I for one was happy for this surprise Christmas drop from everyone’s favorite Bernie Sanders supporter and his partner in rhyme El-P. Run the Jewels have become a two-man “crew” over the span of their three releases. More cohesive and collaborative than Odd Future, the ASAP crew or what’s left of participating Wu Tang Clan members, RTJ albums pack a powerful passive aggression.
As EL-P raps on “ Talk to Me,” RTJ is a “good crew to fuck with but better to love.” The strength of RTJ thus far has been the disparate flow of Killer Mike and EL-P synching up in harmonious fashion. Two styles, two deliveries, and two levels of intensity compliment each other perfectly because of what they are saying as much as how they are saying it.
“Legend has It” brings the boast. Lays down the challenges. The RTJ boys know they are producing music consistently on a high level, and in the tradition of most hip hop, they brag about their success to lay down the challenge to take them on. Killer Mike raps “As for the crew you can trust, a warranty plus.” And you believe it.
“Call Ticketron” screams ATL. It’s a lyrical and stylistic homage to the flow that elevated Killer Mike, Outkast and other ATL acts to the respect they enjoy.“Hey Kids”, featuring Danny Brown, showcases KM at his most reactionary. “Lift up our glasses and watch your houses burn to ashes, fuckin’ fascists, who the fuck are you to give fifty lashes?” Perhaps his friend Bernie can help him get involved in politics, because he has things to say. He’s a true populist, and a perfect intellectual foil for the dumbing down of both sides of the American electorate.
I remember a time when rap wasn’t considered political, just sensationalist. NWA was said to be doing what they did for a reaction. The same with Public Enemy. I disagree with that, but nevertheless rap did not yet have the pop culture platform it does now and that Killer Mike and El-P adeptly occupy. If the world gives you a stage, you better have something to say. Run the Jewels takes that responsibility seriously.