By Lis Jester
In a self-proclaimed “eyebrow-raising” hip hop collaboration, Killer Mike and El-P came together in 2013 as Run the Jewels, releasing their self-titled album Run The Jewels, full of ferocious synth beats and powerfully honest lyricism. No hype necessary, El-P’s alternative style and production combined with Killer Mike’s in-your-face NWA-esque tirades speak for themselves on these raw underground hits.
They open it up with violent jewel thievery and poodle shooting on “Run the Jewels,” where a simple hook breaks up a barrage of genius lyrics and lets us appreciate El-P’s strangely captivating beat. The style sets the tone for the album, along with the well-deserved underdog-style boasting, like El-P’s reminder that he and Mike “blew up the spot with that new bop, crew drops, do up ya squad without nuance.”
From there the album takes some unorthodox turns, including Prince Paul offering some crooked pickup lines involving Segways and artificial insemination on “Twin Hype Back,” and Mike moving “with the elegance of an African elephant” on “Banana Clipper”- a personal favorite of mine. Big Boi joined the duo on this one, and I was utterly wrong for thinking he would steal the show. El-P and Mike flawlessly feed off each other the whole way, and this fast-paced head nodder perfectly represents the partnership’s synergy.
Of all the sick beats on the album, the really sweet synth and guitar is on “Sea Legs,” where Mike goes straight for Kanye and Jay-Z, asserting that “there will be no respect for the throne” and “I stand on towers like Eiffel, I rifle down all your idols… I write for the writers that write for the liars that impress you and your parents.” No further commentary needed.
The rebellious bragging continues, along with some heavy percussion, on “36” Chain” with Mike declaring they “are those juggernauts” who “hail like a young Che Guevara and Fidel.”
But the real politically charged lyrics we’d expect from these two are on “DDFH” (Do Dope, Fuck Hope), as they use historical references and double meanings to cleverly attack the rich, corrupt and powerful. They say “the truth is too tangled” because the government controls thoughts and silences opinions, and they “laugh while you’re humming the tune of bruised movements.” This song’s lyrics are insanely crafty, and the clever politics only continue on “A Christmas Fucking Miracle” as Mike lambasts “Amerikkka” and “kings and queens and worshipers of idols and followers of things.” El-P follows it up with some of the same message; “the most impressionable minds get molested and informed by manipulating forces,” and my favorite, “the lost minds thinking they’re smarter than us don’t understand love’s importance.” The song ends the album well, saluting artists who haven’t sold out to money and power’s pressures.
Run the Jewels’ self-titled album Run The Jewels is an unruly review of society’s big issues, packed with fierce beats and abstract lyrics. It’s unexpectedly relatable and a must-listen for anyone who likes their hip hop smart, hardcore and defiant. As El-P shamelessly declares at one point, the duo is “overly fucking awesome.” Stay tuned for Run the Jewels 2, set to release sometime this year.
Though they don't tour a lot, you can check out their upcoming tour dates here. This is a band you need to see live.
Edited by Valerie Reich
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