Album Review: “Run the Jewels 2” by Run the Jewels

Clever production work steers rap album toward innovation.

nwbayer

Rating: 4.0/5.0
Release Date: Oct. 28

It’s been a painfully dry year for anyone who loves rap and hip-hop. After a fairly disappointing album from Chris Brown in September and a heart-wrenchingly underwhelming debut from Logic last month, a new release from the dependable East Coast-duo Run the Jewls is like a drink of fresh water. It amy not be an ice-cold glass of it with some sliced cucumber, but it’ll hold us over for a few months until Kendrick Lamar or Chance the Rapper finally decide to release something.

Both professional rappers since the early ’90s, Killer Mike and El-P have flows that speak for themselves. On “Lie, Cheat, Steal,” Mike smoothly rhymes, “I’m fly as a Pegasus, that’s no embellishment / I’m here to pain the whole game, where the Excedrin?” El-P, though less well- known, can easily hold his own. In one of his more creative moments, he tells everyone to fuck off with the line, “You can all run naked backward through a field of dicks,” balancing out Mike’s deadpan seriousness.

Killer Mike and EI-P have brought much-needed freshness to modern rap and hip-hop. Photo used with permission from BIZ3.
Killer Mike and EI-P have brought much-needed freshness to modern rap and hip-hop. Photo used with permission from BIZ3.

In fact, El-P’s levity is completely necessary since the content of the lyrics does occasionally get preachy as they cover social justice often and too directly. These are peppered into songs like “All Due Respect” and “Lie, Cheat, Steal” and heaped onto others like “Early” and “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck).” While these moments don’t spoil the album, it can be distracting when Mike is rapping about himself and, seemingly without reason, interrupts it with something along the lines of, “And also, fuck cops for being unfair to black people.”

More noteworthy than the lyrics are the beats and hooks, the source of most of the originality of the album. The true gem of the album, “Jeopardy,” opens with a basic bass line and builds continuously, adding in horns and guitar until the climax at the end of the first verse. It’s intense enough that if Killer Mike had chosen to rap about kittens and flowers, it still would have sounded as badass as a movie line delivered by Samuel L. Jackson. El-P’s combination of trap beats and heavy sampling define much of the album and his vulgar hook on “Love Again” provides the most quotable standout moment on the record. Though not enough to completely compensate for some lyrical shortcomings, RTJ2 has enough substance to be worth at least a first and second listen.