Near the close of Run the Jewels 3, forward-looking duo El-P and Killer Mike take a break from pavement-pulverizing punditry to pause and reflect on the past with the spacy, soulful "Thursday in the Danger Room," which opens with El-P reminiscing about friend and fellow rapper Camu Tao, a Columbus native who died of cancer in 2008.

Near the close of Run the Jewels 3, forward-looking duo El-P and Killer Mike take a break from pavement-pulverizing punditry to pause and reflect on the past with the spacy, soulful "Thursday in the Danger Room," which opens with El-P reminiscing about friend and fellow rapper Camu Tao, a Columbus native who died of cancer in 2008.

Like how do you look in the eyes of a friend and not cry when you know that they're dying?

How do you feel 'bout yourself when you know that sometimes you had wished they were gone?

Not because you didn't love 'em but just because you felt too weak to be strong.

With Run the Jewels set to obliterate a sold-out Express Live on Monday, Jan. 16, we thought we'd revisit unpublished excerpts from a 2015 interview where El-P discussed his introduction to Camu, born Tero Smith, and the impact of a personality that continues to surface in El's music nearly a decade after he passed.

The way I remember it was that Camu called me out of the blue. I had never spoken to him and never met him. I was like, "Who the fuck is this dude?" I think he was just calling me on company time because he liked Company Flow (El-P's former hip-hop group). He wasn't asking me for anything. He was just like, "What's up man?" I hung up the phone like, "What just happened?" Some people just sort of walk into your life and don't ask. Camu was that dude.

I do think he was hard to get to know to a degree. You see people go through ups and downs, and there's nothing more intimate or connecting than the experience we went through and that everyone close to him went through at the end, of course. He was a maniac. He was an artist. He was wildly energetic, and he could be wildly dark and depressed, as well. We were similar in that way. I recognized parts of my personality in him.

There were sort of two Camus. There was the social Camu: The one that was out and sort of wild and crazy. Then there was Tero. And Tero was a kid who was really searching and really wanted validation and more than anything to make his mark in music. At the core of it, he was a really kind soul. That came out much more when you were with him one on one. There was a real depth to that dude that I discovered more as our friendship progressed.

He was always bucking back against what anyone ever thought of him. If you thought he was at the vanguard of the so-called backpack-rap style, he'd buck back and say, "I'm going to do this [S.A. Smash album] called Smashy Trashy," and it was party music. Then his other stuff was really cerebral and out there. It was almost like he never wanted anyone to be able to tell him who he was. He always wanted to keep everyone off balance. Even in his personality he kept us all off balance. That endeared him to us very much, because he was incredibly exciting to be around.

For a long time he didn't let on that he was in pain. I think he didn't even let himself admit it, and that's maybe one of the things that led to it being a worse problem than it would have been if he had confronted it earlier. He got skinny and wouldn't say why. He often thought he was protected by his personality to some extent, but he really couldn't help but betray [his illness]. At the very least, we knew something was going on with him, even if we didn't necessarily know what it was. … He had a lot going on, and he didn't feel comfortable sharing that with anybody. I think he wanted to make sure no one ever thought he was weak, or even capable of weakness.

It was quite an experience in the wake of him passing to kind of sit with him and listen to his music. … It was pretty intense. If you listen to the [posthumous] album [King of Hearts], it's very dark. It's very much a guy writing like he knows he's not going to be here very long. There are a lot of overt references to death. It's tough to listen to.

Camu makes me laugh still. Out of everyone I've known in my life, Camu still seems to be around in my memory and in my head making me laugh. … It's Camu shaving his head into the George Jefferson haircut [as a way] to force himself to stay in the studio and not go outside. It's the stupid arguments. It's Camu bringing a gun over to my house and sticking it in the couch. It's this outrageous, insane shit where if anyone else did it you'd be like, "I can't fuck with this dude." But, yo, it's Camu.