by Justin Trudell
Killer Mike spent his summer essentially campaigning as the Vice President for Bernie Sanders. Once that dream was dashed, Killer Mike reunited with his longtime running mate El-P to work on some new legislation: Run The Jewels 3.
Run The Jewels 3 is their third studio album (fourth if you count their feline themed Meow The Jewels…which we don’t), and it’s the best album yet. Killer Mike and El-P show the confidence and cohesion that forms after three years working together on this album of tightly wound bangers. The music produced by El-P showcase a willingness to teach old beats some new tricks. Much of Run The Jewels 3 sounds like an album from the golden age of hip-hop (late 80s-early 90s), but with a self-aware, humorous tone anyone in the public eye nowadays has to exhibit in order to maintain their sanity. Not to say these tracks are “jokes,” more like it would be impossible to exist and be underground sensations as RTJ have been without dropping some pop culture references, or inside jokes.
The crown jewel has to be “Legend Has It”. It puts the exceptional collaboration RTJ have fostered on full blast. Killer Mike and El-P take turns slashing through a mix of burnout druggie references, braggadocios claims, and borderline psychotic imagery, tossing it back and forth like tag team champions in a rap battle. Both had been successful on their own before they formed in 2013, but they bring each other to a new level. Run The Jewels operate with a brashness neither exhibit on their own.
And that’s what makes this album so incredible – it’s two-lifetime hip-hop MCs at the top of their game. The beats have never sounded better from El-P, and the political fire from Killer Mike has never been hotter. We can’t wait to see them on February 18 at Royal Oak Music Theatre.
“Down/Talk to Me”
Gently dropping us into it, “Down” starts with a message of hope and appreciation. Killer Mike telling us “I hope” and a chorus of “I could’ve died y’all” makes this track almost acts as a prayer before getting down to business. The beat fades into “Talk to Me” seamlessly as Killer Mike spits about his disdain for a “Bad toupee, sprayed tanned” individual. Hmm, who might that be? It ends with an intense El-P verse and Killer Mike screaming “I TOLD Y’ALL”.
“A Report to the Shareholders/ Kill Your Masters”
Anyone that’s been asking, “Where has Zack de le Rocha been?” gets an answer with this track. The RATM front man appears on the final track, and it’s just as hype as you would imagine.
This is a personal choice. I would get as confused as when Krusty the Clown heard the Sex Cauldron wasn’t closed when I hear rappers spell out their lyrics, thanks to my borderline dyslexia. The biggest offender was Drama with their song, “Left Right Left“. I still listen to it and think, “What the fuck are they spelling?” Without a pen and paper I’m completely lost. However, RTJ keep it simple with “Stay Gold,” only spelling “G-O-L-D G-O-L-D, it’s gold”. Thanks for that.