Monday, 5 August 2013

El-P and Killer Mike - Run The Jewels album review


Following the success of Killer Mike's El-P produced album "R.A.P. Music" the duo decided to produce a full length album together.  This time with both emcees rhyming over El-P's sonic creations.  Obviously this is a very good turn of events but what takes this from being a good thing to a superb thing is the fact that they have decided to give the album away free.  If you go to their website and give them your email address they will email you a link to download the whole album (lyrics and liner notes too!).
 The album is being released on Fools Gold Records and if you want to buy a physical copy there are a number of packages including CDs, vinyl and various merchandise.  El-P and Killer Mike are currently touring the album across the US and will hopefully take the show to Europe in the near future.  The album is ten tracks long with no interludes (good news) and only features three guests; Big Boi, Until The Ribbon Breaks and Prince Paul (reviving his Chest Rockwell character from the Handsome Boy Modelling School albums).  The album is entirely produced by El-P with Little Shalimar co producing some of the tracks and it was produced at Sneaky Studios and the Snake Pit.
The album starts of with the the title track "Run the Jewels", which has an overpowering bass line and a double time drum track.   El-P is spitting fire and Mike is doing the same, dropping lines like "Cowering like cowards cowering on concrete showers in Riker's Island"and "Under your bed I'm here growling, same time under the blanket you're cowering", a whole lot of cowering going on it appears.  The beat is grade A El-P joint, creating an instant head nodder with dope synths towards the end of the track.  The second track is "Banana Clipper" featuring Outkast's Big Boi.  If you had have told me in the mid-nineties when Company Flow were at the front of the NY indie scene that El-P was going to be producing tracks with OutKast's Big Boi I would have been very skeptical indeed.  However this track works for a number of reason;  the beat is of course a sick collage of drums and electronic sounds, the emcees bounce of each other like they have been a group for years and each emcee represents with dope verses.  The beat works well with the emcees to produce a dope track.
"36* Chain" is the third track on the album and is a somewhat slower affair although still keeping the double time drums.  Each emcee drops a long verse followed by a short verse each before the fade out.  The beat itself has some nice crisps snares, deep bass and sounds that appear to have been sampled from an 80s video game.

"DDFH "is the forth track on the album and features a bouncy bass line with tight snare drums and ominous synth stabs and strange strings popping up from time to time.  The title of the track is an acronym for Do Dope Fuck Hope and the subject matter is varied; Mike seems to focus on police brutality whereas El-Producto seems to be talking about a drug induced haze.  Although both emcees' subject matter is serious the track has a somewhat lighter feel to it probably because of the call and response chorus format.  At half way through the album the duo gives us "Sea Legs"a track that sounds like it could have been a B-Side from the Funcrusher Plus era.  The electric strings and the flattened drums combined with the cymbals takes you back to the late nineties NY indie scene.  The hook is interesting with El-P and Mike telling us "Trying Not to walk crooked while this anchors dropped, but I been out on them choppy waves and its hard to say where this land begins and this water stop, I got sea legs".  "Job Well Done" takes us into the second half of the album and features Until The Ribbon Breaks on the hook.  The track starts of with Mike spitting "Killer Mike and El-P, fuck boys know the combination ain't healthy" before delving into why these guys are not a healthy option whilst Until The Ribbon Breaks provides a haunting hook between verses.  The beat is another electric soundscape over a heavy bass line and double time drums with some nice scratching towards the end.
The seventh track on the album is "No come down" another track detailing the roller coaster ride of being high over a sick beat.  Its a slower tempo track than the previous joints but has a layered sound with cymbals, synth stabs and a nice 808.  On any other album this would be a stand out track but on here it feels slightly weaker than the rest because of their strength.  The eighth track and first leak from the album is "Get it".  A strong albeit slower track than others on the album but the almost marching tempo joint grabs your attention.  The duo are on point with their rhymes and the change in beat for bridge works well create a track morphs into a different beats as it it progresses.  One of the highlights of the album which makes it easy to understand why it was the first leak.  The penultimate track on the album, "Twin Hype Back" features Prince Paul utilising his Chest Rockwell persona.  The beat is interesting and features numerous different instruments changing tempo and style throughout.  Chest Rockwell drops obscene ad libs over the bridge whilst the beat switches from cowbells to hi hats.  A dope track highlighting El-P's production skills as well as the lyricism of the duo.  El-P starts his first verse off with one of my favorite lines from the whole album "Me and Mike'll go Twin Hype and do a dance on your windpipes, put your fuckin' Jazz hands back in your pants or get them shits sliced" that made me smile but perhaps thats an indication of my sick mind.
The album finishes off with "A Christmas Fucking Miracle" which has an ominous beat made up of haunting electric sounds and stark imagery from El-P and Killer Mike.  A slower jam that halfway through appears to fade out only to be resurrected when Killer Mike steps to the mic.  Both emcees delve into their past whilst passing commentary on the present.  There is a nice electric guitar solo sample following Mike's verse before the track finally fades out.  To summarise this is another strong example of El-P's production and the incredible chemistry he shares with Killer Mike on the mic.  I think this album is a shining example of how Hip Hop is capable of taking two diverse artists from different streams of the genre and bringing them together to a produce strong, intelligent and enjoyable Hip Hop.  If you are a fan of El-P's past productions you will of course enjoy this album but also if you are a fan of Dirty South and Atlanta Hip Hop in particular this will be an enjoyable continuation down the path Killer Mike set us on with last year's R.A.P. Music.  To those Hip Hop head who stay firmly in your mainstream bubble I would say before you buy the new Jay-Z, Kanye or Lil' Wayne step out of your comfort zone and try this album.  Theres a very good chance you will enjoy it.

1 comment:

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