Published on July 8th, 2013 | by Boman12l0
El-P & Killer Mike – Run The Jewels [Review]
When you release two of the year’s best albums, how do you follow up that? El-P and Killer Mike caught the attention of critics and fans alike with their albums. When the two first joined together for Mike’s R.A.P. Music, it was a pairing that no one could imagine. R.A.P. Music was busting with aggressive socially and politically charged rhymes that were seldom seen in today’s Hip-Hop. It pulled no punches and El-P’s bombastic production was the perfect backdrop for Mike to unleash his fury. Soon after that, Mike was one of the most hyped features on El-P’s then soon to be release solo album, Cancer 4 Care, which was a look back at life, lost and self-refection. All made more compelling because of El’s lush spaced out synch heavily production that seem to leave the transcendental plane. Now one a year later, people cannot imagine the two apart.
Run The Jewels is El-P and Killer Mike’s victory lap. Unlike most releases, it is a sequel not to one but two excellent albums – albums that that in many ways reinvented and lit a fire under both artists. The focus here is pretty simple – run the jewels and run them as often as possible. While it might not be overtly political or personally focused as their last releases, there is never any question that they are dumbing things down or taking it easy. This is an album made by two MCs who know they made some of the best music last year and that creativity there are few that can match them. The album is filled with confidence and bravado. It is bleeding out of their lyrics and production.
Run The Jewel in many ways combines elements of both projects to create something very distinct. El-P’ production is filled with hard 808 drums, hard guitar riffs and synchs that explode out of speakers. It is guaranteed to make even the most secure trunks rattle. El and Mike trade lines back and forth tag team style for much of time. It’s an old school battle of one-ups-manship. The Mike’s rhymes are visceral as ever while El-P’s bars are densely packed. When Mike compares himself to two very different versions of Mike Tyson, listeners will have no trouble understanding what he means. Both are still extremely dangerous in their own unique ways. The album is filled with guaranteed threats of bodily harm if anyone comes between them and the jewels “Acting brave and courageous ain’t advantageous for health and safety/So when we say run the jewels just run’ em baby, please don’t delay me” Killer Mike boast on the title track. “You wanna hang, bring your throat/I got stools and a rope” El-P says trading bars with Mike on “Banana Clipper.”
Part of the beauty of Run the Jewels, amidst all the shit talk and jewels being run, there is plenty of knowledge being dropped. It is something many rappers strive for but fail to actually achieve. Killer Mike can rap about his country style and killing it on stage to addressing the police as the gestapo confidently with no disconnect. Next to fun tracks like “36” Chain” are hard hitting tracks like “DDFH” (Do Dope, Fuck Hope). Mike picks up right where R.A.P. Music left off inserting brutal social commentary.
And now you’re understanding the definition of “Crooklyn”
Pigs on parade but bacon fryin’ and cookin,
Cause kids tired of dying and walkin’ round like they shooken’
Cause we smoke sour to deal with the paranoia
That they charge by the hour, can’t hire the Jewish lawyer
Cause if you ain’t Jigga or Puff you doin’ time
And even then you might get 10, word to Shyne
What the album is missing in length it more than makes up for in replyability. El-P’s densely packed lines are going to take more than one spin to decipher and Mike has some show stopping moments that will have listeners running for the repeat button. Even before Kanye started dappling with the industrial approach, El-P has been making that type of experimental production for years. Run The Jewels is perfect mix of southern and northern styles. El-P’s production is explosives, often jarring, but is the perfect back drop for jewel running. El-P is not known for his quick turn around on projects, it is surprising seeing him with another body of work releasing less than a year from their first collaborations. Run The Jewels speaks volumes of their chemistry to accomplish a task and even superb guest appearances by Prince Paul and Big Boi struggle to take the focus from El-P and Mike.
The album is short sweet, aggressive and already a contender for best of the year. Run the Jewels is filled with confidence and many memorable moments that other albums could only hope to emulate. If this is a sign of things to come El-P and Killer Mike have only set the bar high for whatever the two decide to do next.