El & Mike Make Dollars: A Review of “Run the Jewels”

Doc Zeus is okay with Anthony Bennett too. Looking back on the past fifteen years of hip hop, one of the biggest blown opportunities was that the misguided dogma of mainstream and independent hip hop...
By    July 2, 2013

homepage_large.e231dd24Doc Zeus is okay with Anthony Bennett too.

Looking back on the past fifteen years of hip hop, one of the biggest blown opportunities was that the misguided dogma of mainstream and independent hip hop fans prevented a generation of talented performers from collaborating. A self-imposed segregation of the genre helped stifle overall creativity, create unnecessary genre feudal lines and weakened the overall quality of the product.

Roughly a decade ago, it would have been venal heresy if Aesop Rock traded bars with A$AP Rocky . Talented genre-blending artists that did’t fit into the industry’s predetermined boxes (see: J-Zone) found themselves on the outside looking in due to hip hop’s juvenile notions of ideological purity. Who knows what type of mad genius we missed because you still believe in Santa Claus? Luckily for all, today’s hip hop fans have gotten over their freshman year of college to find these idea’s mostly silly and quaint. Thus, we get to hear records like El-P & Killer Mike’s Run The Jewels, arguably the year’s best hip hop record.

Last year, Killer Mike, the ATLien southern rap preacher, and El-P, hip hop’s resident paranoid android, thumbed their middle finger at rapper racists’ everywhere to create R.A.P. Music. An instant classic that combined Mike’s firebrand bellow with El-P’s buzzed out production, it won to almost universal raves from critics and fans. Not wanting to slow the momentum they built, the duo conspired to release Run The Jewels, the newly dubbed group’s eponymous debut, that is very much a worthy sequel to last summer’s classic. Equally as much as a victory lap and a kinetic statement of purpose, Jaime and Mike build upon the foundation to create hip hop’s most fierce, funny and fun projects of 2013. It’s a blistering 33 minute doomsday shit talk and kick-your-fucking-head-in anthems–perfect for your next vacation to the scenic shores of Apokolips.

While El-Producto continues to handle production duties, Mr. Render and Mr. Meline split time as emcees, trading off verses and finishing each other’s death threats — this time, the gang concentrates on being the most “beef & broc “ rappers on the block. This record is less politically focused (or at least, less focused on conspiracy theories and robot apocalypses) than any of their collective solo releases. Instead, it’s a throwback to the shit talk and stick up kid anthems of the duo’s Reagan era youth.

Killer Mike and El-P spend the majority of the record coming up with creative ways to relieve you of your worldly possessions. On the glorious (GLORIOUS!) Big Boi-assisted “Banana Clipper,” Killer Mike declares “Its time for Skywalker talkers to meet the true Darth Vader/I hit your mom in ’03 but a G ain’t ate her” while on “Get It,” El-P sneers “you don’t deserve the spit they hurdle up in your face and shit.” If R.A.P. Music was the post-apocalyptic answer to Public Enemy’s Fear Of A Black Planet than Run the Jewels is the duo’s response to Straight Outta Compton. Less targeted in it’s anger but more viscerally exciting.

Despite enough stick up kid anthems to fill an entire warehouse with truck jewelry and Lil Fame heads, Run the Jewels surprisingly might be the “lightest” record that El-P has produced his entire career. He’s toned down his own trademark futuro-maximalism to make a record that splits the difference between The Cold Vein and “Cold Chillin’.” You won’t fine any K-Holes of synth instrumentation that has permeated El-P’s work in the best. Instead, the beat breaks are fierce and noticeably simply yet still unmistakably El-P. This is undoubtedly due to the influence of Killer Mike, who tempers El-P’s indulgent impulses by sheer force of his no bullshit personality.

Roughly a decade after the Great Hip Hop Cultural Wars Of Your College Dorm Room finally ended, I cannot imagine a more absurdly naive notion than the paternalistic ideal of authenticity in hip hop. There is no such thing. Authenticity is what you make it. KRS-One might be right in the semantic sense that rap is something you “do” and hip hop is something you “are,” but if you are rapping on a beat with a hook and some gold chains, it’s probably hip hop. MC Rove is the exception that proves the rule.

From Chief Keef to Joey Badass, it’s all hip hop. When you artificially create barriers based on your preference for your brand authenticity, you prevent collaboration and collaboration is the lifeblood of this art form. Who knows? The Dungeon Family might have worked with the Def Jukies a decade prior had more fans accepted that both Juvenile AND Mos Def could rap. It’s all R.A.P. Music.

In conclusion, Run The Jewels.


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