AOTW Review :: Run The Jewels
July 11th 2013
If ever there was a record that makes it acceptable to throw gang signs up while rumbling the air with your car’s ‘woofers, Run The Jewels is it.
At a snappy 33 minutes, and without a rapless second to scratch your head let alone skip a track, Run The Jewels is one of the hardest hitting rap records to date.
‘Run the Jewels’ is both a debut album and new duo between southern rapper Killer Mike and Brooklyn-based El-P, both certified killers on the mic. 2012 saw a successful collaboration between the pair as El-P produced Killer Mike’s monumental record, R.A.P. Music. Acting as a victory lap of sorts, Run The Jewels’ densley tangled production suggests they are no longer just collaborators, but partners in rhyme (pun fully intentional).
If you’re as hopelessly devoid of swagger as I am, you may have no idea what is meant by the title, Run The Jewels, let alone the rest of the riddles that fill every double timed-verse. Suffice it to say Run The Jewels means they’re not asking for your recognition, they’re demanding it. Whereas their solo records required years to make, Run The Jewels was pumped out in a few months and released for free (along with a, er, “herb grinder”).
Run The Jewels is the result of the ultimate bro-ing down of two dudes for whom race, age, time and money present no obstacle.
All ten tracks see them trading verse for verse so tightly that at times you can confuse who is who. The single guest rapper, Big Boi, is as solid as ever, but he is also an interruption, leaving you wanting more from Mike and El.
The record proves that the duo needs nobody but themselves. In ‘36” Chain’ Killer Mike even likens the combo to revolutionaries Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, and in ‘Banana Clipper’ he declares his respect:
“Producer gave me a beat/Said it’s the beat of the year/I said El-P didn’t do it/So get the fuck outta here!”
You are initially enticed by these saliva-rich, in-your-face attacks from Killer Mike, but you stay to decode the cryptic riddles of El-P. Together, the combination reveals an unexpected eloquence with themes running counter to contemporary hip hop. Taking the piss out of bling culture, El-P raps that he walks around like he’s wearing a ‘”36 inch chain.”
It’s not just the rapping that impresses. EL-P’s production is as tight as his relationship with Killer Mike, using dubstep inspired bass drops and swathes of synth. The beats seem to be made for the lyrics as much as the lyrics are made for the beat, but remains true to old-school rap, or as El-P raps it, “the art of the old cold.” While there may be more colour in El-P’s previous productions, the tone of Run The Jewels is an intentionally dark hue.
There’s no need to mention track names, they’re all red-hot bangers available to you FOR FREE. Sandwiched between releases from Kanye West and Jay-Z, Run The Jewels runs the risk of being lost in a whitewash of US-summer releases. Given a listen, it’s the only of these records that doesn’t stink of excessive wealth. Run The Jewels is an impact album, putting a name to the new heights to which El-P and Killer Mike will be raising rap music.
Run The Jewels is FBi’s album of the week: July 6 – 12, 2013