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New Music: Run the Jewels (EL-P + Killer Mike) – Self-titled

Run-The-Jewels

Run the Jewels (EL-P + Killer Mike)Run the Jewels

4.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“DDFH”
“A Christmas Fucking Miracle”
“Run the Jewels”

Highlights: Before Killer Mike brought on El-P to produce his bangin’ 2012 album R.A.P. Music, he was mostly known as a frequent OutKast collaborator on tracks such as “The Whole World” and “Snappin’ & Trappin'”. El-P released his 2012 LP Cancer 4 Cure the exact same day as Mike’s album last year — signaling a certain syncopation beyond MC competitiveness. Fast forward one year to the present, and El-P & Killer Mike have joined forces as the best hip-hop project in years dubbed Run the Jewels, touring on their landmark new album Run the Jewels.

El-P is the sole producer of Run the Jewels, and it’s safe to say this shit will be pumped in the future. The world of sound is incorporated into tight, aurally pleasing production that feels familiar yet completely original. El-P uses everything from classic organ to Nintendo glitch sounds to electric guitar to build epic beats. Contemporary dance elements can be found interjected into the beats most often, but in a micro-sampling fashion not akin to today’s trap movement. The most groundbreaking instrumental aspect of Run the Jewels is the sole producer’s use of vocals in beat production. The opening cut “Run the Jewels” contains an echo effect on accented words until they meld into the music track, blending parts of the rhymes into the instrumentals. “Job Well Done” & “Banana Clipper” feature instrumental melody stems that are really modulated vocal beats that loop and pitch-shift with ease. The effect of rhyming over modulated vocal-based beats is striking.

The lyrics constantly paint descriptive word pictures, and frequently celebrate wide ranging drug use — “No Come Down” is hyper-catchy with the chopped up refrain “I get so high, I close my eyes like I may die” contrasting with “and I won’t come down.” “DDFH”, the best track on the record, delves into aspects of police brutality, government surveillance & the US’s unbalanced prison system with ease within one Killer Mike verse. Killer Mike breaths fire as aggressively as ever, but with his patented wink and a smile.

Lowlights: Like the rest of hip-hop, Run the Jewels embraces Molly use — pure MDMA — without hesitation. And in “Twin Hype Back”, the duo include an over-the-top date rape skit with the help of Prince Paul about putting MDMA in a girl’s drink. Paul, playing “Chest Rockwell,” goes into cheesy-creep mode by crooning “You feeling relaxed? Maybe it’s that half a molly I put in your Mountain Dew. Ya works like a charm / I’ve got your glass of Beefeater, a pack of Uno Cards / OK, how about I come over tonight and pick you up on my Segway and we go to Long John Silver.” Seemingly, this is a song-long spoof about the Rick Ross controversy, where he rhymed about date raping a girl by using Molly.

There’s a bit of contradiction between the El-P & Killer Mike’s very real celebration of drug culture and the hip-hop date rape skit that is meant as social criticism in “Twin Hype Back”. It’s obviously lampooning Rick Ross and the controversy around it. And clearly, most people that enjoy recreational drug use don’t rape people. But it’s hard to take the intention of the spoof seriously after hearing about how dope Molly, shrooms, blunts & blow is the previous eight tracks.

Takeaway: One of Run the Jewels’ greatest successes is that it can be both funny and dead serious within the same song and often within in the same flow or line at times. El-P & Killer Mike are at their strongest when spitting rhymes with meaning — regarding oppression, government hypocrisy, racism — and this is the Killer Mike influence (the same guy that made the four words “I’m glad Reagan’s Dead” a catch phrase over the past year).

But this shouldn’t detract from how fun this album is to listen to — whether the topic at hand is dead serious or downright funny. Killer Mike broaches serious topics, bringing up the “elephant in the room” whenever possible, and EL-P is a hyperactive, light-hearted goofball MC. And that really is why El-P & Killer Mike are the perfect duo. Put these two together and you have the best hip-hop album of the year so far, and one of the best overall albums of 2013.

*Win free tickets to see Run the Jewels at The Independent in San Francisco on July 31st.

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Comments

  1. Brian Mckelvey says:

    That’s not El-P on “Twin Hype Back” it’s Chest Rockwell aka Prince Paul.

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