All photos courtesy of Oriana Belavic.
El’s fingerprints have been all over the duo’s work, even predating the formation of Run the Jewels. Working together on Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music, El functioned as the sole producer and has extended that role (as well as rapping, of course) on all three of Run the Jewels’ records. So it’s not like his style hasn’t been heard loud and clear.
But on Run the Jewels 3, it’s just different.
That end-of-the-world desperation of Fantastic Damage or I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead is there. The feeling isn’t Killer Mike’s desire for change through extreme and/or far left means, it’s a record of “we’re all fucked and here’s a banger about it”.
This isn’t a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just a thing. For me, it’s welcome because I love when El-P’s stuff sounds like the soundtrack to the end of the world. For others, it might not be what they’re looking for. This certainly sits as a pretty clear post-Drumpf record. End times are coming.
We’re all fucked, but our roving gang during the apocalypse will be led by El-P and Killer Mike.
But regardless what you think of the new record, there’s no disputing this: Run the Jewels has a way of getting a crowd whipped into a frenzy. No matter what they’re doing, people rally behind Run the Jewels. They seem to be one of the do-no-wrong, bulletproof acts out there.
In Cleveland, when I saw them this past Saturday night (January 14th, 2017), it was a something more than just a show. It was a group of people all there to have fun, but sharing a certain mindset.
The entire standing room area became a crazy pit of wildness.
At the same time, progressive ideals and respect governed the night. A quarter of the way through the set, Killer Mike reminded everyone to be respectful to the numerous women in attendance and the crowd cheered that wildly. Another example is in the fall, El-P declared he was done wearing red hats after the election of Donald Drumpf and the subsequent proliferation of red Make Donald Drumpf Again hats. There wasn’t one red hat to be seen in the Cleveland House of Blues.
Not to say civility ruled the evening.
Run the Jewel’s whole aesthetic is based around talking crazy shit and nobody is dope/talented enough to call them out on it. The crowd eats this up. After starting the set with three tracks off Run the Jewels 3, they lit the room on fire with savage and flagrant “Blockbuster Night Pt. 1”. The new stuff had the crowd going, but when they dipped back into the first and second record, people just went absolutely nuts. This short of held true all night. New stuff? People were wild. Stuff from the first two records? People were WILD.
But this all highlights the dichotomy of Run the Jewels.
Go ahead, get crazy. Say wild shit and have fun. Talk trash on your enemies. But at the end of the day? You’re going to respect your brethren. It’s an unspoken thing. Sure, we know where they stand politically. But it’s more than that. It’s a philosophy.
More pics of RTJ in the slider below.
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).