I’m not sure how to go about writing a review for Run The Jewels 3. Powerful? In your face? Urgent? Yeah, all of those things. I don’t have the history and hours clocked in with many hip hop albums to compare it to other records. I’ve only recently found my in with the world of hip hop. One of the albums that opened my eyes a bit to how good hip hop can be was Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music back in 2012. There was a power behind his delivery that grabbed me. He seemed to rap with purpose. He was real, as opposed to so much mainstream hip hop that just sounds like processed digital cha-chings in the pockets of record executives. With El-P, I was familiar more with his production work than I was with his albums. When I first heard “Banana Clipper” off Run The Jewels 1 I was hooked. It was the sound of a band stalking. It was the sound of two guys that completely get each other and clicking on a level like Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, and with the visceral wit of a Lenny Bruce or Richard Pryor. They’re musical, but they’re funny, too. Like a foul-mouthed Greek chorus. Funny in a way where after you laugh you have to think a bit. Run The Jewels 2 was the crazy, everything goes record that proved Killer Mike and El-P were the best at doing what they do. It was this Caligula-like party where everything was up for grabs. It was as smart as it was perverse(and it was at times pretty perverse.)
So now we have Run The Jewels 3. It’s coming off of a year where Killer Mike was a very vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders. It was a year of political strife, social, racial, and personal divides, and a general feeling of things getting bad. Run The Jewels 3 feels like a call to arms. It’s a stripped down, visceral laser shot into the heart of the Death Star that was 2016.
I’ve heard the phrase “post-apocalyptic” mentioned when describing Killer Mike and El-Ps RTJ3 and I can definitely hear that. Gone are the brag fests of “36” Chain” and “Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1”, and in their place are tracks like album opener “Down”, where Killer Mike talks about hoping he never has to go back to “my days of dealing with dope”. El-P says “gonna need a little hope, boys, on the double.” There’s still big songs, like “Legend Has It”, “Call Ticketron”, and “Panther Like A Panther(Miracle Mix)” where these two get to drop expert rhymes and sound like they’re having a great time doing it. But this record is more than over-the-top rhymes and killer production. 2016 is in these songs, haunting it and informing it. Songs like “Don’t Get Captured”, “Thursday In The Danger Room”, “Oh Mama”, and “A Report To The Shareholders/Kill Your Masters” are direct hits to the mess we’re in now. “Thursday In The Danger Room” is on a whole other level with Kamasi Washington adding some incredible horns.
RTJ3 is a mission statement. It’s a fearless and gut-level reaction to where we’re at at the beginning of 2017. Killer Mike and El-P have done it once again. This is the soundtrack to the great unknown we call the future.