El-P and Killer Mike do it again on record number two

Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels 2

Run The Jewels is more than the sum of its already formidable parts. On El-P and Killer Mike’s first joint album last year, this came from the complimenting skills brought to the studio. The conventional wisdom went that El-P brought the beats, and Killer Mike the rhymes. It was perhaps the best hip-hop album of 2013: it had charisma.

On their follow up Run The Jewels 2, they have hit the same vein of success. The similarities with the previous album are sensed straight out of the gate with ‘Oh My Darling Don’t Cry’, carrying the most expansive, distinctive beat of 2014. Few could rap “I’m blowing on crippy while reading the scriptures as written by Egyptians” in one line while maintaining flow – Mike can. They clearly understand why they were successful and more: why people think they were successful.

Jaime and Mike don’t seem content to rest, repeat, retail. This album is a step-up in ambition as well as execution, widening their sound and subject matter without losing the strange natural charm that pervades RTJ music.

Run The Jewels is never more Run The Jewels than on ‘Love Again (Akinyele Back)’. It manages to channel the dubious legacy of Akinyele, tapping into the wider history of hip-hop, while bringing new artists to guest. The back and forth between Mike and Gangsta Boo chorusing “I put that d**k/he want this cl*t in his mouth all day” is as odd as we expect and utterly winning.

This is not to say their music is superficial, but rather does not leave cheap emotional moments lying around like pennies on the floor. It uses all its bluster and bombast as sleight of hand. The connection we form to the music and the musicians is therefore genuine, and certainly not forced or forged.

The scale and extension of the RTJ mission has never been one of conformity. No longer does it operate in a niche corner: now it wants to take over the world. It wants converts.

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