Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels

The perfect balance between what Killer Mike and El-P are about.

Label: Fool's Gold Records

Rating: 8

When this year’s Adult Swim singles project opened with a track from El-P and Killer Mike collaborating as ‘Run The Jewels’, it’s fair to say people got a bit excited. So when they released this self-titled debut long-player as a free download, seemingly without a great deal of warning, those same folks were rightfully delirious.

Of course people are hyped. These are two of the most mesmerising, forward-thinking hip hop artists around; men who released two of the finest albums of last year, and make some of the most innovative sounds of their genre; El-P’s more abstract ‘Cancer For Cure’ and Killer Mike’s more straight-up ‘R.A.P. Music’ (which El-P produced). ‘Run The Jewels’ is a glorious synthesis of the two, with the rappers trading attention-grabbing verses over El-P’s futuristic beats.

The production is superlative, with intricate beats, scratchy synths and looped drums all coming together to create whirling, dystopian soundscapes that only enhance the rhymes. It makes for an album that’s both anxious and buoyant; one rattling with righteousness and retrofuturistic funk.

There’s a sense here that the pair are letting their hair down, having fun and entertaining themselves; seeing where they can take their lines. And at times that brings to mind MF Doom. There’s a freewheeling spirit on show, as they try to outdo each other with rhymes and fluid delivery that becomes almost immersive.

That means this is not so much a ‘concept album’ - there’s no explicit deeper messages here - although on anti-drug track ‘DDFH’ (‘do dope / fuck hope’), Mike spits about how the war on drugs has affected young black men (”cause if you ain’t Jigga or Puff you doin’ time / and even then you might get ten, word to Shyne’).

But mostly it’s El-P and Mike trying to outdo each other with over-the-top threats of violence and graphic explanations of how they’ll ‘fuck you up’. So there’s Mike on the title track saying ‘I’ll pull this pistol, put it on your poodle or your fuckin’ baby,’ and El-P responding on ‘Twin Hype Back’ (which sees Prince Paul reprise his Chest Rockwell routine) ‘Me and Mike’ll go Twin Hype and do a dance on your windpipe / put your fuckin’ jazz hands back in your pants or get them shits sliced.’

Big Boi gets in on the act on ‘Banana Clipper’, and it’s the album’s most direct and accessible track, finding the perfect balance between what Killer Mike and El-P are about: two parts club banger, and two intricate, layered soundscape - with a large helping of their twin otherworldly charisma.

That’s what ‘Run The Jewels’ does best. It’s a swaggering victory lap for two artists at the peak of their creativity; it’s a record that sees their talents fused in the most cohesive way; it’s a coming together of immense talents. Come in to their world, as warped and as wondrous as it may seem, because ‘Run The Jewels’ is a fusion of two men at the top of their game.