Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels
Release Date: June 26, 2013
Record Label: Fool's Gold
Last year, both El-P and Killer Mike released critically acclaimed solo albums. El-P's futuristic Cancer 4 Cure was his first album since 2007 and showed that he hadn't missed a beat during his time away. Killer Mike's R.A.P. Music, which was entirely produced by none other than El-P, was (in my opinion) the best hip-hop release of 2012. Now, the once unlikely collaboration has extended to an actual project between the two. They've come together to form Run The Jewels, and their self-titled debut is a testament to the undeniable chemistry these two have.
While El-P focused on more futuristic, sci-fi type sounds on his album, he combined his roots in New York noise with hard knocking, southern influenced beats on R.A.P. Music to create the perfect platform for Killer Mike to deliver his deeply layered political rhymes. The beats on Run The Jewels find themselves right in between the styles of the two albums, and a number of these songs sound like they could fit in well on either of them. Even when the beats lean more toward the Cancer 4 Cure side, Killer Mike is able to sound right at home. "36" Chain" features glimmering electronic synths left and right but Mike makes the beat his own, and the dirty synth bass on "Run The Jewels" sits perfectly behind the two rappers as they make their mission statement clear: they're better than everyone, and they aim to prove it.
The lyrics on the album mostly stay along the lines of them boasting their superior talent, but they keep it fresh and interesting through the quick 35 minutes of the record by flexing their clever word play and their slick flows. When Mike spits a line like "These streets is full with the wolves that starve for the week so they after the weak/In a land full of lambds I am and I'll be damned if I don't show my teeth," his confidence seeps through the song and its enough to make every other rapper stop dead in their tracks. Every other rapper, that is, besides El-P, who spits rapid fire lines like "With the pull of a pin a grenade get a crowd to they feet and a soul to its opinions/I'm a fool for the win I been made to be loud while these other cats drowning in softness." These two can tell you how much better they are than you and prove it all in the same breath.
Even though you could classify a good portion of this album as brag-rap, there are a few times where the rappers go beyond that. On “DDFH” Killer Mike drops bars that could fit right in on R.A.P. Music, firing accusations like “It's drones over Brooklyn, if you blink you could get tooken/Now you understand the definition of 'Crooklyn,'” referencing one of El-P's more political songs from C4C (“Drones Over Brooklyn”). The two also flaunt their unique storytelling ablities, with El-P recounting his younger days on “A Christmas Fucking Miracle” and Killer Mike taking us through a crazy night in the VIP Room at a strip club on “No Come Down.” The duo bring their separate life experiences together here to give Run The Jewels a sense of camaraderie between the two.
It's hard (but tempting) to compare Run The Jewels to C4C and R.A.P. Music, mostly because it's clearly supposed to be an entirely separate entity from those two albums. Run The Jewels is its own beast, and the combination of Killer Mike and El-P creating rap music together is one of, if not the most exciting thing happening in hip-hop right now. Run The Jewels is supposed to be these two just hanging out and having a good time in the studio, and that vibe comes across very strong, but if this album is just these two having fun, who knows what could be in store for the future if and when they release more under the Run The Jewels name.