It’s a rarity in the current rap climate that production and lyricism find common ground to match each other to make a complete project. I tend to gravitate towards rap that has a completeness to it and particularly with a group project – a friendly competitive streak to make each other better. Run The Jewels who are made up of Killer Mike and El-P released their first joint album in June of last year. While it was a great album, it seemed like the duo was still feeling their way through the album to compliment each others’ styles. I know of both Killer Mike and El-P’s lyrical acumen, but I felt with another album they would hit on what they were set out to do.
Run The Jewels 2 is not only a rap album, but a kill shot to a lot of critics that may have underrated the duo in their respective solo careers. Not only are the lyrics better, but El-P’s production has stepped it up. “Jeopardy” serves as the statement site to show off El-P and Mike’s versatility regarding rap cadence and stake them as the “top tag team for two summers”. No disrespect to Watch The Throne or Lil Wayne/Drake, but they might have a good case. Although the first album was more of a fun project, you can tell that there was more focus. El-P and Killer Mike are even more comfortable recording with each other. Those who are hoping for a bit of a Rage Against The Machine nostalgia will be happy to hear Zach De La Rocha on “Close Your Eyes”. La Rocha keeps up with the politically ferocious rhymes of El-P and Mike. One can say that this track was tailor-made for all of them, as Killer Mike has proven that he doesn’t bite his tongue to show his disdain for the status quo.
Speaking of which, I want to highlight “Early”, which tackles police brutality from a first person perspective. The production roots deep into the pain in an almost Kanye type sample. Music can be a platform to speak about certain injustices, and I feel that with some mainstream music, artists are afraid to do this in favor of losing a particular demographic or investor. It’s a subject that both artists tackle in a relating and meaningful way. For the most part, the features on this album work, particularly the renegade track featuring Travis Barker “All Due Respect”. It’s almost an acapella featured by Barker’s percussion that presents the rapid-fire style of RTJ. It’s my favorite track on the album. Gangsta Boo‘s verse on “Love Again (Akinyele Back)”, unfortunately doesn’t fit in the scheme of the album, but is quite hilarious.
Run The Jewels is out to take on all comers. With more of a repertoire and the roads that lead them up to this point, I’m not hesitant to label this as a real candidate for rap album of the year, or album of the year in general. Rap music has had some blips on the medical screen, but in 2014 as a whole has fallen short. RTJ2 shows that there is still hope in the hip-hop body.