Rapper Killer Mike and Rapper/Producer El-P may seem like an unlikely duo at first glance. However, the pair has been making music for nearly 6 years now. Their collaboration first started when El-P served as one of the producers on Killer Mike’s underrated R.A.P. Music album. The self proclaimed “murderous pair” released their latest Run The Jewels installment, Run The Jewels 3, on Christmas Eve. The release date seems odd for such a militant and aggressive album. Then again, their unorthodox approach to the music is part of what makes this album so great.
RTJ3 starts off with a bass heavy, molasses tale of survival “Down”, featuring Joi. The duo isn’t afraid to tackle politics either. They openly endorsed Bernie Sanders for the 2016 Presidential Election. On the powerful “Talk To Me”, Killer Mike compares the man with the toupee and the spray tan to Satan himself. Borrowed voice clips remind us that our battles are fought against spiritual principalities, not flesh and blood. The duo has a knack for stripping down the gimmicks to deliver true Hip Hop. RTJ3 maintains a cohesive sound throughout. The energy never lets up as proven by the supersonic bass of “Call Ticketron”. The song samples the DJ Rob Base classic “It Takes Two” in a clever way that still makes the song a worthy Run The Jewels original.
El-P and Killer Mike are well aware of their abilities. However, instead of boasting about women, cars and money, their rhyming skills take center stage. “Hey Kids (Bumaye)” finds the duo trading of playful, yet skilled rapid fire verses. The socially poignant “Thieves! (Screamed The Ghost)” tackles ideals of riots, while addressing why some victims of injustice have resorted to them. “2100” featuring Boots was strategically released the day after the Presidential Election, giving just a glimpse of the lyrical content fans could expect on the new album.
Trina stops by the party to lend her signature Miami drawl on “Panther Like A Panther”. However, none of the stars on the album outshine its main stars. Killer Mike’s flows seem to feed off the intensity of El-P’s production. El-P’s flows compliment Killer Mike’s well with a slightly more approachable undertone. Don’t get it twisted though. El-P did not come to play games. His flow sits well lyrically next to Killer Mike.
The funkadelic groove of “Oh Mama” serves as one of the album’s most memorable tracks. The song details their mothers’ concerns for sons living the street life. Nonetheless, Run The Jewels don’t seem to be changing up their ways any time soon. “Thursday in the Danger Room” allows both rappers to recount personal stories of loved ones they lost to the streets and illness. The song also features jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington. Overall, Run The Jewels is here for what matters most in Hip Hop. They stand for equality, an end to injustice and of course their gritty real life street situations. Hopefully, they’ll keep running the jewels of great music for several years to come.