Killer Mike / El-P River Stage, LeBreton Flats, Ottawa ON, July 10

Killer Mike / El-P River Stage, LeBreton Flats, Ottawa ON, July 10
Photo: Jessica Deeks
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On its sixth day, throngs of cut-off skinny jeans and rolled-sleeved button-downs invaded the Ottawa Bluesfest to check out performances from Weezer, Animal Collective, Passion Pit, Solange, Dan Deacon and A Tribe Called Red. But those who showed up early were treated to the second performance ever from El-P and Killer Mike's newly minted side-project, Run the Jewels.

Slated as back-to-back performances from the two underground kings, Killer Mike hit the stage first, sweating and huffing through songs from last year's extraordinary R.A.P. Music. Battling supreme on-again/off-again sound issues due to Trackstar the DJ's malfunctioning laptop, Killer Mike was left to a cappella rap through much of his performance, including standout s "Go!" and "Reagan." Pulling El-P onstage mid-set, the duo tore through a handful of Run the Jewels numbers before Mike closed his show with an unaccompanied rendition of "R.A.P. Music" that took him over the barrier and directly into the middle of the fervent crowd.

Bringing to the stage his sublimely talented backing band that included hype-man Shannon T. Moore from NY hardcore band Activator, El-P's three-piece bashed through a tight set of solo tracks before Mike returned for a verse on "Tougher Colder Killer" that also featured a surprise knockout rap from guest Despot. Spitting through a second round of material from Run the Jewels, the duo ended the set with "A Christmas Fucking Miracle" while embracing one another, showing the audience just how deeply these two disparate musicians have influenced one another's style, both in the studio and on the stage.