Album Review: Run the Jewels 2 – Run the Jewels
[LISTEN] [Label: Mass Appeal Records] [Release Date: October 24, 2014] [Genre:Hardcore Hip Hop]
Only one year removed from the original release of Run the Jewels, the duo of El-P and Killer Mike has since been picked up by Mass Appeal with heavy tour backing and amassed the support of several key feature artists. Now, Run the Jewels 2 recently arrived for most listeners in a sweetly tailored email from “Jaime and Mike” themselves. As it turns out, the attached download link is a direct line to one of the most compelling hardcore hip hop releases of the year. And it’s this sense of frankness and plain-dealing that makes Jaime and Mike’s next batch of savage gangster adventures so irresistible.
The first notable difference between the tapes is in El-P’s production. Each run on Run the Jewels 2 is noticeably darker, heavier, and more intricately layered. But these beats don’t lumber along—each has a select cadence and economy to its sounds. Lead single “Blockbuster Night Part 1” barrels down hard like a train covered with gang tags, hoisting away vagrant jewel runners with its rumbling bass lick and snapping drum clicks. Meanwhile “Lie, Cheat, Steal” bounces along with its lush synthetics and potent bursts of noise and distorted vocals during the Mike’s hook. El-P’s crowning achievement for this tape might just be his devilishly addictive work on “Close Your Eyes” interlacing De La Rocha’s hook with the punch and rumble beat, burrowing its way into your ears like a melodic power drill.
With all that being said, Run the Jewels 2 is just as laudable for its unforgettable production and equally ridiculous bars. Jaime and Mike’s gem-robbing, dope-dealing personas have since received a generous volt of action movie machismo. The result is a number of lyrical moments that are infamously halfway between Death Grips and N.W.A. “You can all run naked backwards through a field of dicks” from the glitch and dense “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” stands out as a worthy candidate for insult of the current millennium. On a similarly vulgar and phallic note, “Love Again” is so raunchy and direct that even the most questionable bars on Yeezus look flaccid. Gangsta Boo’s verse on this track is far more convincing than her recent work on clipping. track Tonight. And herein lays the key to the success of Jaime and Mike’s lyrical style. The cartoonish, over-the-top violence, repping, and robbing only succeed with proper delivery and appropriate technical skill; and there’s no shortage on either front.
Run the Jewels still properly deals with severity and emotion despite priding itself on stickups and stolen property. “Crown” painfully details Killer Mike’s regrettable experience in dealing cocaine to a pregnant woman, a slower rap ballad on guilt and personal negativity. “Early” shares much of its lyrical content with Killer Mike’s “Don’t Die” from 2012, a heartfelt refrain on police brutality. Even outro “Angel Duster” succeeds in touching upon government corruption, religion and drug abuse, punctuating the entire tape with genuine conviction.
Killer Mike sews up the last verse of “Blockbuster Night Part 1” with “This Run the Jewels is, murder, mayhem, melodic music / Psychotics use it then lose it, junkies just abuse it.” In this case, there are no better principles by which to live or die. Now, despite seeming theatrically immortal, Jaime and Mike’s steadfast grip on reality is what sets Run the Jewels 2 apart from nearly all other hip hop releases this year. Straightforward high performance rapping on immaculately constructed beats all delivered right into your email inbox; no jewel running required.
[Favorite Tracks: “Close Your Eyes” feat. Zach De La Rocha, Oh My Darling Don’t Cry, Angel Duster]
by Dynn Javier