In the summer of 2013, Run the Jewels released their first album as the premium new dyad in hip-hop. Following the album being dropped, the new group consisting of Killer Mike and El-P, received praise in what seemed to be coming in every direction. With an unpredictable, and quite unorthodox style of rapping, these two 41 year old lyrical acrobats often seem to feed off each other’s energy during their songs as they fire back and forth at each other while staying in striking harmony.
Before the dynamic group teamed up in 2013, neither member seemed to be that impressive with the mic. El-P even recently shared a story of being booed off stage while opening for the Beastie Boys at a venue in 1998. The Brooklyn native, was an indie rap performer and producer before he was introduced to the Atlantan street intellectual, Killer Mike. Both had released music prior to forming the group, but neither had, or expected to gain, the fame that is Run the Jewels today.
Rapping isn’t the only thing these two are good for, and it’s not to be said that they are using their accreditation for the wrong reasons. Killer Mike spent his summer as a spokesperson for the former presidential candidate, BernieSanders. His no nonsense approach to anti-racism is heard through his several interviews on CNN and can be heard, without a doubt, in his combative lyrics. While his partner in rhyme (pun intended), El-P, is making waves throughout the hip-hop community with his dystopian and anti-establishment lyrics.
The newest installment in the group’s album list is an album called Run the Jewels 3. Although critics are saying that it does not amount to their second album, Run the Jewels 2, that does not mean that it is a bad album by any means. First consider that many people in the hip-hop community believed that the second album was one of the best of the year (2014) throughout all of hip-hop. Then on top of that, the first two albums were completely 100% free at the time of release, which means this is the first album that they have made money off of, excluding tours and solo albums of course.
However different these albums are perceived, they all have the same theme and overall message when it come to the lyrics: anti-racism, anti-establishment, corruption in the U.S. government, and the occasional mention of a ‘well needed’ revolution. During the opening track of the newest album, ‘“Down (feat. Joi)”, Killer Mike says “Ballot or Bullet, you better use one.” The first man to say this was no other than Malcom X of the militant group from the civil rights movement, the Black Panthers, in which he advocated for African Americans to not only be active in politics, but to be willing to take up arms if non-violent activism failed to achieve equal treatment for African Americans. If you can vote, vote. If you can fight, fight. But before you decide to do either, make sure without any reasonable doubt, that it is for the right reason(s).
El-P’s views are more dystopian in the fashion that our judicial system is flawed in many ways, even mentioning the denial of basic rights, such as freedom of speech, in the song “Talk to Me” when he says, “Brave men didn’t die face down in the Vietnam muck so I could not style on you.” This is speaking to the fact that because of the brave men and women who fight for our rights as Americans, we can say what we want due to the First Amendment. However, a new topic of choice added to this album is our Commander in Chief, who at the time of release was the president elect, Donald J. Trump. The opinion of Trump in the eyes of this dynamic duo is harsh to say the least. So harsh in fact that Killer Mike at one point in “Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost) [feat. Tunde Adebimpe]” says, “CNN got dummyDon on the air”, or in “Talk to Me” when he nonchalantly mentions Trump again by harmonizing, “Went to war with the Devil and Shaytan, He wore a bad toupee and a spray tan.” Since Shaytan means devil or Satan in Muslim countries, this is especially critical to the President due to some of his recent executive actions.
Perhaps the innovative pair are attempting to reach out and explain the true crises that we face day to day in their own whimsical way, filled with alliteration and harmonization. After all, to first solve a problem, you first must identify it.
**WARNING: This album contains explicit language that maynot be suitable for younger audiences.
By Robert Mayfield