FREE ALBUM REVIEW- Run The Jewels 2 by El-P x Killer Mike
Everyone has come up to me the last few weeks asking what I think of the event album Run The Jewels 2. Honestly, I had no idea what to say but at this point I’m willing to take a go at it. This is how a major rap album event used to feel. When the old dogs snicker because Lil B compared himself to 2pac or Joell Ortiz put on his Big Pun comparison again it’s because we know the difference. A new Scarface album, a new Public Enemy or Ice Cube album felt this way. They were always straightforward and in your face; none of this crying in your coffee introspection. Not only were they chest thumping power assertions but necessarily filled with depth. Balance of content was not a gift but an expectation. Run The Jewels 2 has all the electricity, power, meaning and sneering joy of the first track of those old Ice Cube albums. It maintains that all the way through the eleven tracks available for free.
I made the mistake of calling the first Run The Jewels a mixtape and El-P corrected me on twitter. I’m seeing things his way now. Nothing on this feels as off-the-cuff-lets-try-it as a mixtape does; this is an album. The growth from that first collection of music to this one is substantial. While my favorite track is the adrenaline jolt first song Jeopardy which kicks off what I’m calling the most beautiful fight music in recorded history; you could easily make a case for any of the others. Lie, Cheat, Steal a is frank and intelligent discussion of what power means. Blockbuster Night p. 1 is two brilliant minds word game rapping back and forth with unparalleled acuity.
The lesson I learned from the first release was that Killer Mike really is better than your (mine as well) favorite rapper. This time out it’s the depth and beauty of El-P’s production. The sonic universe of to-the-hilt bass and twisted industrial influence is so large and rich it encompasses space enough for Gangsta Boo and Zack De La Rocha to lay the most successful guest verses of the year. Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck) is a rampage made perfect anarchy by Zack’s looped voice in perpetual motion on the chorus. His guest verse makes all Rage Against The Machine fans smile ear to ear. Like seeing an ex looking as good as they ever did and thinking…that was one bad MF. Love Again (Akinyele Back) is brash and sexual with a throttling back beat that Boo lays into. While Love Again is sexual braggadocio and has a chorus about putting genitals in your mates mouth all day it adeptly sidesteps any insulting imagery. I’ve never heard El-P do a verse about sexuality as lovingly as the one on Love Again and it goes to show the influence these two artists have had on one another.
I’m a little tired of reading Run The Jewels reviews about how weird it is that Mike and El have this chemistry. How different their worlds are. It feels a little insulting. A lot of the worst collaborations in hip hop are done by best friends from similar environments with lots of commonalities. These two make each other better. Who cares how that fits into their “cultural” backgrounds? Mike is a sparkplug, lightning rod rapper who pushes El to open up things in ways he wouldn’t otherwise. What they’ve made sounds larger than My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and has the strength to last longer. It shouldn’t shock you to hear El-P scream out tribute to Pimp C it should shock you that these two artists are so much better than you thought they were. Don’t be shocked if their next project is better. Trust these dudes.
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