Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels | Album Review | By Volume

The kid that went down isn't dead; he just can't find his phone. The Hold Steady - Almost Everything
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Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels

“Sanity on the fringe of distorted”

Comments (2)
Author: on July 16, 2013
9.0
Fool's Gold
June 26, 2013

I wouldn’t pass any kind of negative judgment on Jaime Meline as an individual artist, but the prospect of pairing El Producto with Michael Render evokes nothing but elation. The fire that got lit under El-P’s ass last year when he and Killer Mike met for the first time was immense, and the ashes took form in the exceptional combo of Mike’s R.A.P. Music and Meline’s Cancer 4 Cure – not only two of 2012’s finest albums, but two of the most complete rap records in recent memory. El-P was the wizard behind the boards on both albums and – especially on his own record – set about reinforcing Killer Mike’s glowing appraisal of his production skills. Meline’s uniquely futuristic beat scheme was hiked up ten-fold, his nightmare metropolis populated with twitching clicks, cascading synths and ground-pounding bass, all wrapped around his vicious tongue.

And yet here I was, thinking it was alright to drop my guard, that the barrage of razor-sharp bars and vicious imagery had run its course. Not so; Run The Jewels is here to beat the shit out of that notion. Best part about the whole situation? The two of them are even better when directly paired – the exceptional chemistry present on their collaborative tracks from last year’s one-two punch (“Butane” and “Tougher Colder Killer”, respectively) is extended to album length. This is a short album (thirty-three minutes), and for a rap record it is especially succinct, but not a single second is wasted. The songs flick in and out with ease, not to intimate that Run the Jewels is a serene wayfarer of a record – thirty minutes of intensity this pure is plenty enough. You cannot buy artistic intent this passionate.

Producer gave me a beat / Said it’s the beat of the year / I said El-P didn’t do it / So get the fuck outta here,” Killer Mike emphatically declares on the exceptional “Banana Clipper”, amid raucous hi-hats, woozy bass and twitching electronics. The song is mean – like, kill your child mean – and unforgiving to the ears: “I fuck like I’m headed to war / I’m really not playing no games,” El-P explains, and it’s truly impossible not to believe him. “36” Chain” follows, a laissez-faire banger, a molasses paced, shit-hot tune with bass that can rattle walls. “We murder death, kill every stage we step / Homicide times two, better warn yourself”, Mike boasts, and every single inch of Run The Jewels is just as aggressive, just as adamant, just as direct.

The most impressionable minds get molested and informed by manipulating forces” El-P concedes on the touching closer “A Christmas Fucking Miracle”, continuing: “Don’t fret little man, don’t cry / They can never take the energy inside you were born with”. The beat drops, the choir ascends and the synths swell to a burst: “Them and the lost minds thinking they’re smarter than us don’t understand love’s importance / And we can weaponize that, bring them back to the truth where the ashes and dust got formed in” he concludes, the song fading before Mike steps in. “My professor Emeritus say we been cursed being brought to the Americas / How you raise a whole human single parent, no marriages no sense of heritage?” he ponders, coinciding with El-P’s criticism of white-bread American familial ideals, expounding upon the foolishness of injustice and the skewed ideals of race in Nu-America. The fade concludes: “And any MC peepin’ what I go through / Real rap, my last line’s so true / Rest in peace to Pimp C and Camu too / We do it for you.

In one fell swoop, El-P and Killer Mike break the fucking door down and claim the rap game for their own. It’s true Run The Jewels won’t be chasing Jay-Z or Kanye for chart dominance, but you can be damn sure it will crystallize its own place in the genre. This is set to be one of those records that every hip-hop fan listens to feverishly, referencing it for months after; it’ll be the product that finally enshrines both El-P and Killer Mike amongst the greats of hip-hop. As far as mid-career resurrections are concerned, there are few artists with this much talent and experience that are still as poignant and progressively prolific as these two men. All this, discounting the fact that Run the Jewels is a fucking free mixtape, which makes it the best money you won’t spend all year.

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  • Adrian

    such a very, very good review for a perfect album

    • Dylan Siniscalchi

      Appreciate that so much Adrian — record is immense.

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