I had been pointed to this release by several people after reading the last two American rap reviews on the blog (Kanye West ‘Yeezus’ and Jay-Z ‘Magna Carta…Holy Grail’) and they touted this as the kingslayer in the trio and the possible Rap album of 2013. Those are bold claims for any album, to topple the self-proclaimed King of Rap and his Brutus-styled Sargeant-At-Arms. But after listening to the *brief* 33-minute release from collaborating duo Killer Mike and El-P, all these claims may be incredibly true.
All ten tracks of the record ooze the type of lyrical content ‘Yeezus’ had but without the self-congratulatory prose and every electro new-styled Trap beat you could ask for. It truly walks all over ‘Magna Carta’ in every sense of the word with subtle digs throughout the lyrics pointing to the possible end of the king’s reign – an irony not missed on El-P and this writer titled in Jay-Z’s album title ‘Magna Carta’. Lines like “There will be no respect for thrones, no master can master these poems” point very sharp lyrical sticks at the monarch as if to reduce the concept of ‘one reigning leader’ as entirely obsolete. The duo continues through every track delivering heated lines such as “Your idols are all of my rivals, I stand like towers of Eiffel” right through to the political and abrasive “I Still spell America with a triple K”. I love when an artist doesn’t try so hard to invoke imagination in their lyrics and ‘Run The Jewels’ has just that. Effortless brilliance and attention-grabbing power.
I would list tracks of note, but in an album or this magnitude and this 33-minute length; take your pick – they are all jewels, so to speak.
El-P is part of a wider history as part of ‘Company Flow’ and member of ‘The Weathermen’, some of the most underground influential collectives/groups out of Brooklyn during the earlier years. His production is top level stuff and he has no problem mixing it with those with the Maybacks and those with the stolen pushbikes and this makes him truly unique in the American rap production scene. Killer Mike was recently ‘discovered’ through Outkast and various other guestings across the underground before being snapped up by T.I. on his label. Mike is a smart writer and pairing up with El-P could have been the best thing he has done. Last year’s one-two roundhouse from Killer Mike and El-P individually led them to create “Run The Jewels”. Which in itself is tongue-in-cheek referential goodness. Before NCIS, LL Cool J told us to put our hands in the air do we could be relieved of our wrist bling (“Run The Jewels”) and Killer Mike and El-P are taking it literally.
I could criticise this release for not being radio friendly or conducive to those sedated by that last molly or mainstream rap; but fuck it. This is better than that. If you miss your hip-hop, come back to the fold. I know I have. I have resisted the American contemporaries for far too long, and if you listen to enough Rap, you’d agreed. Well I’m here to tell you its time to come back.
There are only a couple of down sides to this album and I have mentioned them briefly already. The starkly short length of the release will turn some people off who want to purchase it legitimately, but 33 minutes of clarity is worth over an hour of crap. The beats are not the usual fare of hip-hop with Trap making an outstanding platform for Mike and Producto throughout, but may turn some off. I think the evolution of electro and old-school into the misappropriated EDM style of Trap really suits this release and I predict a lot more from albums in this genre. Altogether this is a stupendous album for the relative quiet release it took. No hype, no bullshit, all strength.
***WELCOME BACK RAP***
9.5/10 Roundhouse Rap Kicks