Killer Mike & El-P
Run the Jewels 2 (released October 24, 2014)
Last year, Killer Mike and El-P’s Run the Jewels album was the surprise we all should have expected.
I mean, Killer Mike has been demolishing microphones since he was “Snappin’ & Trappin'” in Stankonia with OutKast. Meanwhile, rapper/producer El-P has crafted some of the best soundscapes in the past decade.
Run the Jewels was destined to be a smash. It had the pedigree.
With a little more experience under the duo’s belts, the sequel, Run the Jewels 2, had the potential to be better than its predecessor.
And it is.
Run the Jewels 2 is darker and more profane than the original set, but it feels less mixtape-ish and is much more cohesive . More angry, too.
Killer Mike calls the duo “the top tag team for two summers” on the album opener “Jeopardy” and he’s not wrong. El-P is the introspective one, kicking out mind-bending metaphors, while Killer Mike just goes King Kong on tracks, smashing buildings and grabbing your girl along the way. They complement each other perfectly.
“Blockbuster Night Part 1” is a lyricist’s dream, with RTJ trying to one-up each other every bar: “I Jake the Snake ‘em, DDT ‘em in mausoleums/Macabre massacres killing c****s in my colosseum/They all actors, giving top in back of a BM/I’d fall back if the casting calls are ending in semen”
I had to rewind the track like four times to transcribe that.
El-P is an underrated spitter for sure — his double-time flow steals the show on “Like Cheat Steal” — but his biggest contribution is his production. “Love Again (Akinyele Back)” sounds like a distorted blaxploitation soundtrack while “All My Life”is like an Escher painting come to life — underwater. Travis Barker even shows up to accent the madness of “All Due Respect” with his wicked drum patterns.
Killer Mike, though, continues to break through as one of the best rappers in the game, PERIOD. His intimidating presence adds so much to “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and his narrative of a police stop gone wrong on “Early” is chilling, mainly because it’s not fantasy. It’s a sobering commentary on law enforcement in America. RTJ also pull the curtain back on society’s ills on “Angel Duster,” exposing legislative and religious hypocrisies. This isn’t the usual paranoia from smart dumb rappers about Illuminati boogeymen — it’s a push for listeners to look beyond propaganda and forge their own paths. Hip-hop needs more of that.
In a year littered with garbage hip-hop albums, Run the Jewels 2 is a diamond in the rough. RTJ2 is a 40 minute adrenaline rush, much like Zack De La Rocha’s surprisingly awesome verse on “Close Your Eyes (And Count to F***)”
Run the Jewels 2 being the best rap album of the year, tho? That was no surprise at all.
Best tracks: “Close Your Eyes (And Count to F***),” “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry,” “Blockbuster Night Part 1,” “All My Life”
4.5 stars out of 5