Run The Jewels - 2014
If the most honest assessment of an album is whether you immediately want to listen to it again, then Run The Jewels 2 is a winner. (I’ve listened to it 6 times in 5 days) If I had a do-over on my top ten of 2013, the first Run The Jewels album would have made it on there. I missed Killer Mike’s 2012 album “R.A.P. Music” which landed on a bunch of top ten lists. That album was the first collaboration between Mike and producer El-P. That marriage of rapper-producer worked so well that they created Run The Jewels in order to present themselves as a legitimate duo. EL-P’s instrumentals on Run The Jewels are all catchy, badass beats that get better with repeated listens.
Run The Jewels 2 continues the badassery that the first album began. The beats are aggressive, groove-heavy, and always interesting. The bass frequency is such an important part of this sound, that if you were to listen to this album through some crappy computer speakers, then you may as well just not consider yourself to having ever heard it before. Whether it’s the synth bass lines throughout the album, or the pounding kick drum on “Love Again” and “Angel Duster", I can promise you that when that guy pulls up next to you at a red light and you can feel the booming bass from his stereo in your tooth fillings, it’s this album he’s playing.
Not only are these songs a catchy and fun listen, but they seem to seamlessly transition from one to another. I don’t mean that in a Dark Side Of The Moon kind of way either. They’re very much separate songs, but the way they’re written and sequenced together is like a jigsaw puzzle. The pieces just fit. The 11 tracks at 39 minutes move quickly, but don’t rush. It’s like a great 2 1/2 hour movie that seems like it’s a hour and a half.
Lyrically the album took me quite a while to dig into. Killer Mike and El-P are both extremely aggressive, which isn’t always my favorite type of rap lyricism. I made a point to git deeper into the lyrics though, since I enjoyed the rest of the album so much. Some of it is definitely testosterone posturing in a typical rap fashion, especially on El-P’s verses, but there’s a lot more throughout the album that are serious commentaries on politics, race, family, etc.
There’s also a heavy sense of humor on some tracks that the casual listener might not get immediately. The main hook of “Love Again” is…let’s just say dirty. Upon the first listen it comes off as misogynistic, but in the third verse Gangsta Boo (yeah, I don’t know who she is either) gives her own perspective which is way dirtier than the two guys before her. It throws the usual male-dominated rap verse on it’s head and shifts the power to the woman. It’s that kind of cleverness that sets this album apart from the rest.
The highlight track out of all of these great tracks is Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck). It’s a perfect marriage of a kick-ass beat, great verses, and a killer guest verse from Zach De La Rocha. Maybe it’s a longing for a Rage Against The Machine reunion that has me thirsty for Zach’s razor blade verses, but this is vintage ZDLR. He name drops Bitches Brew, the film Blade Runner, mashes up author Phillip K Dick’s name with an assault rifle, and in classic Zach style proclaims, “The only thing that close quicker than our caskets be the factories”.
The bottom line is that there’s something here for everyone. There’s aggression, religion, politics, sex, drugs, and video game samples. To quote El-P “Run The Jewels is the answer, the question is What’s Poppin’!"
Posted by Tambe