Run the Jewels

Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, November 26

Run the JewelsDanforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, November 26
Photo: Stephen McGill
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"Dude! It's not that serious!" El-Producto hollered at an overzealous security guard preventing a crowd-surfing female fan from riding the wave all the way onstage.

Once the woman reached the stage, however, she wanted to take a running leap off, back into the sea of outstretched hands. El-P didn't want a lawsuit on his hands; he commanded her to stay put. Safety first.

Still, the second the rapper turned his back to launch into yet another RTJ banger, we had a jumper. After the song's performance, El-P shook his head and smiled, perhaps recognizing his controlling approach to fighting control. "You got me good, girl," he conceded.

After all, how could a defiant voice like El-P — a man who spits "Motherfuck your permission/ Was never yours to begin with" — expect his supporters to be anything but independent-minded? The Run the Jewels 2 tour has been leaping without a net of late: Killer Mike and El-P's tour bus has broken down several times in the last week; they were fighting traffic to get into St. Louis for a show as folks were trying to flee the state due to the Michael Brown riots; and the trailer that held all their concert tees and mix CDs caught on fire a few nights previous. "So if your merch smells like smoke, it's not my weed," Mike quipped Wednesday night (November 26).

A series of obstacles had forced the dynamic duo to postpone their Montreal show and fly last-minute to Toronto to deliver their promise to a sold-out Danforth Music Hall. So when DJ Trackstar cued up "We Are the Champions" at 10 p.m. and our heroes strode out in all black everything, just showing up felt like a victory.

"You know we're gonna burn this motherfucker to the ground, right?" Mike said. A flood of hands raised, all fists and pistols. The giant man was preaching to the choir. The next 70 minutes gave way to an onslaught of Mikey and Jamie hammers: "Run the Jewels," "Banana Clipper," "Oh My Darling Don't Cry," "36 Inch Chain," "Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1," "Lie, Cheat, Steal," "All Due Respect" and "Early." Not a single back catalogue solo cut was performed, but they weren't missed; each song was performed in full (a rap rarity) and accompanied by actual DJ scratches. Late in their careers, the two friends have established a sound, audience and energy that is all RTJ — and good God, does it have momentum.

In our interview for the Exclaim! cover story, Killer Mike said this of a previous show, which gives you a sense of the RTJ live experience: "The whole crowd raged from start to fucking finish, and there was a kid in a wheelchair, front row. I'd seen this kid at another show before, and his buddies come with him. They don't trip on him or stop the mosh pit — people rage right behind him, but they use their bodies physically to buffer him. That's the coolest shit in the world. People rage but they take care of each other. Our fans are the third member of the group."

Dedicating Wednesday's performance to Mike Brown, Killer Mike let it all out — to the point where his black T-shirt was soaked 20 minutes in with those deep-V sweat stains you see in movies when the protagonist goes jogging.

"I'm so sweaty, it's like a zumba class in here!" he said.

When the group thanked the crowd and finished with a rare down-tempo gem, the personal "A Christmas Fucking Miracle," an "RTJ!" chant rose from the floor. They returned for a one-song encore, "Angel Duster," then spilled some gasoline, lit a match, flipped it and walked out the back door. Or at least it felt that way.

Now that was a damn rap show.
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