“F*ck the slow-mo,” indeed. In what feels like no time at all, the producer-and-rapper pairing of El-P and Killer Mike has followed up its debut album of summer 2013 with what is, inarguably, a superior collection. Time off, evidently, is for losers.
The element of surprise is gone, spent on that first collaborative effort (review). But now that the talents of these previously predominantly underground artists are out there in the wilds of the mainstream, the pair’s had to switch its game up – beyond what seemed like an already top-flight achievement and onto a new level of creativity.
Beats bang harder here, lyrics are sharper, the interplay even snakier. It’s the New Game+ of Run The Jewels: tougher but infinitely more rewarding. Mike leads the way vocally, perhaps tipping the scales to his favour on a furious prose front: from the opening “bang this bitch the f*ck out” eruption of ‘Jeopardy’ through to the intricate flow of ‘All My Life’ and the phenomenal pace of ‘All Due Respect’, the Atlanta rapper is in the form of his career. As a man nearing 40, if this is a mid-life crisis, may we all be so lucky.
For his part, El-P turns in some equally scintillating verses – ‘Lie, Cheat, Steal’ begins with a languid lope, which soon enough grinds through the gears to become one of the New Yorker’s more tongue-twisting contributions to this project. On ‘Close Your Eyes (And Count To F*ck)’ the MCs trade verbal blows to emerge comparably triumphant, slipping into the background to allow the guesting Zack De La Rocha to deliver one of this album’s highest-profile ‘feature’ spots. Hearing the Rage Against The Machine frontman against El-P’s lethal-bladed production is an absolute blast.
‘RTJ2’ finds space for further friends to join the frivolities – Foxygen’s Diane Coffee, Gangsta Boo and blink-182’s Travis Barker each plays a part, but just as on this set’s predecessor, it’s forever the Mike and El show. And, more, it’s the Run The Jewels show. When we’re told, on ‘Oh My Darling Don’t Cry’, that we are “now listening to Run The Jewels”, the distinction’s quite intentional – this is no side-affair arrangement, filling time while each member mulls over their next solo move. This is their most significant move for the foreseeable future.
Run The Jewels is a band, as Mike told us last year: “We’re a real group. I wanna make the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as a member of a group.” As such, it’s maybe the best example of its ilk around. With nothing off limits, in terms of topics (religion, politics, sex, violence – check, and some) or compositional tangents, Run The Jewels has again pushed rap away from regular rhythms and rhymes and into territories that they’re still calculating the dimensions of. May they never reach the sum of such remarkable parts and continue to exclusively Run Them Jewels fast.
Words: Mike Diver
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