Still riding the wake of their much-hyped 2013 debut, El-P and Killer Mike’s second eponymous full-length as Run The Jewels doesn’t need PR stunts to shift units. However, a bizarre crowd-funding campaign caught headlines internet-wide recently, teeing the release up as something truly off-grid.
A throwaway interview comment suggesting the duo might re-record Run The Jewels 2 using only cat noises has become a reality, with a fan-launched, RTJ-approved Kickstarter raising over $60,000 to back Meow The Jewels.
El-P has since auditioned cats for the role, and attracted collaborations from Zola Jesus, Baauer, Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, Boots and Dan the Automator.
Adding fuel to this feline fire, an online leak last week prompted the duo to release the mother project Run The Jewels 2 free of charge via their website.
These are curious twists in a story that’s proved to be something of a rebirth for two 39-year-old elder statesmen of hip-hop. Pre-RTJ, mainstream recognition seemed to be eluding both, with Michael ‘Killer Mike’ Render best known for his associations with Outkast, and Jaime ‘El-P’ Meline as the cult rapper/producer behind the now defunct Def Jux Records.
Fast-forward to 2014, and Atlanta-born Killer Mike and New York native El-P are posing a serious threat to the hip-hop hierarchy with Run The Jewels 2.
Its formula is potent; Killer Mike’s Southern drawl functioning as a codeine chaser to El-P’s tough East Coast inflections, with both rappers flipping rapier single and double-time bars aboard a warped wasteland of 808s, synths and electric guitars, courtesy of El-P and Little Shalimar.
The 11-track album’s themes are as brash as its beats – a paranoid storm of rap braggadocio, drug-addled street politics and comic, articulated aggression. Killer Mike sets the tone on opening track Jeopardy: “You know your favourite rapper ain’t shit, and me I might be, this culture’s representation of God – you might see.”
Rage Against The Machine front man Zach De La Rocha appears on Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck), a reminder that rap-metal made it out of the ’90s alive (just). Rock royalty rears its head again with Blink 182’s Travis Barker featuring amongst the unhinged drums of All Due Respect.
Highlights come from the whiplash-inducing Blockbuster Night Part 1, the shameless honesty of Lie, Cheat, Steal and the X-rated sentiments of Love Again. Elsewhere, Crown is an emotive show-stealer, a remorseful trip that muses on Mike’s experiences as a crack dealer. The album’s closer Angel Duster is truly cinematic – think James Bond smoking PCP in the projects.
On paper, Run The Jewels could be an awkward proposal. Two very different rappers, from very different ends of the hip-hop spectrum, drawing on an alchemy of production influences, from hip-hop and trap to dubstep and rock.
But there’s nothing awkward about this release. It’s a wild, futuristic bully of an album, and one that, amongst the madness, is musically cohesive. As summarised on Blockbuster Night Part 1, “This Run The Jewels shit is murder, mayhem, melodic music”.
Run The Jewels 2 is available now via Mass Appeal Records. Download it free of charge here.
For more information on Meow The Jewels, click here.
Featured photo courtesy of The Come Up Show via Flickr