent of gravity. Anything that it could push off and smash, it did. It jumped around. It terrorized us. So it was Mini Beast. And then she just turned into an adorable little creature.

Getting into the technical aspects of Meow the Jewels, where are the cat sounds going to come from?

That’s a really good question. [Laughs] And one that I have no answer to yet, although I am bookmarking many a cat sound on YouTube and on the internet, hoping that there aren’t any really smart and keen cat copyright lawyers. Because I’m definitely sampling. [Laughs]

Do you have a favorite cat noise so far?

Silence is always nice. Especially when you own a cat, you find that’s rare as they get older. The cat giving you the warning that it’s going to mess you up, that’s always a good one. I think that one’s going to get a lot of run on the album.

Will you guys be rapping over the sounds or will it just be a cat instrumental?

No, it will be the Run the Jewels 2 album, so it will be all the lyrics with beats of cat sounds. And we have a lot of, over the last couple of days, I recruited a bunch of producer friends to be involved. So I’m actually not going to be handling all of it anymore. I don’t know if you’re up on the roster

I saw it, and it’s crazy how many people are involved now.

It’s crazy. I think it might be the greatest contribution to music ever that I’ve gotten this group of producers together for the stupidest possible album. But it’s a testament to the fact that everyone looks at it as a good cause. And I really like that aspect of it. That’s the most important thing for me.

Everybody wants to do a silly project every now and then, too.

Yeah, and there’s something about levity and good intent that mix really well.

And you’ve talked to the guy who created the Kickstarter. Is he a fan or someone from the music industry?

No, it’s just a fan. It’s just a kid in St. Louis. And he’s a huge fan, but he’s also very passionate about fighting against, or feeling the injustice of, police brutality, and we’re really on the same page. The kid has done an amazing job. And when I really realized what a great dude this was, it was sort of one of the catalysts for me to say, “Let’s see what we can do here.” Because originally, I didn’t want anybody wasting their money on something that was just some joke that I made. [Laughs] But it quickly turned into something a little bit more special than that. Hopefully we’ll make stupid album history together.

RTJ2 comes out Oct. 27.