Run the Jewels creates brilliance from chaos

Rap group's latest places them among best ever

aertjcourtesywikimedia

Killer Mike and El-P deliver socially conscious fury on "Run the Jewels 3."

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Shortly before Christmas Eve, rap group Run the Jewels announced the release of their third album, “Run the Jewels 3.” Originally scheduled for a Jan. 13, 2017 release, the album was promoted on Twitter by members Killer Mike and El-P as a Christmas gift for their fans. The album was released for free, a decision rooted in an understanding that, as Killer Mike put it, “If kids really love your stuff, they’re going to find a way to support it." But even more so, “RTJ3” is a gift because of its merit. It is fantastic — both a clear evolution in the group’s style and a full deployment of everything that made their prior efforts so great.

The album kicks off with the slow-paced track “Down,” flowing beautifully into “Talk to Me” before crashing into “Legend Has It,” two tracks released as singles which hit even harder when placed sequentially. With no time to breathe, “Call Ticketron” comes on with El-P and Killer Mike rapping flawlessly over a wonky beat. This is the album’s aesthetic in its essence: an exercise in how many different styles the two can employ while still rapping their hardest and funniest. In the same verse on “Everybody Stay Calm,” for example, El-P says he will “key up a cop car just to see mischief” and then declares himself a “nut punch wizard.” Killer Mike raps about kidnapping moms from jazzercise and then going to jail to murder the murderers.

At the same time, Run the Jewels comes through on this album with some of the more thoughtful rap songs released this year. For example, “2100,” released a day after the presidential election, is a prescient depiction of a dystopia not qualitatively unlike the society in which we currently live.

In addition, Kamasi Washington adds mournful jazz instrumentation to “Thursday in the Danger Room,” a track in which Killer Mike delivers a chilling verse about losing a friend to gun violence. “A Report To The Shareholders / Kill Your Masters” sees El-P rap about losing all faith in the logical and speaking “with the foulest mouth possible,” while Killer Mike says he “must be a masochist” for continuing to tell truths for which he is punished. On “Don’t Get Captured,” they rap about corrupt politicians, a biased penal system and how people only care about the atrocities they experience.

On this, the band’s third album and fourth joint effort if you include “R.A.P. Music,” Killer Mike’s 2012 solo album which El-P produced, Run the Jewels continues to innovate. Their sound is irreplicable and they have engendered almost universal respect within the hip-hop community and among fans. Lyrically, the album is uniformly excellent. Each song stands alone strongly while all collectively contribute to Run the Jewels’ purpose: causing as much frenzy as possible while gunning for the top spot in hip-hop.

Killer Mike and El-P, both already 41 years old, have found success late in their careers because they were never afraid to make politicized, controversial and topical rap. “Run the Jewels 3” completes the most cohesive hope-driven narrative of any of the duo’s albums.

Throughout the album the pair unleash flurry after flurry of angry yet creatively awe-inspiring bars. This combination, along with the usual excess of paranoid anti-establishmentism, comprises the ethos of Run the Jewels. They rap that they would “Probably play the score for the next world war, at the apocalypse play the encore,” and that seems entirely plausible. Hopefully the end of days is this much of a banger. 

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