Release Date: Out Now
While hip-hop is usually known for the bragging, the bling and the guns, it often seems that very few have the credibility to back it up. New rappers saying they have “millions in the bank” seem disingenuous nowadays, but perhaps the obvious experience shared between rappers EL-P and Killer Mike can at least lay to rest any uncertainties that they don’t know what they are talking about. It may be their second EP together as the group, Run the Jewels, but they are both almost 40 and had met in their mid-thirties after being introduced by a Cartoon Network executive in 2011.
Michael “Killer Mike” Render was a well respected Atlanta rapper, with a notable feature on Outkast’s Speakerboxx/The Love Below and Jaime “EL-P” Meline was a Brooklyn based producer/emcee, eventually producing largely, the whole of the critically acclaimed R.A.P Music album by Mike. Like any good duos, their differing styles have been toned down when together to form a ying/yang of sorts, into a coherent sound where we can distinguish both styles.
Killer Miker has the habit of creating these starkly vivid pictures of African American life, with splices of Southern grit. In “Early” (featuring BOOTS), he describes the corrosive relationship between the police and his family, rapping, “Please don’t lock me up in front of my kids, and in front of my wife/ Man, I ain’t got a gun or a knife/ You do this and you ruin my life” with a haunting and passionate hook laid on by BOOTS. In “Crown” (Feat Diane Coffee) he talks about the shocking guilt of drug dealing, saying he needs to be successful so he wouldn’t again have to put cocaine into a pregnant woman’s hand, languishing, “Heard he was normal ’til he was three and then he stopped talkin'”.
Often throughout the album, I enjoyed Mike’s lyricism over EL-P but where Killer Mike would often rap the more illuminating verses, I equally enjoyed EL-P’s fluid wordplay. It’s kind of refreshing to hear such an old fashioned art of biting put-downs being utilized so often as has been used throughout RTJ 2. Some of the insults are comically over the top, with lines such as “You can all run naked backwards through a field of dicks” bringing frequent guffaws. In “Blockbuster Night: Part 1”, EL-P snarls, “A little prickly, dick on display for Winter swimming” over a bouncing tempo and charging sirens.
It would be noted that the line up of songs have been well selected so that they flow from one to another, almost endlessly, with the first three songs being an example. EL-P has shown a knack for creating highly compulsive beats throughout the album. In the second song, “Oh My Darling Don’t You Cry”, he uses watery synths, thumping bass and jittery snares before launching midway through the song into a quick-paced assault on the ears.
When they do collaborate with other artists, they seem to pick the right people to add their own flavor to the pot. For example, Travis Barker from Blink 182 adds this tangible live sound and seems to push the duo into upping their game in this fast paced banger. Surprisingly, they enlist Rage Against the Machine’s Zack De La Rocha in “Close Your Eyes”, to add a verse and the hook, but perhaps, unfortunately, we don’t get any of his usual political commentary; shame.
The EP starts to lag where they pretend to be people they aren’t. In “Love Again” they verge into almost Yeezus-esque levels of obnoxiousness. Mike raps, “Face f*cked you in your kitchenette/ F*cked you like we tusslin'” and in the context of the album, it seems awkward and pandering to more mainstream hip-hop listeners.
But overall, the duo has produced a solid EP that truly improves on mostly every aspect of their first effort. We can only hope that they bring even more to the table in their next effort.
What did you think of the EP? Let me know in the comment section below.