Run The Jewels
Run The Jewels 2
27 October, 2014 (Fools Gold)
By Josh Hughes
Every morning I wake up and drive to school listening to something mellow to start my day. Even on the weekends I find myself driving to get breakfast or something else to do, and there’s always some calm CD waiting in my car. But, for the life of me, I can’t take “Run The Jewels 2” out of my damn CD player. Instead of groggily waking up to Iron & Wine’s soft guitar plucking, I’m dragged out of a peaceful coma with Killer Mike shouting “I’m gonna bang this bitch the fuck out!!” on opening track “Jeopardy”. And if Run The Jewels do one thing really really well, well, I couldn’t have phrased it better.
Their second LP (the first being last year’s excellent self titled) sees some sort of revitalization for two rappers verging on entering their forties, something entirely unheard of in hip-hop. If Danny Brown’s “30” was an esoteric moment of triumph, “RTJ2” as a whole feels even one step holier and more commendable than something even the ever relevant Brown could accomplish. I mean, come on, 30? Jaime Meline and Michael Render are 39 and they just released the most banging album of 2014. Complete with extremely personal Rolling Stone editorials, a cool street art project, the actual combustion of twitter, and even a remix album entirely crafted of cat noises, if there’s an American cultural event that happened in the past few weeks, it was clearly centered around the camaraderie of these two guys.
While their debut largely focused on the element of surprise, and, dare I say novelty, the second coming had to be rooted in even more over-the-top braggadocio and dystopian production from El-P. In that regard, the previously mentioned opening track is something microcosm for the world in which they operate. Killer Mike is at the top of his game, both lyrically and technically, and El-P is defining experimental hip-hop production as he writes it. At the chorus of the song, some sort of crazy trumpet sample cues, and it’s clear this is all about mischievous fun. Well, and not to mention sharp, politically charged statements that come off as quickly as the “we’re the best” lines. It really can’t go wrong.
And it doesn’t. The next string of songs from “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” to the hilariously penned “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)” showcase the art of really good frontside albums. The latter of the two is the infamous Zach De La Rocha featuring song, so I needn’t really even go there (you’ve probably heard all about it over some form of social media). However, I should note that it boasts one of Mike’s best verses to date: “Where the fuck the warden? / And when you find him, we don’t kill him, we just waterboard him / We killing ‘em for freedom cause they tortured us for boredom / And even if some good ones die, fuck it the lord’ll sort ‘em.” Once more, it finds the witty pitch black humor and allegorical truth more relevant than most of us would care to admit all in one nicely sewn package. In between the two, “Blockbuster Night Pt. 1” is a good old fashioned aggressive rap track drenched in swagger and what we can only assume is a lot of sweat.
Elsewhere, “Lie, Cheat, Steal” boasts an impeccably fast verse from El-P and delivers a devilishly catchy hook. Like, a really really good hook. The features on the album are succinct, but each artist is incorporated to provide their own style in regard to the whole Run The Jewels package. “Love Again” is (mind my other Danny Brown reference) the raunchiest rap song since “I Will”, which is perfectly followed by “Crown”, the most revelatory track the duo have done.
Part of my overwhelming excitement for “RTJ2” is probably a culmination of the recent drought in fine rap music, but it’s also a monstrous album. Devious and cathartic are really the only words that comes close to doing it justice. Just as The Godfather has done with film, Run The Jewels have done with hip hop. Two is better than one, but you don’t want to skip out on either.
(Iron & Wine will have to wait a few weeks to make it back to the schedule)
Rating: Gotta Have It
Fave Tracks: “Jeopardy”, “Blockbuster Night Pt. 1”, “Lie, Cheat, Steal”, “Crown”