By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
2013 has undoubtedly been a good year for hip-hop and rap music. MCs have been dropping albums, in very non-traditional ways (thank you Yeezus) left and right, making the timing perfect for two of the indie world’s hottest MCs to drop a joint-effort bomb.
So what do you get when you take the master beat producing genius El-P and the twisted lyrical whiz of Killer Mike? The answer is one of the most deliberate and promising hip-hop albums of the year, (sorry Yeezus), Run the Jewels.
Recently released as a free download, Run the Jewels is a joint album between frequent collaborators El-P and Killer Mike. Recapping last year, both artists released revolutionary monster albums, El-P’s Cancer 4 Cure and Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music, both of which failed to make a huge splash on the charts, but struck a chord with fans and along the underground, making several year-end “best of” lists. Interestingly enough both album’s were loosely conceptual, placing focus on the entire album, rather than just a handful of singles. Now, they’ve decided to put their creativity side by side, and weave another warped masterpiece.
Run the Jewels isn’t nearly as much of an attack as Cancer 4 Cure or R.A.P. Music of last year were. It seems as though the two artists had a good time hanging out and creating music. However, that doesn’t mean Run the Jewels is to be taken lightly. The pounding title track kicks off the album, taking the listener by delightful surprise, only dropping hints of what’s to be laid out across the rest of the album.
It then ascends into “Banana Clipper” featuring Outkast’s Big Boi. Certainly a standout on the record, the chemistry between the three MCs is absolutely unrivaled. El-P’s razor sharp flow can be best described as John Bonham’s approach to the drums: Slamming, off beat, yet and uniquely precise. Killer Mike’s approach of letting the tone of his voice send shivers down the spine, contrasting to Big Boi’s soulful old-school flow.
As the album plays on, key tracks “36” Chain,” and “Sea Legs” deliver the goods, with solid beats and insane rhymes. The trippy themes of “Job Well Done” and the raunchy “Get It” showcase the many flavors Run the Jewels has to offer, infectiously grooving and eye brow-raising, thought provoking lyrics. Concluding the album, are two of the best cuts, “Twin Hype Back” and the ironic “A Christmas Fucking Miracle.”
Run the Jewels is just about everything you’d expect from a collaboration between El-P and Killer Mike; sick beats, bizarre story-telling and innovation. One of the best outcomes of the album is that it comes across a complete piece of work, not just a bunch of singles woven through filler. This is a trend that seems to be infiltrating hip-hop right now in the likes f Kanye West’s Yeezus, Jay-Z’s upcoming Magna Carta Holy Grail and last year’s epic from Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d. city. The idea of bring the album complete work back, especially in a more mainstream context, is never a bad.
Clocking in at a mere 33 minutes, Run the Jewels is makes its point without overdoing it, leaving the listener full. It doesn’t linger, as there aren’t any real weak moments on the album. The chemistry is undeniable as these two artists put their best feet forward, dropping a very good record with the whole resulting in being greater than the sum of its parts.
Could El-P and Killer Mike be the Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg of this era? Judging by Run the Jewels, one could only hope.