I'm finna bang this bitch the fuck out! /
You betta’—you might wanna record the way you feelin' like history bein' made
The answer is Run The Jewels /
Your question is “What’s popping?”
The opening and closing lines from the first track on Run The Jewel’s Run The Jewels 2 explode out of the speakers, forming a heart racing top and tail which signals their newfound confidence and the bristling attitude that suffuses their sophomore release. It doesn’t really settle down from there. The album is a timely, affecting, and spite fuelled tour de force by way of Brooklyn, black rights, and cunnilingus.
Like Run The Jewels’ first album, the follow up was released as a free download, which is a sad gesture towards the state of the music biz for emerging artists. (You can, and should, buy a copy.) While you might hear “released for free” and immediately substitute it with “piece of shit”, Run the Jewels have put together a second album which shows off and extends their considerable skills.
Killer Mike and El-P perform a high speed tag team across the eleven tracks, pushing and responding to each other. Notable shifts in delivery between the pair, with each attacking beats differently, could come across as disjointed but here manage to sell both as having different perspectives. It’s noticeable on Oh My Darling Don’t Cry, with El-P running a relatively slow opening, followed by Killer Mike’s rapid fire, spittle fuelled fuck boy takedown.
Coupled with a number of standout verses—including a memorable turn from Zack de la Roca on Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)—the album bristles with anger at every turn. Righteous fury, almost. Given the ongoing political fuckwittery in the United States, you’d think artists would be up in arms, and yet this year alone we’re treated to three (!) more songs about big assess, another one about craving nice things, and one on how haters gon’ hate.
In Run The Jewels’ world, haters not only gon’ hate, haters gon' to use systemic privilege to keep themselves in power. Take it away, Killer Mike:
We overworked, underpaid, and we underprivileged /
They love us, they love us (why?) /
Because we feed the village /
You really made it or just became a prisoner of privilege? /
You willing to share that information that you’ve been given? /
Like who really run this? /
Like who really run that man that say he run this? /
Who who really run that man that say he run this, run run run run this? /
Like who really fund this? /
Like who really fund who say he fund this? /
Like who in the world gon' tell Donald Sterl who to put on the
“you can’t come” list?
In a year of shitty politics, worse economic disparity, and the boil over of years of frustration regarding deaths at the hands of the police, parts of this album almost function as a document of record. What is so special about Run The Jewels 2 is that it doesn’t get weighed down in the political at the expense of the musical—it understands the limits of the medium.
Further, it manages to highlight the ongoing racial divide in a purported post-racial America; El-P raps about hearing helicopters all the time, unable to sleep, while Killer Mike riffs on the horror of the sound of police sirens. Both talk about being on the wrong side of a system designed for someone else.
Run The Jewels 2 deserves to be a classic because, more than any other release this year, it responds to the context of the social and political environment around it.