Published Feb 22, 2017If three unimpeachable albums, heaps of accolades and appearances on CNN(!) have taught us anything in the four years since Killer Mike and El-P started their magical late career run, it's that Run the Jewels can cut through bullshit like a hot knife through butter. Fittingly then, Tuesday night's (February 21) scorching performance began with a frank admission from Killer Mike: "Fuck the pleasantries; we came to fuck shit up."
Fuck shit up they did — from the opening rumbles of "Talk to Me" to the closing notes of "Down," the ATL/NYC hybrid delivered a scorched Earth performance, further solidifying their place as 2017's premier rap agit-propagandists. There really is no better chemistry in hip-hop today than the one that exists between Mike and El when they're on.
On Tuesday, they traded bars like Molotov cocktails, only pausing to allow a hungry audience to rap along. The pit seemed to grow bigger through each of the first five songs, a bulldozing run that included RTJ3 highlights "Legend Has It" and "Call Ticketron," as well as fan favourites "Blockbuster Night Pt. 1" and "Oh My Darling Don't Cry." El's Bomb Squad-meets-horror score production was juiced even beyond its normal level, with the bass raised to sternum-rattling proportions — the perfect complement to the most mayhem-raising duo since Godzilla and Mothra (really, check out the poster art).
Despite the show's relentless energy, it never lost its political centre. "Early" and "Lie, Cheat, Steal" bore a chilling new seriousness in the wake of recent events, while the raunchy sex-rap cut "Love Again (Akinyele Back)" featured a scene-stealing, sex-positive guest appearance from Gangsta Boo. When she called on the audience to chant "pussy power," it felt like a necessary respite from the testosterone-soaked universe the duo can inhabit from time to time. It also felt badass as hell.
It wasn't a perfect show. There could have been perhaps less material from the more forgettable side of RTJ3 (e.g. "Don't Get Captured") and more from the group's bulletproof self-titled debut, from which only the old warhorse of a title track was performed.
Nevertheless, we're talking about a difference between a hurricane and a tropical storm here — both are relentless. More than anything, Run the Jewels' show on Tuesday night was a thrill, proving that the duo haven't lost any of their fire even as they advance further and further into middle age. Here's hoping they can keep it up; lord knows we'll need them over the next few years.