El-P and Killer Mike’s partnership continues at full clip with the release of their third album. When they first joined together as producer and rapper on Killer Mike’s RAP Music album and the subsequent RTJ mixtape, the thrill and novelty of two very different rappers from two different sides of the U.S. was a big driving force.
“Bullying bastards and beating on beats” raps Killer Mike on ‘Legend Has It’, summing up their appeal in short on the third track on RTJ3. These old masters never quit but when they came together they had too much fun to stop. Their economy at running shit and everything else is unparalleled. There is no filler here. Full clip til the end. Even if RTJ3 is their longest album yet, it never feels like it.
RTJ3 is aware of a post-Trump word that their art occupies. They are still rallying behind hope even if there is a feeling of futility creeping in.
“You defeat the devil when you hold on to hope.”
“But we all know we’re afraid / so we just simply cry and march again.”
“Run the Jewels’ll make last breaths Brexit.”
“I don’t ever want to have to load a clip / only hunt bliss / I am still a kid in my heart but these motherfuckers sick”
“Poor folks love us / the rich hate our faces / talk too loud / won’t remain in our places.”
El-P productions come the closest he’s come to his dystopian Def Jux solo times (and Company Flow for that matter). Tracks are built on denser textures but still have that clarity of force. ‘Legend Has It’ is built on a wobbling industrial percussive low-end that few have mastered, ‘Call Ticketron’ is a 21st century take on ‘It Takes Two,’ ‘Stay Gold’ matches echo-chamber beats with lyrics about their respective partners, ‘Thursday In The Danger Room’ is an forgiving confrontation of a friend’s killer, ‘Panther Like A Panther’ adds some booty club EDM beats to their palette with aplomb and ‘Oh Mama’ has the album’s best bassline, not bad for a song about mothers.
Guests Danny Brown, Tunde Adebimpe, Boots, Trina and Kamasai Washington add contrast while Zach De La Rocha drops in at the last moment uncredited to rage alongside them.
“Not from the same part of town but we both hear the same sound coming and it sounds like war and it breaks our hearts.”
Now three long-players in, Run The Jewels as a foundation is as hard as cement. If RTJ2 was “two buddies, operating at their creative peak,” then RTJ3 is the sound of Run The Jewels digging in deeper, digging their heels and delivering an album with the same immediate resonance as the first two releases but with a wider palette and the same antagonistic spirit. More downtrodden but resolutely and thrillingly hostile.