My brain melted as I was sucked aboard the mothership. I was only four tracks in, and the aliens had already won. I only remember bits and pieces of what happened after that. I was on a table getting tested like homie in Fire in the Sky with blurry images of human-like creatures with blue skin. Once the music stopped, I woke up back home in my bed. Was I dreaming? I had no clue, but I somehow felt like a new person. Them aliens are crafty, shifty motherfuckers.
Run the Jewels 2 sounds like if George Orwell’s 1984 had a soundtrack. It sounds as if it were crafted in an alien zoo on Tralfamadore. From Company Flow to the formation of Def Jux to his recent dealings with Killer Mike, El-P has always been ahead of the curb in terms of independence. He always embraced the underground. In fact, he’s reveled in it. Like Bane in the darkness. Like the Ninja Turtles in the sewers of NYC. So it’s not a surprise that he has taken to the Internet as well as he has these last couple years. The ’net was made for artists like him.
Long acclaimed amongst underground dwellers like graffiti writers, skaters, and those “in the know,” El-P is finally getting the mainstream respect he deserves. He’s just not a name your favorite producers or rap nerds speak of when talking about the best hip-hop producers in history.
Even more impressive is how Killer Mike—a disciple of the Dungeon Family—has been able to adapt in this climate. He first appeared in 2000 on OutKast’s Stankonia in an era when everyone was going platinum. 14 years later, he’s still hitting us on the head with smart, quality bully raps, and has become one of hip-hop’s true treasures. Just peep the way he represented us on CNN in the wake of the Michael Brown situation.
But back to this muthafuckin’ spaceship.
Producto’s signature chaotic production from the future combined with Killer Mike’s brash delivery will pretty much smack the fuccboi out of you. Good luck getting past the opening track, “Jeopardy.” If you don’t die from your brain melting and being abducted like I did, your end will come from a broken face, neck, etc. Or, if you are a fuccboi you will cry because Killer Mike tells you to fuck off. He says it politely, but still. The album starts, continues, and ends like an avalanche capable of flattening large metro areas. Gangsta Boo (who just released a pretty good mixtape) and Zack De La Rocha are on this album! And they leaked it days before its release date! For free! What more do you want? A reach-around and a cigarette?
The album starts, continues, and ends like an avalanche capable of flattening large metro areas.
RTJ pumps the brakes a bit when the album gets to the joint with the aforementioned Gangsta Boo. "Love Again" has the appropriate parenthetical in its title "(Akinyele Back)," and it is a marvel. The beat is chopped and screwed compared to the rest of the album. It's the equivalent to driving through a thunderstorm to only be welcomed by clear skies and birds chirping.
Boo, Mike, and El tell us about their sexual escapades whilst proclaiming that their significant others want dicks and clits in their mouths all day. Boo is raunchy, likes to ride faces, and "ain't a square bitch." The rap game needs more like her, and she has been missed. (Again, download her new tape. It's fire.)
Things pick back up in a major way after the Diane Coffee-assisted "Crown." The last track on the free download/
Spotify version, "Angel Duster," was made on—well— angel dust. The beat tries to bust your eardrums if it didn't happen already. The bass is menacing and the synth tries to posses your body. Mike and Producto drop jewels like Killer Mike's "Got kush for the pain, 'cause the world is dangerous" and El-P's "You want a whore in a white dress, I want a wife in a thong." Real fucking shit right there, ladies and gentlemen. Life is hard. There are so many different sounds in this track it's liable to make you go mad if one is dusted. Killer Mike continuously saying "RTJ,"a piano, and then suddenly nothing.
However, one of my favorite tracks is the iTunes bonus cut, "Blockbuster Night 2." It features three generations of underground NYC rap: El-P, Despot, and Ratking frontman Wiki. Like the rest of the album, there's nothing but bars on here. Quality posse cuts are rare these days, and this one is effective.
Run the Jewels 2 is better than Run the Jewels 1 and is on par with R.A.P. Music, which is a tough task. The duo has more than a few studio sessions under their belt now making this project a more polished, complete one. The beats hit a little harder, they finish each other's sentences like a coked-up version of Styles and Jada, the marketing campaign has been handled beautifully, the merch is dope (buy some shit!), and Meow the Jewels is happening with the involvement of legendary producers for a good cause.
The second installment of the Run the Jewels canon is an aggressive, masterful piece of art. When the aliens finally come for our souls, humanity should present this to them as an act of war. Killer Mike is Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man, and El-P is Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner—an unlikely tandem with a common cause—creating havoc from beginning to end.
Angel Diaz is a staff writer for Complex Media, and he was a jewel runner in a past life. Follow him @ADiaz456.