2013 had Yeezus, 2012 had good kid m.A.A.d city, 2011 had Watch the Throne. The world of hip-hop, like the electronic world (until the end of September), needed a hero album this year. Who answered the call? Run the Jewels? You betcha! In the same way that electronic music has had Syro, You’re Dead! and Our Love, 2014 hip-hop has now been gifted Run the Jewels 2.
If you’re at all into hip-hop, then you will most likely have heard of the two members of the duo, Run the Jewels (either separately or together). The two in question are Killer Mike (the alias of Michael Render) and El-P (AKA Jaime Meline) – who, in the past few years have become two of the most cohesive musicians around. Throughout RTJ2 (from “Jeopardy” to “Angel Duster”), the duo manage to form tracks that are simultaneously aggressive, thought-provoking and, most of all, imaginative.
Killer Mike is one of the most articulate rappers to release music in recent years (see “Reagan” from his latest solo album, R.A.P. Music, for a great example). On this, Run the Jewels’ latest release, he shows off, he forms complex rhyming patterns and runs his smooth rhymes all over beats (formed by El-P), like a bulldozer. All of this goes on while El-P (arguably the lesser-rapper of the pair) improves his lyrical content and comes up with some true highlights on an album that features one of the most talented rappers of today.
Killer Mike’s rhymes are just as impressive as ever. He burst onto the fore-front of hip-hop fans’ minds with a feature on OutKast’s “Snappin’ & Trappin’” from Stankonia in 2000 and since then, all he has done is hone his craft and become more of an individual. Rather than spitting lines like “Lick my blunts and spit like she does my dick!” and “I’m looking for love all in her mouth”, he’s expanded his focus to include the likes of “When you niggas gon’ unite and kill the police mothafuckas? / Or take over a jail, give those COs hell / The burnin’ of the sulfer, God damn I love the smell” to simply exemplify how good a rapper from the ATL can be. Some would even say that he’s hot on the tails of his mentor – Big Boi (Antwan Patton) and his OutKast band-mate, Andre ‘Andre 3000’ Benjamin.
The best rappers, though, cannot do much without fantastic beats and El-P’s are pretty impressive. A highlight is “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” the beat for which consists predominantly of Zach De La Rocha (of Rage Against the Machine fame who also has a stand-out verse on the track) chanting “Run them jewels fast, run them jewels / Fuck the slo-mo”. The slicing and dicing that has gone on, along with the inclusion of a heavy bass line and a driving drum beat, is impressive and it’s clear that a huge amount of time and effort has gone into its formation. It’s this impressive sonic wizardry that is the biggest improvement on the duo’s debut, Run the Jewels.
El-P, while always being an accomplished rapper, has come on in leaps and bounds in the run-up to the recording of RTJ2. Lines such as “You want a whore in a white dress / I want a wife in a thong” from “Angel Duster” and “You can all run naked backwards through a field of dicks / Fuck the world, don’t ask me for shit, that’s word to B.I.G.” from “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”. The interaction between the two emcees also increases the impressive nature of the duo as the pair compare and interact with relative ease as Mike starts with the line “I Jake the Snake ‘em, DDT ‘em in mausoleums / Macabre massacres killing cunts in my colosseum” and El retorts with “They all actors, giving top in back of a BM / I’d fall back if the casting calls are ending in semen”.
Features on tracks have always been a big thing in hip-hop. Killer Mike’s big break (as previously mentioned) came on a series of features with OutKast (including Snappin’ & Trappin’” and “The Whole World”) and as such, RTJ2 follows suit. Featured artists include Zach De La Rocha, Travis Barker, Gangsta Boo and Boots and with these four, Run the Jewels show their expansive musical palette. Rap-rock, pop-punk, hip-hop and indie rock are all covered with just these four and each is shown to be incredibly adept in melding their sounds with those found in the alternative hip-hop of RTJ2. It’s impressive and pretty surprising.
I wholly suggest that you listen to Run the Jewels 2. It’s an incredibly consistent, adept and surprising release. While Run the Jewels (their debut) was a good album, it was nowhere near as good as this latest effort. Until now, the best hip-hop record of the year was the auto-tune laden Honest from Future. Now, Run the Jewels 2 could be in the running for Album of the Year and I for one will find it difficult to stop listening to this record.
Release: 24th October 2014
Genre: Alternative Hip-Hop
Previous Works: Run the Jewels (2013) and Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music (2012)
Contemporaries: Shabazz Palaces, Death Grips and Danny Brown
Influences: OutKast, Ice-T and N.W.A.
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