RTJ3 Album Review

Killer Mike and El-P return with blunts and beer in hand to greet listeners in their newest album “Run the Jewels 3”, sending a seismic wave through hip-hop


(Photo Courtesy of Audiomack)

Killer Mike and El-P return with blunts and beer in hand to greet listeners in their newest album “Run the Jewels 3”, sending a seismic wave through hip-hop.

The opening track “Down” sets the scene for a story that follows. Killer Mike raps about the harsh conditions of his life spitting, “I hope with the highest of hopes that I never have to go back to the trap and of my days dealing with dope.” In comparison to previous works, Run the Jewels opens on an optimistic, yet revolutionary statement. Mike reminisces about his past. The brushes with death translate to light musical strokes that are faintly heard as the song progresses. “Ballot or bullet, you better use one,” he states and the rest of the track follows suit with twangy bass and “light” synths setting a feeling of hope with harsh lyrics flowing on top of them. The beat defines itself boldly, giving the imagery of a protagonist climbing out the wreckage to face the horizon. “Down” is a tale of redemption and success.

“Run The Jewels 3” continues through the rapid and boastful “Legend Has It.” El-P spits some of his finest verses on this album, clicking together words like Legos. The track is set to riffy electronically-tinged beat, giving it a pulsating feel. A braggadocio track with both halves of the duo asserting their dominance over all others in the game. El-P raps “Huntings no fun when your prey don’t move.” He calls out the rappers today for not even posing a challenge, following a trend of others before him. A bold beat underlies bolder lyrics.

The duo most clearly glitters on the track “Call Ticketron.” This is the point in the album where Killer Mike and El-P take off their gloves and smash the big red button. Launching the feverishly pounding quasi-banger,  the electronic, sickly commercial voice of Ticketron calls “Live, Li-li-li-li from the Garden”, before El-P leaps in, spitting out well flowed lines of rebellion and bravado. They paint dark and exciting vignettes all across the track, all interwoven with the dream of selling out Madison Square Garden. A bleak, corporate controlled future is shown to the listener through the meaning of “Call Ticketron.” El-P production shows itself as minimalist, yet rich on this track, setting itself to “tappy” bass. The flow of El-P and Killer Mike proves itself to be absolutely eargasmic, jumping from verse to verse, like a cyborg ninja leaping from wall to wall. El-P showcases his pure talent complemented with the Orwellian refrain of Ticketron. A psycho-nervous assault, “Call Ticketron” is a song that sends shivers down the listener’s spine late at night.

Perhaps the defining moment of the album, however, is found on the track “Thieves.” A haunting siren is followed by an opening monologue from “The Twilight Zone.” The narrator warns us about a possible future. The beat slowly builds up as the tension rises along with it. When it seems as though the build up cannot continue any longer, Killer Mike drops a fantastic verse that seems to slice through the thick layers of the beat. Referring to victims of police brutality as ghosts, the duo paints the story of America: A divided land that feeds off the socio-political and economic problems of its marginalized groups. The song touches upon the issue of rioters being demonized and the heavy media bias that exists. The outro is indeed the most heavy-hitting part of the song. A vocal sample from MLK proclaims, “I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.” The track is a chilling, yet beautiful masterpiece.

“Hey Kids” is pure rebellion channeled into a song. The beat itself is a variety of sounds blended together and begins with the voice of a child screaming, “This is so crazy!” Killer Mike celebrates a successful revolution as the track opens and calls for a distribution of wealth as well. “Bumaye” scream the voices in the background, a Congolese phrase for “kill him.” El-P follows up by murdering the verse beautifully. He raps about publicized conspiracy theories and scandals. Things that are intended to make you confused. An anarchist track can’t possibly be complete without the addition of Danny Brown, however. Brown spits, “Please be alarmed, be warned.” And warned indeed is the listener. This track is the equivalent of a meth-addicted squirrel in a nut factory.

There really is no musical equivalent of “Run The Jewels 3” in the field of music in the current day, save for the duo’s previous work. Killer Mike and El-P are the epitome of consistency. Run The Jewels stays true to this by maintaining itself not as something greater than “Run The Jewels 2” or attempting to top it. “Run The Jewels 3” probably can be best viewed as a distant, quiet cousin of the snarling, violent, punk-like fun of the profane Eighties rock of Guns and Roses’ Appetite for Destruction. Legend Has It can be considered a distant rap relative of Welcome to The Jungle. Or perhaps it could be considered the marriage of the ruthless abrasive anarchy of the Sex Pistols coupled with the politicized hardcore of N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton.”

This sort of complexity within nuclear levels of enthusiasm may not find its place within the ears of students at Dougherty, with one student saying “The album has lots of energy, but personally I didn’t enjoy it.” The sound within the album is so drastically different from the mainstream mellow of Drake, that it may not be ready for the top of Billboard.

Whatever it may be, “Run The Jewels 3” forges its own identity. Fiercely independent, abrasive, and complex, it crystallizes the essence of hip hop, and exists as a satisfying masterpiece. Run The Jewels 3 claims a spot as one of the greatest hip-hop records of the past few years.