Since, let’s say November, trying to find a silver lining or look on the bright side has become a full-time job. Hey, Trump really is creating jobs. How about that? But on the real, we need to find those positives, grab him, hold ’em tight and keep ’em close. If we set up camp in Negative Town then the next thing you know, we’ll be living there full-time with no hope of escaping. Think of our current state of affairs like the second season of The Walking Dead. If we simply tuck tail and get too comfortable living on a boring farm, the next thing you know, our best friend becomes a psycho, then a zombie and then the whole effin’ farm is overrun by zombies. So yeah, positives.
At the tail end of 2016 we were given a hell of a positive in the form of a third album from Run the Jewels. Run the Jewels 3 came out three weeks earlier than expected, as if the hard-charging duo knew we needed something to keep our spirits up. And people say celebrities don’t care about us little people. Ha! Run the Jewels are nothing if not passionate & heartfelt young men who just happen to slay the shit out of the rap game.
Run the Jewels, Killer Mike and El-P, first started to become a thing back in 2011, when the duo were introduced to each other by an executive from the Cartoon Network. At the time Killer Mike was an Atlanta rapper slowly making a name for himself and El-P was a producer who had worked with rappers like Atmosphere, Mr. Lif, Aesop Rock, Jedi Mind Tricks and more. That meeting led to Killer Mike enlisting El-P to produce his 2012 album R.A.P. Music and then Killer Mike appearing on El-P’s album Cancer 4 Cure. Following the two of them touring together they decided the next logical step was teaming up. The first Run the Jewels album, Run the Jewels, came out in 2013.
The first album was the one that got the ball rolling, got people talking. Run the Jewels went from something casually talked about in hip hop circles to buzzed about in music circles. Anticipation grew steadily for a follow-up release. Run the Jewels 2 was released a year later, accompanied with an announcement that all of the proceeds raised from the album would be going to charity.
Run the Jewels 2 was a natural evolutionary improvement for the group. The beats were fiercer and the verbal interplay between Killer Mike and El-P was that much more dynamic. The album features cameos by the reclusive former frontman of Rage Against the Machine Zach De le Rocha, as well as rapper Boots and Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker. If you weren’t hip to the group already, you were once Run the Jewels 2 dropped.
There’s a unique appeal (a Mass appeal…wink) to Run the Jewels and I think it can be traced to the fact that despite the menacing feel of their music and the heavy content of their lyrics, there’s a sense of enjoyment to the group. Somehow that menacing feel is accompanied by a joyous stomp that feeds you with energy and adrenaline. And the interplay between the two, whether it’s lyrically or physically, resembles two buddies out having a good time. Their video for “Blockbuster Night Part 1” could be cheesy as all hell. But what saves it is the connection Mike and El (at this point in the post, I’d like to think we’re on a first name basis) have. They’re the dudes in the back of the bus, cracking jokes and laughing, and who doesn’t want to be a part of that?
In 2016, with rumors swirling about Run the Jewels 3, RTJ made a pit stop on DJ Shadow’s album The Mountain Will Fall, contributing vocals to the album’s stand-out track “Nobody Speak,” one of my favorite tracks of the year.
Come on. That song is dope. You can’t tell me otherwise. I WON’T HAVE IT.
And that brings us to Run the Jewels 3. The album is fierce, abrasive, thought-provoking and entertaining as hell. Run the Jewels just keep on chugging, with each album proving to be a modest improvement on the last. I especially like that they are staying in the lane they’ve established and not veering off into other stylistic directions. Let Kanye get weird. I like Run the Jewels for a reason and I appreciate them not bailing on that reason.
It is true that life in our country has gotten tough and continues to get tough. As a result, we need outlets and distractions like Run the Jewels to ease the pain, provide comfort, pump us up with energy and enthusiasm.
So while we do have Trump, we also have Run the Jewels. So we got that going for us…which is nice.