Sonic Reducer: Run The Jewels

Desmond Fox
3 min read
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The unlikely pairing of Definitive Jux mogul El-P and Atlanta based rapper Killer Mike is possibly the greatest thing to happen to hardcore hip-hop in the 21st century.

The two artists first set sail on the El-P-produced Killer Mike album
R.A.P. Music, and are now three albums deep into their full-time collaboration as Run the Jewels. Dissatisfied, violent and confrontational, Run the Jewels 3 approaches modern hip-hop with the kid gloves removed, discarded and likely burned to cinders in a destructive wake.

The magic of
Run the Jewels 3 begins with El-P’s spacey, experimental production. The instrumentals on this album never shy away from the sound that put Definitive Jux on the map, with ambient ensembles that evoke El-P’s work with Cannibal Ox, while still making room for the occasional (but necessary) airhorn. Killer Mike’s presence brings life to the duo, pulling El-P away from the conceptual narrative works featured on his solo albums and into Killer Mike’s hard-hitting world of political distrust and aggressive punch lines you can feel in your teeth.

El-P and Mike are joined by a parade of prolific artists, including Danny Brown (
Atrocity Exhibition) and da baddest bitch herself, Trina, all of whom match El-P and Mike’s energy beat for beat. The guest spots on Run the Jewels 3 feel like natural extensions of the music, rather than glorified cross-promotion. The hooks on this album are unexpected bright spots. Whether it’s collaborative favorite Boots’ soulful vocals or El-P’s own surprising delivery on “Oh Mama,” RtJ bring something new to the table on every track, including a chopped and skrewed paean to ticket sales services on “Call Ticketron.”

The album makes a steady descent into the anti-authoritarian territory for which the duo is known. On the playful, punchy bars of “Stay Gold,” El-P raps “You’re gonna love how we ride to the gates on a lion, high and smiling/ Me and Mike, we just think alike and can’t stop high-fiving.” By the end, we’re ankle deep in a track featuring Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine fame rapping “We ain’t at your service, won’t stay sedated/ Won’t state our numbers for names and remain faceless.” On tracks like “A Report to the Shareholders / Kill Your Masters,” each bar is a politically charged bomb exploding at the feet of oppressors. While these joints might not be the same sort of bangers we were given on
Run the Jewels 2, they are mighty missives full of venom and purpose, and of course, copious quantities of the dankest kush raps.

Run the Jewels 3 is a timely record, coming into our lives at the same time as President Trump. This album is written for those tired of staying on the sidelines while their community is taken over and rewritten. Every hip-hop head should make this album their soundtrack to the next four years of political resistance. When presented with corruption and dishonesty, do like El-P and Mike: Question authority, make a scene, stay gold and don’t get captured.
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