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Run the Jewels 2

No edits, no takes. So the idea here is that I'll just do a first-through read of Run the Jewels 2.  And attached to it, I'll publish my many-times-listened review of Run the Jewels which I never managed to release, but... was planning to release when RtJ2 was out.  And I was on schedule to do that.  But... then these fat motherfuckers put RtJ2 in my inbox (and released it in general) a bit early.  

That is, fuck it.

To set the scene, I learned of the release this morning in an email from "Jaime and Mike".  Which I thought was cool.  That Jaime can't fucking spell his name right is a different problem.  I have a Jamie as a brother.  You in the wrong, bro.  Er... not-bro.  No, no... not that you ain't my bro... I mean... No... Mike... I'm just a little guy.   We can use words, man.

My point is that I've been all-in on el producto since fantastic damage.  I caught up on his stuff before that right quick and all, but fantastic damage blew my rap face off.  I learned a lot and expected a lot more from emcees and producers and everyone else after that record (And a decent amount of def jux for that matter... take no prisoners.).

As for Mr. Mike aka Mr. Killer.... he showed up on The Whole World.  I kept up with him on an doff from then... but not close-like.  Great voice, stright aggression.

I have just enough time before I need to leave that I can type and listen.

Here we go.

Track 1.

"I'm gonna bang this bitch the fuck out"

Okay... I'll go turn it up.

We're opening Mike-heavy... with a threatening whisper... a beat... with some mess, but definitely some low-end stank and some high end spirally madness...

Let's just say... we're no less threatening than last year.

And now el... with just those... pivots that lie and sleep with the beat without a moment of seduction... That's the same beat that Mike was on.

Not the same beat though.  They bring out different spaces and images...

Track 2.

This is more challenging territory.

That last album was like "FUCK YOU."

This album is like "You want us to prove it?  We can rap to anything.   Jamie can produce a killer track out of fucking lunacy.  And Mike can anchor it without shanking it."

El is still showing growth as an alphabet acrobat.  more fluid when he wants to be.  More variety in his vowels.

Killer is getting more proficient at extending his menace straight out through a double-time consonant onslaught.

Track 3.

oh.  The Drop.

This is the newbanger.  This'll make the kids throw furniture.

Ohlord.  the bang-bragger is a favorite of mine.  And el can do a line for when the beat disapears with the best of them. Mike is one of the best of them.

Track 4.

A quick-temp... hot-takes and phrases... the notes say this is with de la Rocha... does that mean they're gonna do him like they did Big Boi last year?  Is Zack gonna be the walking corpse?

This is another fucking "I'll show you what we can rap and/or make a fucking dope track out of"... Now Killer is slaying this fucking track... the second time through though?  With that jackhammer timing?  and finished by el with a punch?  I'm all Clay Davis on this Shiiiiiiiiiiit.

Zack is up... he battin' cleanup... I'm not familiar enough with his voice (at least not since Bombtrack and that incredible timeless album from RATM) to follow that well... but he does the sonics well enough... only further listens will tell the tale.

Trakc 5.

And now we're listening to a track that asks for storytell... This is the first track that sounds like it would have been at home on RtJ1.

While the transitions are far from jarring on this record, they are nowhere near as smooth at RtJ1... but that's not a shock nor a rip... most of the Beatles catalog pales in comparison w/r/t smooth transitions to that one half of Abbey Road...

Track 6.

I get the feeling we're gonna get into some dark territory here.
No joke... el-p leads off.  And accelerates as the madness deepens.
Oh... and the chorus from Killer?  It makes his name seem tame.

The thing with these two... is that their voices are so contrasting and complimentary...
They come from such identically different worlds.  Such crossover.  Such meandering route-determining sameness in their difference.

Ohhhhhshit mike... with the who the fuck double time stuttertalk... I bet when I go back he's challenging the shit out of someone here.

"Everybody doin' it"

Track 7.

An off-beat-finishing beat... oh with a second piece... a developing-by-verse beat... Mike getting in on the boys in blue with all due respect again.

Fucking... cops man... one abuse rightly paints doubly or triply against any man with the law on his side.  You have to be so right that you are beyond reproach by even those who disagree with your existence let alone title... can you live up to that?

Now el is getting just as thick and multi-leveled as Killer.  The thing about both of them is that they, through whatever process, have become individuals with such complex lenses that their narratives are not linear.  Nor, would I argue, that a linear narrative is even a worthy goal.  But their aggressive layering of thoughts upon thoughts reaching out to thoughts upon thoughts of their partner's totally ... parallel but non-identical experience of America?


Track 8.

Fuck.  Mike.  Leave me alone.  I don't want you to punch me in the shit again.

This is that all-out-assault track.   I dare you to find a duo of emcees who obliterate the aural landscape like these two in unison.  Just... What the fuck the jewels the fuck?  Take it.  Leave me alone.

And please give me some free audio.
I'll prolly buy a show ticket.

Just... put that finger gun down.

Run the Jewels was like the joyous robbery in which both parties are happy to have been there.
Run the Jewels Two is like when those fat jolly motherfuckers turn out to be Olympic sprinters.

Track 9.

Ohno... they gettin dirty again... this is always where they, while they're well within that range of things you know about if you've had sufficient NYC and ultimate and drug experiences, go a step or two past me.

But... that happens in every sports locker room I've been in.

But... that's because there is a verbal world and a thought world.

But... that's what artist reach past.  Or through.  Or with.  Or... is this relevant anymore?  the point is... you talk type write ramble on what you do what you do.

I want these songs on these records.  But that doesn't mean I'm the man to write about them.

And this track ain't shy.

Track 10.

Enter contemplative... this is a side both Jaime and Mike have and have used to worthy effect.  this has a little funk to it also... staying in the background with a vibe to move to.

And Mike starts Jaime's verse... There has not been much of that baton-passing in this album.. this el verse is one of those that just echoes already in my head.  This is... this is the is, man.  This is reaching...

I'll wager there are some Mike verses in there I've missed that reach out like this... he's never shied from it.

There is a space we reach into in others when we art.

Track 11.

And el opens the closer.  With challenging counter-attacks to his own counter-arguments.

Mike steps in to clarify.  We're on a drippy trippy haze.  But we're not ungrounded.

There is danger and menace in both of these men.  That is what we love about them.

That is what rigns true.  Their visions of something greater than themselves.

Their visions of something greater and more cynical than the USA.

Their love of what they have and yet... acknowledgement of what can't be...

Their fearful march toward the future they wish for rather than the dangerous world they ream of in their heads.

This is a distrustful rush of angel dust.  Speak these sounds and build this rush to dangerous.

Rip this scene and torch this house, the roar itself issues from this mouse.


This album is very very good on first listen.  It is challenging.  It is forcefully identifiably of both el&Killer.  I'll wager it comes in a half-note below RtJ1 *Solely because I knew what I was getting*.  That is, this observer is biased.  That shit last year was a revelation.  This is a second book of a promising author.  To mix metaphors.  Which is something I like.

That is... There is no way this was going to be RtJ0.  This is RtJ2.  It will be a staple of my audio world for the foreseeable future.  I'll look to unpack it, ride it, and move on from it.

But I'm not there yet.  This is another dope free record from Jaime and Mike.  Go download and then buy a ticket to a show.  Then we'll all be even and happy.

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"He's just this guy, you know?"