Published on November 11th, 2013 | by Craig Silliphant


Run the Jewels


Atlanta rapper Killer Mike and Brooklyn rapper/producer El-P have each been forces of nature in their own rights, but they joined forces for Killer Mike’s 6th album, ‘R.A.P. Music,’ which paved the way for their latest collaboration, Run the Jewels.  Having grown up on Public Enemy and N.W.A., I have to admit that I’m right in the pocket for a leaner, meaner rap album with more militant production and tougher flows, and Run the Jewels fits the bill perfectly.  El-P’s production is like a stripped down Bomb Squad (I’m even hearing some Bomb Squad samples in there) and these two dudes play off each other in an almost symbiotic way.

It’s no holds barred as they directly attack rappers with weak cadence and lyrics and they throw a punch at the more famous mainstream hip hop duo of Jay-Z and Kanye West.  They directly reference the Jay-Z/Kanye album ‘Watch the Throne’ and postulate that all these big stars are “false idols” that only care about wealth and money.  In fact, this album was even released as a free download, giving them a huge cache of street cred behind what they’re ranting about.

The track ‘36 Inch Chain’ is an all out assault on how stupid they think a Gucci-wearing rap star is, hacking with a lyrical machete at the idea of material wealth and status.  You’d think rap boasting would be old by now, but Mike and El-P lay it down with the fervour of the glory days of The Beastie Boys’ boasts, mixed with imagery (like chalk outlines) that leads back to gangsta rap.

Their tirades can be amazingly nasty, yet they have a certain heavy elegance to them.  While they’re not stuck in the 80s and 90s, they do reference everything from Star Wars to moonwalking to Demolition Man and Public Enemy’s own ‘Media Assassin,’ Harry Allen.  They even reference the El-P track, ‘Drones over Bklyn,’ off ‘Cancer 4 Cure,’ which Killer Mike also appeared on.

Run the Jewels is a swinging, pummeling sledgehammer of opinion and emotion, but they have the wit and a gift with turn of phrase that makes it work well, and it’s rare to find rappers like this in today’s hip hop nation.  In fact, if Kanye is ‘hip hop,’ Run the Jewels is bringing back ‘rap.’  They may come off as tricksters, and even their boasts have a tongue-in-cheek nature to them, but mainstream hip hop should beware of being made obsolete by El-P and Killer Mike — because they’re truly a coup in the making.  One of my favourite lines on the album is, “I fuck like I’m heading to war.”  It’s a funny line, but one thing is certain:  Run the Jewels, as an album, fucks like it’s going to war.

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About the Author

is a D-level celebrity with delusions of grandeur. A writer, critic, creative director, editor, broadcaster, and occasional filmmaker, his thoughts have appeared on radio, television, in print, and on the web. He is a juror on the Polaris Music Prize and the Juno Awards. He loves Saskatoon. He has horrible night terrors and apocalyptic dreams.

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