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Run the Jewels -- Run the Jewels 2

by Mehdi Elmouchtari on November 8, 2014

Killer Mike is ticked off. Or, at least it would seem so from the opening seconds of "Jeopardy," the opening track of this new offering from Brooklyn-based duo Run the Jewels. "Let's go, El-P," he hollers, clearly excited for all the "history being made." A synthesizer hums a low, blunt, simple bass line. Killer Mike delivers his opening lines. A drum beat joins him, then a series of surf-guitar fills, and finally a highly distorted clarinet (oboe? some sort of wind instrument). Everything fits, every sound, beat, squeak, sample has its place. El-P is a brilliant producer, and he delivers on this record. With the exception of "Close Your Eyes," which we'll get to, every beat on this album hits hard.

"Oh My Darling Don't Cry" was one of the first tracks from the new album to hit the blogosphere. It brought the hype back then, and it still does, months after the song's original release. The major sonic and rhythmic shift in the second minute of the song, again, is a beautiful example of El-P flexing his talent. A bizarre, primal beat takes over, sounding like a drummer let loose in a junkyard. Killer Mike delivers an exceptional verse, showing us that he can indeed "tiptoe on the track like a ballerina."

"Blockbuster Night Part 1" is brilliant and needs to be heard in person. The beat is ominous, and intimidating. It's not unlike the Imperial March from Star Wars. Killer Mike throws his weight around in his verse, calling out any potential challengers: "Bunches and bunches, punches is thrown until you're frontless/Oodles and oodles, bang bullets at suckas' noodles/Last album voodoo, proved that we was f***ing brutal." Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the next track on the album, "Close Your Eyes. A short phrase is uttered by Zach De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine and samples ceaselessly. It's irritating, as the sample persists throughout the track. De La Rocha's verse is underwhelming.

"Lie Cheat Steal" opens with a few escalating notes from some funky scale. The chorus is deliberate, steady, and highly unsettling. The whole track evolves throughout, and perfectly compliment's Killer Mike's distinctly Southern-fried delivery. El-P delivers a rapid-fire verse, challenging my preconceptions about his ability as a rapper. The BOOTS feature in "Early" lends some uncertainty (some spookiness, if you will) to an aggressive, testosterone-driven album. Bonus: El-P samples the sound of Pac-Man dying about two and a half minutes in. Travis Barker, of Blink-182 fame, has a feature on the album. He drums like a madman. He always drums like a madman. The track "All Due Respect" does not rely on electronic instruments or samples, like most hip-hop beats are. While heavily produced, the album has a raw, fevered intensity, a clear indicator of Barker's influence. The album slows down heavily after this track, and highlights are scarce Except for Gangsta Boo's verse on "Love Again," which was filthy and made me blush.

My verdict? The album is free on their website. Here is the link. Their first album is also up there for free, and is worth a listen as well. No other duo, in my opinion, combines New York and Atlanta styles of rap so thoroughly while still retaining the individual characteristics of each. Give them a listen.