Run The Jewels - RTJ3 (Run The Jewels Inc.) 2016
Killer Mike and El-P were not always so loved and venerated. All started to change with Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music (2012), which was produced entirely by El-P, and then the relationship that we all love was sediment with the birth of Run the Jewels and the release of their self-titled debut album. Like a good left punch, most people didn’t see it coming and it knocked the fuck out of us all. El-P’s weird, incisive, and dense production chops gave a platform to a crazy combination between Killer Mike’s super aggressive flow and straightforward lyrics and El-P’s own lyrical style that’s extremely witty and multilayered. From that was born a super bashing rap album with a crazy ass level of braggadocio and some much needed intelligence (“DDFH”).
All good and fine but then it comes RTJ2 and shit just gets thrown to a whole new level. The duo just reemerged more blood thirsty and savage than you ever expected – if there’s ever a serious discussion about the illest opening tracks of all time then “Jeopardy” will have to be mentioned because we can’t ignore how Killer Mike just smashed the world with the untamed tiger spirit of Balboa himself. RTJ2 just magnified the beast. The two were coming at us with the most foul, vicious, and nasty rhymes and sounds. It was disgusting, gut-wrenching would be the understatement of the year… but the beast was also more socially and politically conscious than ever (a nod to their solo works). “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)”, “Early”, and even the soul-baring “Crown”, made RTJ more than just the illest rap duo around, it made them fuckin’ dangerous – “Conditions create a villain, the villain is given vision / The vision becomes a vow to seek vengeance on all the vicious” (“Close Your Eyes”).
The question that followed the release of RTJ2 was, “Is there more steps to climb in the RTJ’s ladder?” The answer is clearer as untainted water: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat, boys, you’re in trouble” (“Down”). To start talking about RTJ3 we might to go back to a Killer Mike song released back in 2008 in his album PL3DGE. The song in question is “God In The Building 2”, a song that Mike wrote at the crossroads, a song that talked about his life choices when his future was extremely uncertain, a song that El-P couldn’t stop listening to the point of his girlfriend asking him why was he listen to it so much to what he replied “Baby, sometimes you just get it right. This motherfucker got it right on this song.” The opening track on RTJ3, “Down”, seems to tap into that same mindset even if the times have changed for them, in a way. There’s even some ideas repeated in both songs – the Devil being a lie, people praying for Mike’s demise, and his unshakable will to take the high road.
If “Jeopardy” (opening track of RTJ2) was just nasty as fuck, then opening track “Down” is the deep state of consciousness through meditation before going to war. And that’s what they are doing here, they are going to war and not even the lack of bulletproof vest seems to slow down their will – “This is spiritual warfare that you have been dealing with. This is not a fight that you have been dealing with flesh and blood but this is a fight against principalities and evil doers and unclean spirits” (“Talk To Me”). Not that RTJ were born in a shit-free era but things have escalated rather quickly in the last couple of years and when 2016 gives strong hints that the end is near, the deadliest duo of our times rise once again to deliver their most cutting edge effort, firing bullets with the precision of Simo Häyhä and offering a clearness in this dark times when a revolution seems like the only option.
RTJ3 goes after the masters in the name of the “classless masses”, and in doing it takes as fair game the show of horrors that is war (that is ok taking advantage of children), the corruption that seems inherent to power, police brutality, the unrelentless greed that leads to obnoxious atrocities, the consequences of political correctness, the lack of empathy that dominates our world, our horrible “leaders”, and much more. In a time where music seems to make an effort to not be social and politically aware, in a time where people are losing money because they dare to tell what they think is the truth, Killer Mike and El-P say “FUCK YOU!” and take advantage of their spotlight to speak their minds in an unforgiving way, making it impossible (at least if you have a little bit of shame) to overlook the message. But even though their art holds an extremely high value, there’s not elitist manners to it. RTJ’s art on RTJ3 thrives with its appealing sounds and moves, creates excitement at every weird ass sound, and even in its eclectic nature – El-P is one of the dopest producers to ever do it, and his greatness (“I’m the son of Rick Rubin rushing full-thrust,” he says) has been untouchable even when he pushes himself like he did with this masterpiece of an album – is able to grab every single one of us, never assuming that the audience is too dumb to get it.
When Run the Jewels was created, there was a seed planted in the ground. A few years later that same seed is bearing more fruit that we could ever imagined. A fruit that can feed millions of “hungry” people. The question is: will we be strong and courageous enough to eat the fruit, to rise up and fight, or are we just going to look at it while it rots?