Run the Jewels could easily have been a victory parade after the momentous 2012 that Killer Mike and El-P had. Before declaring themselves an actual duo, the two artists were both lauded for albums that were released a week apart of one another. Killer Mike's R.a.p. Music, produced almost entirely by El-P, combined Producto's electronic palette with the slow draw of southern rap. Cancer 4 Cure, another accomplishment in a storied career, continued El-P's trend of pushing boundaries with his electro-infused boom bap. So, for Run the Jewels to be released as a free download, and to sound this ridiculous, should leave rap fans mighty hopeful for what's ahead.
The two rappers' styles contrast each other nicely over apocalyptic, syncopated boom-bap production. El-P offers a complex delivery and rhymes that may require a dictionary. The breadth of his subject matter and the complexity of his structure give his rhymes depth as they nestle their way into your ears to be repeated or mulled over days later. Killer Mike is much more aggressive, his deep voice coupled with his combative delivery give his rapping an inspired presence. The two rappers play off of each others words, both fiercely and competitively demanding the best from one another. The chemistry here is evident, and the album benefits from it immensely. If you pay close attention, you can find some hidden references or nods to previous songs. "No Come Down" is a continuation of the rhyme pattern on "Stay Down" from Cancer 4 Cure ("You know I get loose I'm a screw turnt / Pro status / Never did shit but inflict this damage").
Clocking in at just under a half an hour, the runtime is a huge benefit to the release, the ten songs flowing effortlessly and their cohesiveness making repeat listens of the album easy. Run The Jewels lacks any sort of filler, the only spoken sections being some hilarious additions from Price Paul on "Twin Hype Back". The tone of the album is far from serious, rather fun with energy levels at maximum throughout. Relevant and interesting social commentary is commonplace on their releases, but they always abstain from becoming overly preachy. They don't consider themselves activists, they're just known to say some real shit in a dope way.
There are few negatives to be found here. Run The Jewels offers complex, lush and layered production, interesting and inventive wordplay, and it's free. The lack of any real "standout" tracks ("Sea Legs", if I had to pick a favorite) could be seen as a detractor to those more interested in cherry-picking songs, but the albums consistency does not drag it down. As prolific of a rapper as Big Boi is, his verse on "Banana Clipper" almost feels like it was tacked on as an afterthought. It's more of a testament to how natural and magnetic these two rappers are together and it's likely that anybody would be upstaged. Run The Jewels is not some sprawling, self-indulgent narrative, and it doesn't try to be. It's simply two MC's turning the volume up and going for the throat.
9.2 / 10
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