When my wife and I planned our trip to Nashville, unsurprisingly, there were awesome shows every night of our stay. They don’t call it Music City for nothing. On Monday, Oct. 5, I had a choice of what show I wanted to cover – Foo Fighters or Run the Jewels. The choice was easy… I NEEDED to see Run the Jewels.
This choice goes way back to my early 20s, when I was heavily into Aesop Rock, El-P, and the whole Definitive Jux (Def Jux) label. Maybe it was the “independent as fuck” mission statement or just the end-of the-world-by-carpet-bombing production that El-P laced on his work, but it was something that always stuck with me. I was hooked.
So as time went on and Def Jux disintegrated (or went on hiatus, or whatever) I followed everyone from the label’s career, but I was more and more drawn to El-P’s work. This guy was crazy weird/talented as a producer and on the mic, and it’s always been a goal to see him live. He came through Cleveland a few times, most recently in 2012 with Killer Mike on the bill, but my schedule never lined up.
But when Run the Jewels got together, I got excited. Not only did I think it was my best opportunity to see El-P live, but this shit was good. If you haven’t heard the first two Run the Jewels records – close this browser window, download them and listen now. I don’t care if you read my review. You need to hear this.
But chances are you probably have heard them because Run the Jewels are blowing the fuck up and I finally got my opportunity to see them in Nashville. And man, it was rad.
No show I’ve ever experienced had the energy that Run the Jewels did. It’s not even close, really. I’d put their live show toe to toe with just about any other live act I’ve seen when it comes to getting people to lose their shit.
The crowd was a mix of indie kids, hip hop heads, and general music fans – and that makes sense. Run the Jewels transcends genres, not by sound (they are hip hop all the way), but through attitude and atmosphere.
This felt like a punk show. People were emotionally invested in El-P and Killer Mike because they feel like they are part of something bigger. This is the logical extension of El-P’s “independent as fuck” shouts and bringing it to the kids. The audience didn’t give a shit that Run the Jewels sounds nothing like any mainstream hip hop artist right now (and they honestly owe more in influence to rap groups/crews of the late 80s and early 90s), they recognized that this is a movement and it can’t be stopped. Good independent music by people who give a shit transcends all. The old school rap ethos is still apparent and Killer Mike said it best on “Get It”: “I’m stuck in a time capsule when rap was actually factual.”
And about giving a shit, El-P and Killer Mike clearly do. Sure they give a shit about their craft and went hard on stage, giving it their all. But most of all, it’s that they care about each other and their fans. There have been thousands of words written about the friendship between El-P and Killer Mike, but it’s not apparent until you see them on stage smiling, hugging, giving dap, and enjoying performing with each other. This matters. The fans see it. They feed off it.
When two fans got stuck outside the venue trying to bring their cat-related Run the Jewels signs in and security wouldn’t let them, it was Killer Mike who came to the rescue via twitter. I have a ton of respect for Killer Mike’s abilities, but not a lot of artists get involved like that. That’s awesome.
It was obvious that if you like cool shit, you were at the Run the Jewels show. I love the Foo Fighters, and they filled up an arena, but the 1,500 people or so people who were at the Marathon Music Works really knew what was going on.
Oh yea, and Jack White was there. You better be there when Run the Jewels hits your town.
A writerly writer guy who writes about music, basketball and writing. He now writes here, but has written other places too. He also writes for a big fancy company as his 9-5. Writing, writing, writing. If you want to read his basketball writing (or listen to his podcasting, which isn’t writing but you know).