Killer Mike and El-P certainly know how to make an entrance. Last year’s self-titled debut album, “Run the Jewels,” began by insinuating that the mere thought of the two rappers together was so terrifying that listeners would snort boosters to keep the nightmares at bay.
It was exactly the type of brag-rap that’s come to dominate much of the genre over the decades, but that worn approach took on a new life through the sheer power of the duo’s collaborative efforts, resulting in one of the year’s best rap albums.
“Run the Jewels 2” begins with just as big of a bang, opening with more boastful exclamations from Mike and El, assuring the audience that absolutely nothing has changed since they last set fire to their microphones: “I live for the thrill of the kill, yes it excites me / You know your favorite rapper ain’t shit and me, I might be / The closest representation of God you might see / Pay honors like your momma young sonna and take a right knee.” They’re back and they’re meaner than ever.
As with the duo’s previous album, “Run the Jewels 2” thrives on tongue-in-cheek profanities and ego-boosting proclamations. “Offensive” is the name of the game and few rappers today work that angle more effectively than Killer Mike and El-P.
It’s no coincidence that any of Run the Jewel’s latest three singles could be picked at random and show the group is back with a bitter vengeance. “Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1” wastes little time in pulverizing the audience with its verses: “bunches and bunches, punches is thrown until you’re frontless / Oodles and oodles, bang bullets at suckas’ noodles / Last album voodoo, proved that we was fuckin’ brutal / I’m talking crazy, half past the clock is cuckoo.”
This isn’t to say that Mike and El completely neglect to conjure any social commentaries, because they do on multiple occasions. “Early (feat. Boots)” finds the duo at their best here, tackling the emotional traumas inflicted by police brutality: “And I pray today ain’t the day that you drag me away / Right in front of my beautiful son / And he still put my hands in cuffs, put me in the truck / When my woman screamed, said “shut up” / Witness with the camera phone on / Saw the copper pull a gun and put it on my gorgeous queen / As I peered out the window / I could see my other kinfolk and hear my little boy as he screamed.”
Mike smartly approaches the topic with a stone-faced disposition, forgoing any attempt at humor where none would be warranted.
Of course, none of the group’s lyrical dexterity would matter without a competent musical backdrop to provide a study foundation.
Thankfully, El-P is up to the task. Throughout the record, El-P’s production brilliantly brings the verbal offensive to life with intelligent sampling and murderous beats.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the album’s third cut, “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck),” which keeps the high-octane ride on its rails with Zack De La Rocha’s roboticized vocal samples and mechanical, surgical rhythms.
The menacing low-end march of “Blockbuster Night, Pt 1” works in much the same fashion, as it amplifies the track’s intensity, raging onwards with militant precision and threatening to turn the aural assault physical.
In other words, this is Run the Jewels at the height of its powers. Fast, furious and undeniably fun, the duo of Killer Mike and El-P have released another round of punishment for unsuspecting listeners and grizzled veterans alike. The year may not be over just yet, but it’s hard to see another hip-hop album that could dethrone “Run the Jewels 2” as the best of the year.
Release Date: Oct. 24, 2014
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