Run The Jewels
A one-off project that quickly evolved into a hip-hop superduo, Run the Jewels feature rappers El-P and Killer Mike. Formed after El-P produced Killer Mike's 2012 album, R.A.P. Music, the duo released Run the Jewels in 2013, an album credited to Killer Mike and El-P and released on Fool's Gold. Critically popular and with a sizable fan base to boot, Run the Jewels quickly evolved into a going concern when their sophomore effort, RTJ2, landed in 2014. A crowdfunded remix version of the album with all the music replaced by samples of cats was released in 2015 as Meow the Jewels. It featured guest appearances from Portishead's Geoff Barrow, Dan the Automator, and Internet sensation Lil Bub. The group ended the year with the single "Rubble Kings (Dynamite on the Street)," released by the Adult Swim label. In 2016, the duo announced RTJ3, which was set for release in early 2017. However, on Christmas Eve 2016, they unexpectedly uploaded the album as another free download. Featuring appearances by Joi, Trina, Boots, Danny Brown, Tunde Adebimpe, Kamasi Washington, and the return of Zack de la Rocha, RTJ3 debuted in the Billboard Top 40 and at number eight on the R&B/hip-hop chart. ~ David Jeffries & Neil Z. Yeung
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Rap - Released January 13, 2014 | Big Dada
Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music
The introductory salvo from rap superduo Run the Jewels is a fine example of a union that is so perfect one might wonder how the universe existed before it. The combination of Killer Mike's menacing Hulk power and El-P's sneering quips and lively production make Run the Jewels a thrilling experience. Everything about RTJ is hyperbolic excess -- both in attitude and sound -- stomping boot prints into the concrete and hurling innocent bystanders through brick walls. Although the pair didn't truly come into their own until the stellar 2014 sequel Run the Jewels 2, this 2013 debut hints at everything to come. Top-shelf production from El-P, Little Shalimar, and Wilder Zoby lends a fresh and exciting energy to each song, while El and Mike trade verses that are so dense with humor and bravado that new zingers are revealed with each successive listen. RTJ operate on a singular setting: imagine the silliest, most outrageous boast possible and then top it with a wink and a grin. From the opening blast of "Run the Jewels" to "36" Chain," they threaten with "Riverdance cleats on your face" and pulling guns "on your poodle or your fuckin' baby," taking typical hip-hop intimidation to ridiculous levels. Amongst the quotable gems, RTJ drop the occasional social commentary -- mostly regarding police oppression, poverty, and inner city struggles -- which balances the sophomoric overload with enough gravitas to justify the merit of the project (Mike's entire verse on "DDFH" ("Do dope, fuck hope") is a fine example of this insight). Some familiar friends also make appearances on the album: Mike's fellow ATLien Big Boi drops a standout verse on "Banana Clipper" while Prince Paul injects the filthy "Twin Hype Back" with a number of naughty nuggets as alter ego Chest Rockwell. While Run the Jewels is the appetizer to RTJ2's instant-classic main course, it stands as a no-holds-barred slap to the head for the rap game, calling out complacent contemporaries with each verbal shot fired. As Mike declares on highlight "Get It," "we are the new Avengers." With an aggressive strength that emboldens listeners with delusions of superhero grandeur, it's an apt claim from a dangerous duo that is more powerful than any comic book savior. ~ Neil Z. Yeung
Rap - Released October 24, 2014 | Mass Appeal Records
Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music
There are those Jagger/Richards, Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis, or DJ Jazzy Jeff/Fresh Prince-styled collaborations that always seem fruitful. The music created by Killer Mike and El-P easily falls into this category, and is closest to that of Jeff and Prince's, not just because the duo fall under the same category of "hip-hop" but also because Run the Jewels 2, like its predecessor, comes with some joy baked in. It's a broken, ironic, and underground kind of joy as the hard-hitting "Oh My Darling Don't Cry" shows its pimp-hand with "You can all run naked backwards through a field of dicks" and also shows its business card because "You're in luck, it says I do two things: rap and fuck." This sophomore effort keeps the slanted spirit of the original, as mixing the attitude of N.W.A. with the weirdness of Adult Swim is both comfortable and fertile ground for the duo, but the "album" does try harder in the "serious" department. Paranoid androids like "Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1" benefit, as if Run-DMC embraced EL-P's compressed beatmaking and dropped the F-bomb whenever possible. "Early" is deadly serious with Killer Mike pleading "I apologize if it seems I got out of line sir, cuz I respect the badge and a gun/And I pray today ain't the day you drag me away right in front of my son," and that's right before things turn grave. "All Due Respect" with Travis Barker enters Death Grips' territory with punk, techno, and vicious rhymes all crawling up the spine, but this rebel music can still come with a smirk, as a stuttering Zach de la Rocha offers the infectious and weird hook on the wonderfully titled highlight "Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)." If the first album was the supernova, RTJ2 is the RTJ universe forming, proving that Mike and El-P's one-off can be a going, and ever growing, concern. ~ David Jeffries
Rap - Released December 26, 2016 | Run The Jewels, Inc.
Booklet Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Titanic rap duo Run the Jewels returned with their third self-titled effort on Christmas Eve 2016. Bestowing the gift of Run the Jewels 3 weeks earlier than expected, El-P and Killer Mike managed to deliver a collection even more satisfying than 2015's sophomore installment. Whereas RTJ2 was the sound of multiple slugs to the chest, RTJ3 is as streamlined and focused as a laser blast between the eyes. Furious and hungry -- with endlessly quotable lyrical zingers to spare -- RTJ3's potency isn't as immediate as RTJ2. However, once it digs its claws in, RTJ3 reveals itself as their best work to date. The interplay between Mike and El remains the main draw, their chemistry elevating them above most contemporaries as they bounce back and forth on agile verses packed with enough outrageous boasts to fill a how-to guide on making more prudish listeners blush. The familiar RTJ sound is once again provided by the production team of El-P, Little Shalimar, and Wilder Zoby, with BOOTS making his return on a pair of album highlights. This time around, the roster of guest vocalists is as inspired as ever. Soulful singer Joi Gilliam smooths the pair's edges on the slinky opener "Down," while a wild Danny Brown verse unhinges "Hey Kids (Bumaye)." Trina holds her own and balances the brutal testosterone attack on the filthy "Panther Like a Panther (Miracle Mix)," the spiritual sibling to RTJ2's "Love Again (Akinyele Back)." While familiar themes (drugs, murder, sex) flow freely, the pair manage to pause the over-the-top boasting on a couple of intimately powerful tracks. Following Mike's time on the political campaign trail and the United States' tumultuous 2016, RTJ3 pulls no punches in addressing police brutality and social unrest. "Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost)" features TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe and strategic Martin Luther King, Jr. speech samples concerning rioting. Brought together by BOOTS' guitar stabs and digital clang, "2100" protracts the fear and uncertainty of "Thieves!" with more atmospheric dread. Zack de la Rocha follows his standout appearance on RTJ2's "Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)" with an explosive turn on the second part of album-closer "A Report to the Shareholders/Kill Your Masters." A call to arms, the track distills all their rage and frustration, as they declare themselves the "gladiators that oppose all Caesars." While "Shareholders/Masters" is the fiery political centerpiece of the album, standout moment "Thursday in the Danger Room" is the heart of RTJ3. An ode to a pair of fallen friends, "Danger Room" is a powerful moment of grieving and forgiveness. Kamasi Washington's saxophone adds warmth and gravitas, a bittersweet requiem that hits as effectively as Donny McCaslin's work on Bowie's Blackstar. In short, RTJ3 is near perfect in its execution. They're so good at this that it seems almost unfair in its effortlessness. ~ Neil Z. Yeung
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Run The Jewels in the magazine