Written By: Ethan Griggs
My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com
Run the Jewels are concerned. They have nothing to prove to the industry at this point – their first two albums, both self-titled, have far and away shown that the group is worthy of the praise of the best of the political rap groups. With rhymes that would make Flavor Flav happy and production that Rick Rubin would raise his eyebrows at, RTJ is at the top of the pile. Now, the duo of Killer Mike and El-P are in deep thought about the crisis that our country is in. With Mike working alongside Bernie Sanders (who was relieved to hear that Mike doesn’t actually kill people – Mike has said before that the “only thing I ever killed was the microphone”) throughout last year’s presidential campaign, he has gained a keen knowledge of our current political situation. Of course, El-P has no shortage of fire beats and razor-sharp-rhymes to go with it; hence Run the Jewels 3, the duo’s most charged-up and flammable album to date.
RTJ doesn’t waste anytime getting to the point: the album’s first track, the Joi featuring “Down”, sets the stage for a thoughtfully political work. “One time for the freedom of speeches/Two time for the right to hold heaters/Just skip to the fifth if the cops in your house/Close your mouth and pray to your Jesus”. This album isn’t so much a piece of art than it is a training manual for uncertain times.
The album doesn’t just comment on political issues, though. It also deals with the problem of ticket scalpers on the immediate standout “Call Ticketron”, where they fantasize about headlining Madison Square Garden and actually sample a Ticketron phone line from the 90’s on the song. “Run The Jewels live at the Garden/Lickin’ off shots and we aim for the darkness/Make it get hot for a target/Kids cook s’mores off the crotch of our targets/Kumbaya bitch” raps a highly confident El-P in the opening verse. The duo are demanding respect as well as bringing light to issues that are plaguing both the music industry as well as the political climate.
One of the album’s best verses actually comes from a feature by the one and only Danny Brown. On “Hey Kids (Bumaye)” he spits, “Word architect, when I arch the tech, I’ll part ya’ neck/Got bars on deck, that Xanax flow, make you nod your head/Like a gram of blow, you inject/My words infect like insects havin’ incest/I’m in check, like pay day on a Thursday and it’s Wednesday. One of the greatest assets of RTJ is how they include rappers both lesser-known and full-blown stars (think Zac De La Rocha, who shows up again, this time on album closer “A Report to the Shareholders/Kill Your Masters”
While the duo have certainly created a masterwork – one that may go down in history as their magnum opus, Killer Mike or El-P don’t spit one of the most important sound bytes on the record, but rather let the recorded voice of Martin Luther King do the talking: “I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society, which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard”. With their expectation-defying third album, Run the Jewels have created a musical riot which will surely resonate not just through the next four years, but perhaps the next four decades as well.