It’s good enough Killer Mike and El-P are at it again as Run the Jewels, but it’s clear they’re so much more than just back in the game with their sophomore album. From start to finish Run the Jewels 2 breaks all the rules and accomplishes things unheard of because neither Mike nor El refuse to be meek.
Both have become brazenly good at delivering raps that are parts autobiographical and socially aware. They also get vulgar at times, but that’s the last thing that matters when listening to a Run the Jewels album – there’s too much good stuff going on to get hung up on something as trivial as that. In fact, it’s best if you plug your headphones in to hear this record for the first time, to catch all that’s happening. A lot of genius is at work in this 39 minutes of unskippable music, and it’s heavily layered with irresistible beats.
But if you wanna talk vulgar, let’s talk about the brilliance of “Love Again (Akinyele Back)”. While the song might offend with its frequent reference of putting his “dick in her mouth all day”, it’s former Three 6 Mafia virtuoso Gangsta Boo that flips the script midway through and turns the track into one for the ladies. Especially when she steps in and says, “That’s what ya want, huh? Well lemme tell ya a little story” and proceeds on with a wonderful tale about sexin’ with a boy she turned into a “motherfuckin’ man”.
The guest appearances are thundering throughout: there’s Blink 182’s Travis Barker, flat out crushing the drums on “All Due Respect”, not to mention ZACK DE LA ROCHA rapping poetic on “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)”. That last one is chill-inducing, with de la Rocha announcing “I’m miles ahead of you” as he rips savagely into each word just as he’s always done. It only complements him further that the song surrounding his verses is full of electro hip hop meets short burts of rock bass riffs.
Much of RTJ2 comes off as a party album, especially with spectacular tracks such as “Blockbuster Night Part 1”. With a rad backbeat chugging along, Mike defiantly tells it like it is: “murder mayhem melodic music”. There’s also plenty of EDM’esque sounds infiltrating the album, as well, and it amplifies the party appeal to nearly untouched levels.
It’s not all a party, though, as the beats darken with the lyrics for “Lie Cheat Steal” or “Crown”. The latter is a tale Mike shares of his sordid past, when he once dealt cocaine to a pregnant woman, and the music chosen for it is perfect: slow, with a commanding beat, and occasional inclusion of gospel sounds.
All told, this is easily one of the best albums of the year, and the duo behind it have broken lots of ground putting it together. It’ll be super exciting to see what’s ahead for Run the Jewels, because the back and forth between El-P and Killer Mike is as impressive as I’ve seen with Outkast. Obviously Big Boi and André 3000 have uniquely defined individualities when they rap together, and RTJ doesn’t have that just yet, but that shouldn’t discredit how well they work together. Especially since they’re already establishing profound identities with their work.
Maybe one of the most fantastic attributes the duo has so far is their confidence in what they’re doing, which is shown in just the first few minutes of their second album. Mike proclaims “history (is) being made” with this recording, and El-P explains Run the Jewels is the answer. To what? Everything, obviously.