Still boasting the braggadocious bars of its wonderful predecessor, the dynamically villainous duo of El-P and Killer Mike kick a firm boot right through your auditory front door with their self-titled sequel, Run the Jewels 2.
Even more aggressive and politically charged than their last effort; Run the Jewels effectively makes their case as one of the best contemporary rap acts around with a record featuring collaborations by Zack de la Rocha, Travis Barker, Foxygen offshoot Diane Coffee and many more. Fueled by their previous collaborations morphing into a brother-like friendship, this is truly a story of two parts equaling an even greater whole.
And on their latest record, they come out swinging. Alliterative haymakers and left hooks of assonance swipe at you with each and every track.
Run The Jewels 2 opens with “Jeopardy,” which shows exactly where this album is headed. These two believe they are the best. These two believe they are making history. And these two might be right.
El-P’s darkly futuristic synth chords tremble while Killer Mike’s baritone bursts onto the scene, an explosion of assonance oozing out into your eardrums, his flow dripping like syrup.
The ferocity and hunger continues on the following, “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry.” Frenetic samples catapult into a jungle of bombastic beats, drum claps, and Doppler tones whirring about like bees to the hive. El and Mike trade verses, showcasing their electric and eclectic partnership as the big man from Atlanta lights up the listener with his verbal assault weapon, “Me and El-P got time to kill/Got folks to kill on overkill/ He hangin’ out the window, I hold the wheel/There’s one black, one white, we shoot to kill.”
On stage, in the studio, or riding through your neighborhood, Run the Jewels is a force to be reckoned with. And they make that statement throughout the entire work, never letting up on a single track.
This trend continues on through the thumping “Blockbuster Night Part 1,” the drum versus rhyme battle “All Due Respect” featuring percussion mastermind Travis Barker, and the political aggressor, “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck).”
On the latter, reclusive Rage Against the Machine frontman, Zack de la Rocha, comes out of hiding to deliver both the hook and an ear splitting verse brimming with science fiction novel allusions, racial profiling and even an homage to perhaps the greatest MC of all time, Rakim.
El-P may be the genius behind the music, but he’s also a highly skilled individual on the mic. His talent illuminates one of the album’s best, “Lie, Cheat, Steal,” as he brags about his greatness juxtaposed with his relative anonymity, “A lotta you new to the El Producto milieu/Kinda like ‘fuck is you?’/ I’m a little black spot on a sun of lies/But I’m not too high to say I’m the truth.” The constant wit and evident wordplay is what makes Run the Jewels 2 such an enjoyable and captivating listen no matter how many times you press play.
Turn on your local hip-hop radio station and what do you hear? Top ten hits spewing gimmicky dance moves, soft, thoughtless hooks and recycled rap rhythms and isms.
In response, Run the Jewels screeched down the highway, busted through security, stole the commercial blueprint and torched it to ash cackling with delight; all while maintaining extraordinary accessibility. The duo’s unique lyrical style flaunts the kind of depth and technical ability displayed by the genre’s very best, traversing and navigating El-P’s tightly ambitious production as a perfect symbiosis.
One can hear the heart and soul poured into every moment as they spit like it’s their last days on earth, setting the bar quite high for their contemporaries. So see you later Tyga. Adios Iggy. Bon Voyage Wiz.
If you pop MCs don’t step aside, then I suggest you duck and cover. Because Run the Jewels is here to stay, leaving a fiery trail of commercial rap destruction in their wake.
Run the Jewels 2 is now available on iTunes and you can download it for free on their website.
PS- be sure to be on the lookout for Meow the Jewels, a remix of the album using only cat sounds coming soon!
(Lollapalooza photo courtesy of Blake Schwarz)