Run the Jewels’ latest is perfect anthem to post-election America

“2100” is an apocalyptic banger

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Run the Jewels' latest single builds anticipation for forthcoming album.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

As the long awaited release of Run the Jewels’ third album approaches, the rap duo teases their fans with new singles, Instagram videos of rough-cuts and near-constant social media engagement. Their latest release, “2100,” produced by El-P, came out on the heels of the 2016 presidential election.

El-P hinted at a relationship between the two events through his Twitter account, devoting the song to “everyone who is hurting or scared right now” and saying while the song was written “months ago,” it “feels right, now.” The song, El-P wrote, is “about fear and it’s about love and it’s about wanting more for all of us.”

Killer Mike and El-P are no strangers to political terrain, having both established fruitful careers as brashly political artists well before their tandem success. As Run The Jewels, they have carried their roots along with them. Their lyrics wax foreboding of a dystopic present and future, one in which there are those who run the world, those who fund the ones who run the world, and so on.

“2100” takes the proverbial baton and runs with it. Killer Mike delivers the song’s first line in the form of a question: “How long before the hate that we hold / lead us to another holocaust?”

It’s a rhetorical question, for Killer Mike and El-P say the fight has already begun. At any other time, the song would be a heavy projection of apocalypticism. In this political climate, however, it is apropos. Today’s political environment makes Killer Mike rapping about, for instance, the evening news’ culpability in the presidential election seem like biting social critique rather than hyperbole. Killer Mike’s point is actually applicable to the present day reality, which validates El-P’s waxing poetry about being “wild for the night” during which they might never feel so alive.

This tense rhetoric shares a tenuous relationship with its metaphorics throughout the song. It is anthemic without being generic, particularly where El-P says “They could barely even see the dog / They don’t see the size of the fight” or Killer Mike says “And I refuse to kill another human being / In the name of a government.” The beat mirrors the lyricism by picking up in intensity as the song progresses, and both Killer Mike and El-P ride the rhythm well; all their punches hit. The rapping is paranoid but its sentiment is reassuring. As El-P maintains, “love will survive” despite the fact he “would sooner put a puckered pair of lips to the sun” than trust.

Moreover, the deployment of the song’s imagery when Killer Mike juxtaposes seeing “the devil give a sermon in the church” with “an angel dancing in the club,” is skillful. This imagery stays consistent; the “devil,” “light” and the antagonistic “they” hold similar rhetorical roles throughout the song. This is just another example of the thoughtful crafting that has become normal in every new Run the Jewels release.

Despite the overarching chaos, the main theme to “2100” is tempered optimism. The only way to “defeat the devil,” according to Killer Mike, is to “hold onto hope,” but perhaps existence in the dark, as El-P says, precludes us from glimpsing the light of peace. Their sentiment rings true during an era where many feel excluded from the political realities that govern their lives. In this spirit, Killer Mike and El-P’s latest is an inspiring testament to the human disposition when faced with challenging odds.

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