Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
Killer Mike and El-P are officially three from three in as many years, and it’s a degree of consistency that’s practically unrivalled in the current hip-hop climate.
It began with Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music, the game-changing 2012 LP produced by El-P that was so commanding in its presence and uncompromising in its approach that it felt like Mike was emphatically dropping the microphone after every single lyric. Last year’s debut effort under the Run the Jewels moniker, upped the ante with a slab of sharp trade-off verses and the kind of beats that were best heard through a boombox. Its sequel has arrived roughly a year later; and in certain respects, it picks up exactly where its predecessor left off.
Run the Jewels 2 takes the collaboration to the next level, establishing the duo as a unit – and one that’s not to be messed with. This much is clear from figuratively the opening seconds as Killer Mike scream “I’m gonna bang this bitch the fuck out!” – and he’s not exactly the kind of guy that has an inside voice. Whether he’s referencing classic wrestlers or fearlessly taking down police brutality, the vitriol that he brings to each verse truly cements him as one of the most formidable and important voices in hip-hop today.
You may well suspect this would relegate El-P to comic relief when dealing with such an intense figure as Mike. Certainly, there’s a snicker or two to be had with quite a few of his lines – look no further than “You can all run naked backwards through a field of dicks” on ‘Oh My Darling Don’t Cry’. But if there’s one notable change that comes on this album, however, it’s the fact that El-P is often fighting fire with fire; delivering a slew of harsher, darker verses than previously. Rather than come across as uncharacteristic, it tends to suit the gritty demeanour of the beats he is providing. The door is also cleverly opened for more collaborations – Rage Against the Machine’s Zach de la Rocha makes an unexpectedly sharp and brassy cameo on the brilliantly-titled ‘Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)’, while blink-182 drummer Travis Barker provides a sturdy backbeat to the bouncy ‘All Due Respect’.
During ‘Jeopardy’ Killer Mike boasts as the refers to the duo as the “top tag team for two summers.” Run the Jewels 2 indicates that there are plenty more summers where those came from.