Torture, motherf*ckers. Think of the Wu-Tang skit where Method Man and Raekwon try to outdo one another by coming up with increasingly sadistic and creative ways to inflict agony.
Now set it to music.
Run The Jewels places our two anti-heroes – Southern Hip-Hop revolutionary Killer Mike and caustic New York lord of the underground El-P – in a room filled with rusty implements of pain and the rest of the Hip-Hop world bound and gagged on a cold metal slab. The result is an example of rap music baring its teeth for reasons other than smiling or showing off a diamond encrusted grill, and one of the year’s best releases.
The project clocks in at a lean 33 minutes, and the listener is not afforded one second to catch his breath. Before you can take in what’s happening the duo is pointing pistols at poodles and pulling pins from grenades in crowded rooms on the album’s opener and title track. El and Mike display chemistry that belies the relatively short time period they’ve worked together on the Big Boi-featured “Banana Clipper.” Both emcees precede Big Boi’s electric closing verse by weaving and out of each other’s way in eight bar bursts, each line propelling the next like two stock cars drafting from the other’s slipstream.
Throughout the album, El’s production maintains the sharp edge that is its trademark, but is stripped down and less cacophonous than other projects. On “D.D.F.H.” whining synths waft over punchy snares like cigarette smoke in a dive bar. The album’s centerpiece “Sea Legs” is propelled by dynamic drum programming and synth work that swells and recedes, ebbs and flows, not unlike the choppy waves that forms the songs main metaphor. Mike is at his irreverent best here (“There will be no respect for The Thrones/No master mastered these bones/Your idols all are my rivals/I rival all of your idols/I stand on towers like Eiffel, I rifle down all your idols/Niggas will perish in Paris, niggas is nothing but parrots”), refusing to play nice with the cool kids, preferring to aim spitballs their way from the back of class.
Run The Jewels, while not devoid of headier content, doesn’t have as strong a thematic thread weaving the ten songs together, as El-P or Killer Mike’s recent solo outings. That is, unless, you consider f*cking shit up a theme. And the desire to f*ck shit up is welcome, and needed, in a Hip-Hop game that’s increasingly toothless and facile.
Every song here is a middle finger to everyone that doesn’t have the courage to rap with conviction. To everyone who is afraid to be different. To mealy-mouthed, weak-kneed, spineless, artist and listener that purports to love Hip-Hop. Run The Jewels is not a Picasso, baby. Instead, the duo takes a can of Krylon and sprays a bright red throw up over the establishment’s sacred cows.
Label: Fool’s Gold | Producer: El-P