The pair of Brooklynite El-P and Southern dwelling Killer Mike have each had solo successes and have been recognised as such. However, when the pair of them got together as Run The Jewels they released an album that exceeded everyone’s expectations with a chemistry that hasn’t been seen since Guru and DJ Premier. We thoroughly enjoyed the first album and so did many others at their sold out shows in the United States and Europe. Not only was it a musical success because it broke new ground in terms of its sound, it restored our faith in the fact that it’s possible for that type of music to be commercially viable. The pair have just released their follow-up, Run The Jewels 2, for free with the option to buy some very tempting CD and vinyl bundles via Mass Appeal Records. You can download it here or head to iTunes if you wish to purchase it with a bonus track. There is also a remix album of Run The Jewels 2 called Meow The Jewels on the horizon but we’ll get to that later.
Following in the path of The Godfather Part II, Die Hard With A Vengeance, Batman: The Dark Knight and Rocky III, the sequel has bettered the original. El-P continues to impress with his production abilities and his vision; the combination of which comes together to make beats that don’t fit any mould but still manage to give you whiplash. Killer Mike continues to impress as he has done in recent years; not only on the debut Run The Jewels release but also his solo and critically acclaimed R.A.P. Music. Furthermore, Mike has clearly improved as a rapper. On this release, he demonstrates multiple styles of flow and also touches on more serious subject matters such as police brutality and the influence of those that control vast sums of capital.
On Blockbuster Night Part 1, Killer Mike raps “this Run The Jewels is, murder, mayhem, melodic music” and frankly he sums it up pretty well if you want a one-sentence summary. The energy within these songs is what one could describe as fight music but there are so many intricate layers within that description, both in the beats and the vocals. Kicking off with Jeopardy, it’s rather mellow compared to the rest of the album with its synths, trombones and organs in its multiple layers but the aggression still come through.
“I might be, the closest representation of god you might see. Pay honors like your momma young sonna and take a right knee. The passion of Pac the depth of Nas circa nine three, mix the mind of Brad Jordan and Chuck D and find me. I spit with the diction of Malcolm or say a Bun B” – Killer Mike on Jeopardy
Upon seeing the track title for Oh My Darling Don’t Cry, we initially thought it might be some sort of love song. Well let’s be clear, it is categorically not that. In fact the energy of this song sets the tone for every other song on the project; El-P even references Notorious B.I.G. and Pimp C. From 2 minutes and 30 seconds in prepare to lose your mind. The rolling bassline, low-frequency synths, raw snares and frankly samples that resemble the sound of a dial-up modem come together in a strange symphony that just works. Blockbuster Night Part 1 is basically what heavy metal would be if it was rap music. Yes, we know that doesn’t really make sense.
Rage Against The Machine‘s Zach De La Rocha features on Close Your Eye (And Count To Fuck). Not only does it have a very creative title, Zach’s vocals have been incorporated into the beat as well as having a verse on the song. “Run them jewels fast” loops in the whole instrumental with the rest of the instrumentals layered over it; think the instrumental for Lil’ Wayne‘s A Milli but infinitely better. The rock influences on the El-P beat are clear even adding distorted electric guitar notes. Zach’s contribution, although by no means below par, just doesn’t seem to match the high standards set by Michael (Killer Mike) and Jaime (El-P). Although a bit more melodic, All My Life still follows the same trajectory with the addition that we now learn that Killer Mike “smell[s] of YSL and marijuana”.
On Lie, Cheat, Steal El-P takes his rhyming ability to a next level and to be honest we didn’t know he was that good on the microphone. The flow is just ridiculously good. It must also be said that Killer Mike also shines on this and is one of our favourites on the project. In terms of subject matter, Mike discusses recent controversy with Donald Sterling and the influence billionaires such as him have.
“Like who in the world gon’ tell Donald Sterl who to put on the “you can’t come” list? Now don’t be silly, who the fuck gon’ bully me if I got a billy? If I got a billy and the bitch recording me I’m like who cares, What i wouldn’t be is on TV stuttering ta-ta-talkin scared. So the question is when Don’s at home with that traitor ass bitch alone, who’s that voice on the side of the phone that shakes and rattles his bones? Could it be the man behind the man behind the man behind the throne?” – Killer Mike on Lie, Cheat, Steal.
Travis Barker makes his appearance on All Due Respect and it certainly shows because the drums on this track, accompanied by some clever vocal sampling, are incredible. You could easily listen to the instrumental on loop. Love Again (Akinyele Back) is a throwback to the dirty sex lyrics of Smut Peddlers‘ Porn Again. To put it in context the chorus is “she got that dick in her mouth all day” while on the last verse Gangsta Boo provides the female perspective which is equally dirty. Crown is very atmospheric and almost sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack to Drive; a perfect accompaniment to Ryan Gosling driving down a highway into the sunset. On the lyrical front, Crown is rather interesting. Killer Mike speaks in the first person as a drug dealer with a conscious but yet continues to peddle cocaine but is confronted by forgiveness by the pregnant lady he once sold drugs to. El-P on the other hand speaks as the voice of the military as it tries to convince a recruit to fight and not to question its authority.
“Before this moment you didn’t mean much. You are the smoldering vessel of punishment born to do nothing but justify us. Give us your empathy we’ll give you lust, let yourself go my son time to grow up. Give up your childish obsession with questioning, anything we don’t tell you is irrelevant, everything you’ve ever been is replaced by the metal and fire of the weapon you clutch” – El-P on Crown
All aspects of this record considered and we can’t say we’ve heard a better project in 2014 and with over two months left in the calendar year we doubt we’ll get a higher quality product. Best of all, this great collection of songs suit Run The Jewels model perfectly. By that we mean give the music away for free and tour intensively to make up the financial shortfall. Every song on RTJ2 could potentially cause a riot so you can be certain we’ll definitely catch them live and we suggest you do the same. This pair alongside their tour DJ, Trackstar, know how to get a crowd going with a ridiculous amount of energy. Check out their tour dates and locations here as they visit cities and towns all over the United States, Canada and Europe.
Lastly, remember when we mentioned Meow The Jewels all the way at the beginning? Well El-P has managed to secure $62,974 of funding via Kickstarter with an initial goal of $45,100. Meow The Jewels was basically an idea to remix the whole RTJ2 album with cat sounds only; yes, cats as in the feline kind. So far El-P has managed to secure the musical production services of some huge names such as Just Blaze, Alchemist and Prince Paul amongst others. Check out the video below of El-P auditioning cats for the remix album.