It might have been shocking in 2012, when El-P produced Killer Mike's R.A.P. Music, and the escalation into a full duo with 2013's self-titled debut might have at first seemed extreme, but c'mon. At this point, I think the most surprising thing the ultra-potent combo of El-P and Killer Mike could do is disappoint. The first album hit number 10 on my 2013 top 10 list, beating out a whole slew of other rap albums by being that much more consistent, that much more intense.
But even then it lost to Unknown Death 2002, right? Like, what does that say? Well, even then I was moving into a new way of looking at hip hop, one that prioritized, above all things, the sound of the music. Not the meaning of the lyrics or their technical proficiency, or the innovation of the beat, or like... any individual element. Just the sound. It's what lead me to declare Young Thug as my lord and savior. And this doesn't really seem to fit with Run the Jewels... But I kept returning to that album! Even in the deepest depths of my trapaholism, I would make some time for that album, or albums like it.
I think the secret is that they never feel like they're making a compromise for the sound. No matter how elaborate their lyrical work or deep a subject they tackle, it seems like the sound was still the first and only priority. Like, listen to the start of "Sea Legs"... like, El-P says a lot of meaningful things there, but you don't have to speak English to feel the greatness and emotion of this verse. And it isn't just about his flow being "good", it's more than just technically impressive, it has a good... feel.
I don't know. It's hard to get into words. And I feel like it has something to do with the attitude they had on their kickstarter campaign, too. I'm not sure if I'll be able to actually connect these ideas. Okay whatever point is I liked the first one, I still like it even though I usually like low-effort rap now, hoping to like this new one, here we go.
Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2
Like Danny Brown's Monopoly lol. this intro! omg. this flow. hahaha omg. mizzike. and then like a "normal" version of the verse, I love when rappers do this. "I hear the demons in my ear", this is some real MC Ride aesthetics. "And that's about the psyche of Jamie and Mikey", nice. OMG this beat is going nuts. He is saying SO MANY good lines, I want to copy them ALL DOWN. "Prevail through hell so Satan get thee behind me", lol damn just like that. El-P time! "By most measurements don't exist", wow. WOW the horns on the beat, wow. "Run the Jewels is your answer, the question is 'what's popping?'", oh, Jeopary. OK WOW. **
2. Oh My Darling Don't Cry
I heard this once before. The bass is nuts. It straight up didn't work on my earbuds. Oh My. Omg the robot is so good. this really sorta sounds like a Death Grips song lmao. Killer Mike wow this flow is really good. Busting out the bando sorta flow. "Fuccboi Jihad kill infidels" hahahaha. "I do two things, I rap and fuck", OMG the TRIPLETS, Mike slow down you'll have a heart attack >D<. This is like being in a landslide or something maybe not. Oohh the mixup at 2:30 is crazy... whole different layer of energy. This really squiggly synth line, Mike on this crazy triplet flow, staying in touch with the latest in Atlanta. That was kinda TOO GOOD maybe? **
3. Blockbuster Night Part 1
Good transition there too. Holy cow this is bouncing. "Half past, the clock was cuckoo" lol. El-P on an insane amount of alliteration, extreme naturalness. They're having SO MUCH fun I think. "I Jake the Snake 'em", I don't know what this means. Wow at 1:30 this mixup, haha, I love this, I love these vocal effects. Oh man on the conspiracy theory stuff... always interesting. Such passion in the rage. "I'll probably smell like a pound when they put me in the coffin", lol. Good. *
4. Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)
ft. the one and only Zack De La Rocha, which makes way too much sense. This has that same nutty bouncing flow, which Mike just tears through like a rhino or a tank or something. "We killing them for freedom cause they tortured us for boredom", etc. I think it's Zack doing the loop in the beat, right? "A wise man once said:" "We all dead, fuck it", lol. I love the grinding guitar that comes in every bit. Wow this v-alliteration, is this... V?? Zack coming in on a verse now. Miles Davis reference, sure. This sounds like him lol. "The only thing that close faster than our caskets be the factories", yeah lol. *
5. All My Life
Ohhhh damn. When the beat came on there at like 0:10... it went deep into my head. Woahhhh this is some really crazy flow. The beat... I really love sounds like this. That spacey, round, distant feel, yet blurry and warm. Oops I forgot to listen to the lyrics at all, the flow was nice though. The vocals on this hook are cool too. "Take a suck on the tail of a comet", hahahahuhhhh? This is really cool man... The looping and truncated "And I been this way shorty" is really cool. Go, go, go. LOL MY CELLPHONE JUST WENT OFF ON BEAT, that was cool. I always like it when stuff like that happens. **
6. Lie, Cheat, Steal
OMG the start sounded a bit like the Donkey Kong Country water music!!!!!! It doesn't anymore. Heroin:Laxative ratio, lol wow. "Teabag a piranha tank, my heart barely beating", wow. "Death by electrocution is like life in New York, innit", IS THIS A SYLVIA PLANTH REFERENCE? And these aren't even the most impressive things going on here. OMG, this HOOK. There is TOO MUCH ENERGY HERE. i feel like i am going to SURPASS CAPS soon. "I'm a mixture of MJ and the Weathermen", wow. Does that add up? Hahahaha omg this pyramid climbing, this flow is really nuts. The man behind the man behind the throne. Jesus though this hook man. Something about that rhythm of like, boom-blaaaaaaam, boom-blaaaaaaaam... Idk how to describe it. I love it. ***
Idk who BOOTS (all caps) is. I really like this rhythm though. I REALLY like this synth thing bubbling away, and Mike's insane flow. And wow the change, wowowwoww. And then this huge breakdown at like 1:00, BOOTS sounds like somebody who sings on an EDM breakdown, it's a good effect, all chopped. And then this awesome rhythm again... El-P does his own version of Mike's verse, cool. Haha Pac Man death sound. "Any time that he say it's not, you know he's lost the plot", I really like this line for some reason. "Go to home, go to sleep, up again, early.", wow. There's such a sense of massiveness in these songs, such a giganticism. It's amazing... a feeling of rampaging. Jeeeesus. **
8. All Due Respect
with Travis Baker (who I keep getting mixed up with Travis Scott cause I'm dumb) on drums. I love that naked drum sound. And this stuttering and scattered beat. "We the god damn reason for Ritalin" haha omg. How can someone go THAT FAR IN, THAT MANY TIMES? Does he just live there now? Live in "in"? "I wear sweatpants to funerals", I don't even know what that signifies. I love this intense stuttering. Wow Jesus this story is brutal. HAHA omg they did the Jungle Brothers thing from uhhh... "Buddy"? Wow dang. What an explosive song. **
9. Love Again (Akinyele Back)
Wow this is grimey, "husbalin", haha, this is... pretty touching, in a strange way. Is Gangsta Boo the girl there on the hook? El-P is doing almost like a patois?? lol. A-nee-mal. Idk. This is really greasy man, "That was like a day ago, like, 8am", haha. Oh this is Gangsta Boo. This is a really funny verse, really dense. She flipped it on them. "He want this clit in his mouth all day" hahahaha. Very clever concept for a song. *
idk who Diane Coffee is either. This one's sorta a slow burner. Easygoing triplet flow... Pretty intense story, though... ohhhh and then this piano breakdown. "Holding was holding you down", and then this spattering sound... El-P coming in with some warmaking rap. "Use all the pain you felt in your life as a currency and go out and trade it for blood" ooph, damn. I still dunno who Diane Coffee is. Propaganda rap, El-P really loves verses like that, from the "bad guy's" point of view, works well. Wow this sounds really gorgeous here, the way the sound is expanding... haha sweet vocoder voice yesssssss. All my musical fetishes are here. *
11. Angel Duster
Is this umm... a Yu-Gi-Oh card?? I think??? Wait no... Angel Dust.... pcp... i'm dumb. Ooh, this is pretty cool. El-P going first on this one, is Mike gonna surpass A Christmas Fucking Miracle on the final verse??? nah that's impossible lol. They're gonna trade back and forth. "So riddle me this, from the womb to the tomb, why do we struggle to" wait i don't remember what he said. RTJ, RTJ. This is really sweet, wow. The atmosphere here... it's a full 360 feeling sound. That vaccuuming song. "You want a whore in a white dress, I want a wife in a thong", wow. "Go Van Gogh on a house rat", WOW. "God really exists, I tell it like this, he reside inside", wow. Wow. RTJ. "From the ones with the riches to the ones with the rags"... aww man... this is like, too much almost. Like, how can they possibly make RTJ3 now? OMG AND THE VIOLIN AND PIANO? Are they really gonna go out like that? Jesus wow like... settle down guys omg. You're making everyone else look bad. You're shaming a whole genre right now. I love that piano tone too wow, how did they get that sound?? okay. TOO COOL. ***
I went into this with the perspective of like "this is going to be really good. These are two musicians that are having a great time making great music together. There is no way this will disappoint." And yet I was still SURPRISED, actually SHOCKED by how good it was at times. Jesus, wow. Are they just going to do this indefinitely? It really feels like they could. It feels like they have an infinite reserve of lines like the ones here. It feels like Mike can listen to any other hip hop song and think "that flow is kinda cool" and do a version of it that's 20 times crazier. It feels like Jamie can look at any other song and zero in on how it works and extract it into his own work. Like, this album feels like the first one (besides maybe Yeezus) that was aware of Death Grips and wanted to have the sort of fun they were having without just ripping them off. And then they brought in crossover legends from rock and, idk, EDM stuff, just cause it sounds great.
I think I could go on and on like this for a few more paragraphs but this is enough for now. This is really good and you should listen to it.