El-Producto is back and this time he’s brought a friend along. Run The Jewels is a hip hop super-group comprising of El-P and Killer Mike. The two have pretty sizeable reputations in their own right but combined they make a fearsome duo. Others should take note. These boys are not playing.
Run The Jewels is aggressive. It’s quite possibly the most aggressive album I’ve heard in years. The truly remarkable thing is that this album is capable of making the listener feel more aggressive. A twitter compadre described it as “music to road rage to”. He wasn’t wrong. I’ve been listening to it on my daily commute to and from work. I live in London and rush hour public transport is drenched in a combustible atmosphere to start with. Add Run The Jewels into the mix and I’ve been ready to go to war with next person who text-walks into me.
When I say that it’s an aggressive album, I don’t just mean that the lyrics are are aggressive. The lyrics are indeed aggressive but so is the music. This album is a powerful one-two punch combination of sonic rage and and mouth frothing prose. It’s as if the whole album is drenched in menace. This isn’t the exaggerated, cartoon aggression of some cheap gangsta rap wannabes though. There is a clinical, almost professional, taste to the threat posed here.
Run The Jewels comes hot on the heels of El-P’s 2012 release Cancer 4 Cure and Killer Mike’s, El-P produced, R.A.P. Music. I’ve not really given the latter any great attention. In truth I’ve skimmed it a few times and nothing has grabbed me enough to make me listen to it at any great length. I wasn’t overly enamoured with Killer Mike’s style, so much so that even El-P’s production couldn’t entice me into listening. That’s saying something because I usually inhale El-P productions like a crackhead sucks the first hit of the day. The lack of attention that I gave R.A.P. Music is in absolute contradiction of how I responded to Cancer 4 Cure. I’ve listened to that album so much that if I’d been listening to it on vinyl I would be hearing side b when I was playing side a. Run The Jewels has afflicted me in much the same way as Cancer 4 Cure. I just can’t get enough of it. I’m now thinking that I need to re-visit R.A.P. Music with my newly attuned ears and I expect I’ll have a far more positive reaction this time.
Killer Mike’s flow on R.A.P. Music just didn’t grab my attention. It felt that it was perhaps a little too languid. Maybe a little too laboured. I can’t quite put my finger on why I didn’t take to it. Any misgivings have been completely obliterated by Run The Jewels. Killer Mike’s style is the perfect compliment to El-P’s scatter gun, hyperactive, stream of consciousness delivery. The two bump off each other in the most ear pleasing way. The inter play between the two is sheer delight for real hip hop heads. They are as artistically successful as any of your favourite MC duos. Think of Erick and Parrish in their prime and you’re in the right territory. A few listens to this and you’ll remember exactly why it is that you love hardcore rap. Special mention has to go to Prince Paul for his hilarious cameo as repulsive, slimy, lothario ‘Chest Rockwell’ on the track ‘Twin Hype’. I found myself having to stifle a laugh on a busy tube when he talks about tongue kissing hot pockets.
El-P’s production is, as expected, utterly superb. He is continuing further down the seam that he began to mine with Cancer 4 Cure. I’ve never been a fan of Kanye West but I saw all the internet furore about how amazing Yeezus is; about how he was pushing hip hop into hitherto unknown territories. That piqued my interest so I had a listen. Pushing hip hop into new ground? Really? It sounds to me like he stumbled into El-P’s garden and didn’t understand what happens there. El-P has been dragging hip hop into new ground for years. His productions are far removed from the looped jazz breaks that we all cut our teeth on. His compositions sound like the national anthem of a totalitarian state in a dystopian future…in a good way! I jest but El-P’s production is a mash of booming kicks, complex drum patterns and sci-fi synths. He combines the sensibilities of industrial, rock, jazz, funk and and hip hop. For Run The Jewels it feels like he’s distilled the angriest elements of all forms of music and forged a megalithic behemoth of hip hop rage.
For an album this good you’d be happy to pay more than usual which makes it all the more incredible that this album was, initially, made available as a free download. If I held a competition for the members of my record collection to present arguments and see who offered the best value for money I would have to exclude Run The Jewels. It just wouldn’t be fair. You will be hard pushed to find any album that is a free download that comes close to this. This is the pinnacle of quality…and it’s free! Now you have no excuse to see if you agree with my reckoning or not. I’m guessing that the guys will hope to make money by touring the shit out of this album. I know that if they come anywhere near London with a tour then I’ll be going.
They say that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and with Run The Jewels that’s certainly true. It’s so evident that El-P and Killer Mike are having so much fun working together and according to El-P’s tweets he enjoyed it so much that he’s already planning Run The Jewels 2. It’s a rare thing to have two artists inspire each other onto greater heights but that’s just what you have here…and it’s free! Gang Starr once said something about not seeing another day if you didn’t run all your jewels and pay. Now, thanks to El-P and Killer Mike, you can run the jewels all day, every day and never pay. Run The Jewels will firmly entrench itself as your new ‘I’ve had a really shitty day and I need some catharsis’ go-to album.