Until tracked down and handcuffed by something better to listen to, Run the Jewels have seized the crown of Best Rap Album of 2014 and sped off, getaway-style, into the black night. All we're left with as listeners is slack jaws and fishtailed rubber skid-marks on our psyches.
Don't get it twisted: Run the Jewels 2 is not just a mechanism for experienced emcees from two of hip-hop's most creative hubs — El-P (Brooklyn) and Killer Mike (Atlanta) — to increase their individual fan bases or kill time between solo projects. The group is the thing. The two record in the same smoky room together, feed off each other's energy and try to make each other laugh with their whip-smart punch lines.
"Motherfuck your permission/ It was never yours to begin with," El-P blurts early on in the proceedings, a line that serves as mission statement. There will be no trend-hopping or kowtowing here. Just raw raps, expertly delivered by a painstaking producer and wonderfully descriptive rhymer, two dudes who'd teabag a piranha tank before biting their tongues. It should be of little surprise to those who jumped all over 2013's freebie experiment, Run the Jewels, that the artists have grown angrier, funnier and more in sync with time spent touring as a sum-greater-than-its-parts force.
El-Producto, a self-confessed "radar little blip in a shadow of motherships," sounds at once playful and confident in this 39-minute heist. There's his breathless assault over the energy-drink backbeat of "All Due Respect" ("It's all your fault Mommy's lonely/ You're a burden, she needs rescue") and their ode to Too $hort-styled raunch rap, "Love Again (Akinyele Back)," featuring Gangsta Boo(!) ("Into every space I go/ Give me everything you am").
Yes, there are serious moments to go with the rampant irreverence. El-P's takedown of the robots bred by warmongers on "Crown" is nothing short of masterful, while Mike's shattering of organized religion on "Angelduster" couldn't be more blunt: "A pope is a fraud, a church is a lie," he hurls. "If God really exists, I'll tell you like this, He resides inside."
Yet because the beats are so fierce and the flows so varied, there is no slogging through this 39-minute hurricane. It's been a minute, but RTJ have reminded us that, yes, rap music can be fun and opinionated simultaneously. In fact, that's when the genre is at its best. "We made our version of a De La Soul Is Dead or Low End Theory," El-P explains. "I like getting in and getting out and having people feel like they were punched in the gut and then gently kissed on the cheek."
We forgive you in advance if you never want to wash that cheek again.
Read our cover story on Run the Jewels here. (Mass Appeal)