Last year, Mike and Jaime made a free record that they expected a handful of Killer Mike and El-P fans to like. After all, the two have been working together for a while – Mike made an appearance on El's Cancer 4 Cure, then El produced Mike's best record ever, R.A.P. Music. Together, the two form Run The Jewels, an unstoppable duo that puts every rap collab record and buddy cop movie to shame instantly. Since then, the two toured endlessly, wowing crowds across the globe until they realized that a sequel needed to happen if the world was to continue spinning on its axis.
In terms of sequels, Run The Jewels 2 is more Evil Dead 2 than Empire Strikes Back. Album #2 isn't a continuation of a story and doesn't try and explore new ground. Rather, it pulls out all the stops to make the most badass rehash ever, doing everything bigger, everything badder, and leaving no punches unthrown. More features don't mean a thing for these two dudes – the collaborations are cute, but pale in comparison to the unequivocal energy that Jaime and Mike create off each other. Run The Jewels 2 is more bloodthirsty, unapologetic, political, and pervasive than its predecessor. It's everything that Run The Jewels fans could ever want out of this record. And best of all, it's 100% free. Grab it here, and preview it below.
The one thing you know for sure about blockbuster sequels is there will be better explosions. More money means blowing more shit up – that's a given. I don't know if Jaime and Mike had a bigger budget for this record by any means, but knowing that a million fans couldn't wait to get their hands on RTJ2 sure helped these dudes up the ante in terms of fireworks. El's production is as good as it has ever been here. "Oh Darling Please Don't Cry" is a relentless machine of bass that explodes full force into "Blockbuster Night Part 1". If each track on side 1 of RTJ2 wasn't already good enough, the fact that each drops into the next just makes it better. "Close Your Eyes" is a hook built on Zach De La Rocha's signature snarl, while "All Due Respect" incorporates the drumming expertise of one Travis Barker. Plus, an appearance from the ever-mysterious electronic R&B producer BOOTS on "Early" never hurt anyone. But at the end of the day, the tracks are all El and Mike, and that's the only way it should ever be on a Run The Jewels record.
Speaking of Mike, is there any end to the one-liners on this record? "I beat you to a pulp no fiction, Tarantino flows, new Jewels, and Vincent." "Top of the morning, my fist to your face is fucking Folgers." Truly, there is no end to the brutal genius that is Killer Mike. If every Run The Jewels fan wasn't screaming as soon they hit play on this new record, Mike's intro on "Jeopardy" immediately gets you so pumped for the next forty minutes of music that you will want to tell your mom about it. It goes without saying that Mike has been killing it for much longer than Run The Jewels has been around. But hip-hop fans around the world should be thankful for Run The Jewels every day of their lives if only so that they have more opportunity to hear this guy spit and see him perform more often. And thanks to Jaime for helping him sounds so inexplicably terrifying and lovable on every one of these tracks.
But when Mike and Jaime aren't just throwing punches to throw them, they are putting it bluntly (hah!) with some pretty poignant thought pieces on insincerity in the world we see around us. "All My Life" talks through the invisible hand cycle of societal siloing, while "Lie, Cheat, Steal" takes on the media and the societal elite with a bloodlust. "Angel Duster" is almost a direct sequel, lyrically, to "A Christmas Fucking Miracle" from the debut record, slowing the track down to end on a solemn note, admitting that the world is a dangerous place, but we have the means to make it a better place if we try. Furthermore, El-P really outdid himself on this track, with an intro and outro that flesh out his full production abilities in glorious form (yes, that is a certified Run The Jewels string quartet outro). But the biggest lyrical takeaway on Run The Jewels 2 has to be "Crown". One example after another, Mike and Jaime give us all the ways that we learn to "carry the flag in another man's name", putting on an external ideology and getting brainwashed to a bigger agenda. Long time Killer Mike fans know that this is one of his favorite topics, never one to be patted on the back for something he didn't earn for himself. Fans would do well to adapt the same mentality in their own lives. That way, when they throw up the RTJ sign in a crowded club, they know exactly what they are getting themselves into.
Run The Jewels 2 is out now through Mass Appeal, and you need it in your rotation. Grab it at the album's website, and if you want physical media, head to the Run The Jewels online store (also here for the coolest RTJ shirt there is). Mike and Jaime will hit the road again soon to put more fists in the air in your town soon. Check a full list of dates here. RTJ will be back through Seattle in the Spring.
Also, keep your eye out for Meow The Jewels, soon to come.
It's been a great year and a half or so for writing albums about death. Most recently, Flying Lotus killed on impact with his incredible You're Dead!, but Noah Lennox, a.k.a. Panda Bear, isn't far behind. Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper has been whispered around the Animal Collective spheres for w…
As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosp…