RATING: 4.5 / 5
People are asking for a group like Run the Jewels
now more than ever before. A group that will vent out their anger against a government that they don't believe care for them; delivering their energetic, fierce, and uncompromising brand of hip-hop, and unabashedly saying things like "kill your masters" and "piss on power, golden shower"; Run the Jewels are more than willing to be that group for us.
And the power in these tracks is in huge part, due to the sounds that El-P brings. This is some of El-P's best production on a record. He has always had a talent for taking unique sounds and putting them into beats, like his pixelated and frigid work with Cannibal Ox's The Cold Vein, and Company Flow's more biting production on Funcrusher Plus. Here is no exception. On "Call Ticketron," El-P is using samples of automated ticket services as part of the beat, and "Legend Has It" takes the horn from the Beastie Boy's "Brass Monkey," and uses it as a distorted tool of destruction. There is great attention to detail. In "Everybody Stay Calm" the line "stay in our places"
was panned hard left to hard right in the mix, having the voice literally not stay in it's place; and almost every track has unique sounds scattered throughout the mix.
El-P has always excelled at making bangers too. While Run The Jewels 3
is a much more tame and cerebral album than it's vicious predecessor, it still brings necessary power when it needs to, and feels more powerful because of it. The track list goes from quieter moments like "2100" right into the party-ready "Panther like a Panther." His grimy synth work on "Everybody Stay Calm" and the skittering, pounding drum work on "Talk to Me" only enhances the intense energy that both El-P and Killer Mike bring through their rhymes and chemistry.
This chemistry is sharp and seamless - with them bouncing off each other and finishing each other's statements and sentences in a way that is fiercely engaging and dynamic. On tracks like "Legend Has It" and "Thursday in the Danger Room," Killer Mike and El-P trade their verses off flowing like water, and ad-libs off of each others rhymes show the fun that they're having simply being in the same room together, and doing what they want. This "fuck it" attitude with comedic edge (nude cliff pushups anyone?), helps make their messages even more poignant. Their relationship makes the music fun to listen to. And that fun becomes infectious, making the listener more open to their messages when do present themselves.
That personality is what stops this album from becoming a condescending listen, both of them are honest and genuine with their feelings, and still leave room for humor. "Thursday in the Danger Room" is probably one of their most hard hitting on the album, because of the openness to talk about their pain in losing the people they love. And that ultimately, they still live on with us. And on the very next track, "Report to the Shareholders," becomes a lot more powerful in context, as Killer Mike and El-P evolve into revolutionary partners, with El-P saying, "Not from the same part of the same of town, but we hear the hear the same sound coming / and it sounds like war, and it breaks our hearts."
And with "Kill Your Masters" following, they choose to end the album on a chilling note. With Killer Mike repeating that very phrase right after Zach De La Rocha's politically charged verse, it felt like a proper ending to the album. And having that be the last word that the listener hears leaves them with a very clear idea of what Run the Jewels are about, with whatever may come.