Killer Mike and El-P album review, ‘Run the Jewels’


Killer Mike and El-P perform for a sold out crowd at The Rock & Roll Hotel in Washington, DC. (Marlon Correa/TWP)
August 8, 2013
RUN THE JEWELS
“Run the Jewels”

Kindred spirits: Aesop Rock, Outkast, Young Jeezy

Show: With Kook A.D. on Saturday at
the 9:30 Club. Doors open at 8 p.m.
202-265-0930. www.930.com. $20.

Atlanta MC Killer Mike (Michael Renden) and Brooklyn rapper-producer El-P (Jaime Meline) have flirted with a partnership in the past, most notably last year when El produced Mike’s celebrated album “R.A.P. Music.” Now they’ve consummated the relationship, uniting as a bona fide duo under the moniker Run the Jewels. And it comes as no surprise that their often-transcendent self-titled debut is a study in contrasts and, at times, contradictions.

El-P is a master at taking simple, supple beats and constructing dense, futuristic-sounding soundscapes around them. His is a dystopian world powered by big rhythms and augmented by an almost Wagnerian sturm und drang. Killer Mike is more of a bleep-art-let’s-dance kind of fella, a tough talker who gets right to the point to grind out single-minded, rapid-rhyming rants and social commentaries. Together, they may make for an odd couple. There’s nothing strange, however, about the way their talents meld or the obvious glee they achieve in telling their stories.

Run the Jewels,” which is available as a free download, is a no-frills, 10-track affair that eschews skits and interludes, cutting right to the bone like an all-up-in-your-grill mixtape. From the street-level nihilism of “DDFH” to the boasts of “Job Well Done,” this is an uncompromising, foul-mouthed, misogynistic rumination on life on the streets of urban America.

They do leaven the proceedings with some buffoonish braggadocio and even an over-the-top guest shot from De La Soul producer Prince Paul resurrecting his Chest Rockwell character. A cameo by Outkast’s Big Boi helps to lighten things as well.

Still, the consistent sonic strategy and unified, almost fatal, vision of “Run the Jewels” belie the newness of the duo that constructed it.

Jeff Wisser

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