Run The Jewels
El-P and Killer Mike had a phenomenal 2012. Cancer 4 Cure and R.A.P. Music saw both artists re-energised and reaching new heights, the collaborative combustion of El’s distinctive fusion of ambience and pummel and Mike’s furious enlightenment ensuring that they both rode suitably high during that year’s annual listageddon.
Then, from a vantage point at the very peak of underground and critical credibility, photos emerged of shroom-fuelled late-night recording sessions. Out came Run the Jewels, a fierce, funny and intimidatingly fully-formed record bubbling up to the brim with bangers. A victory lap in free download form essentially; a highly-trained, rabies-infected dog which escaped from the lab back in June and has now commandeered the good ship Big Dada in order to cross the Atlantic and hump your leg into submission. ‘The goblins were awakened’ indeed.
For a record that thrives on its immediacy, its 33 minute shock-and-awe campaign has held an immensely satisfying longevity. The key enabler is its seamlessness. By being light on guest rappers – an intensely creepy sex pest cameo from Prince Paul and a seal-of-approval verse from Big Boi aside – the focus is instead placed heavily upon the charisma and camaraderie between El and Mike.
It’s easily one of the most attractive elements of the project as a whole, especially so when the pair frenetically go back-and-forth on ‘Banana Clipper’. Similarly, the production is pin-point. The consistency of execution is spectacular, and the record segues breathlessly, with the opening run from the title-track to ‘DDFH’ in particular an unstoppable tsunami of playful low-end tormenting engrossment. As a result, the record only truly slows down
at the halfway point and close, and even then it’s only to highlight lyrical standouts ‘Sea Legs’ and ‘A Christmas Fucking Miracle’. On both their perspective is turned outwards towards both the scene and society-at-large, with the result being a celebration of the fiercely individualistic, idiosyncratic instincts and principles that have ensured the duo’s survival and success. It’s a well-thought out change of pace just at the moment where it might all get too much, the simultaneous thematic and tempo shifts serving to cultivate these tracks’ revitalising benefits throughout the album as a whole.
Mainly though, Run The Jewels is just a pure capsule of entertainment for both listeners and artists, a witty, skewering and self-aware braggadocio counterpoint to the superstar vacuity of The Throne. In that vein El-P sums up the record as a whole with the line "Emperor's hear the tunes and admit that they are nudists". Tunes are what you want and tunes are what you get: an eminently engaging, engaged and constantly re-playable record. Here’s fingers-crossed for a second round of windpipe dancing in 2014.