Run the Jewels, ‘Run the Jewels 3’ | Album Review
Sometimes, the best albums aren’t the albums expected to be commercial successes. Run the Jewels, comprised of rappers Killer Mike and El-P, isn’t a household name. That said, Run the Jewels has developed a reputation as a superb rap duo to the true hip-hop enthusiast. Although RTJ leads an underground career, their third album, Run the Jewels 3, is truly special.
“Down” kicks off Run the Jewels 3 in promising fashion. Both Killer Mike and El-P deliver fiery verses. Even so, it is the hook, featuring Joi, that makes “Down” shine.
“My, my, y’all / I coulda died, y’all / A couple times I took my eyes off the prize, y’all / I know a few people pray for my demise, y’all / But like cream, I had to rise, I had to rise, y’all.”
“Talk to Me” ends up being more electrifying than the opener. Killer Mike sheds through the first verse formidably. El-P has a tough act to follow, but he matches the intensity of his partner in crime. Hook-less, “Talk to Me” doesn’t need a hook – it just feels right. “Legend Has It” loses no luster, keeping Run the Jewels 3 hot. Unlike “Talk to Me,” “Legend Has It” musters up a hook. Even so, the most intriguing aspect of the joint is how Mike and El-P trade bars.
With superb production characterizing Run the Jewels 3, “Call Ticketron” offers one of the best moments. Anchored by a thudding beat and hyper-rhythmic synths, “Call Ticketron” is insane…and brilliant. “Bumaye!” “Hey Kids (Bumaye)” amplifies the eccentricity, bringing Danny Brown along for the ride. Following top-rate verses from Mike and El-P, Brown drops his signature coarse rap vocals and jagged rhymes.
“Word architect, when I arch the tech, I’ll part ya’ neck / Got bars on deck, that Xanax flow, make you nod your head / Like a gram of blow, you inject / My words infect like insects havin’ incest, I’m in check, like pay/day on a Thursday and it’s a Wednesday.”
“Stay Gold” features one of the hottest hooks of the album:
“I got a bad girl / I got a brain-with-an-ass girl / she got a mean bop, I got a lean to the way I walk / and they get it like gold / G-O-L-D G-O-L-D, it’s gold…”
Interestingly, the first portion of the hook also kicks off El-P’s verse, which is a flex-fest encompassing sex and cockiness. Killer Mike elevates the sex to the nth degree on the second verse. Among his best lines references Stockholm syndrome:
“We’re the crooks, we’ll run the jux and kidnap mom from Jazzercise / Get Stockholm syndrome when she get home, mom’s like, ‘I like those f*ckin’ guys.’”
“Don’t Get Captured” follows maliciously, featuring dramatic production and equally blunt rhymes. Politically and socially charged, the record deals with the prevalence of racism and gun violence. Follow- up “Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost),” featuring Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio), easily ranks among the crème de la crème. An incredibly clever, heavy song, “Thieves!” covers racial injustice. Run the Jewels masterfully capture the sentiment of the aftermath such murderous injustices:
“Started with folks just crying / Nothing but broken hearts, sobs, and the shriek of sirens / Right at the spot when the blood’s still drying…”
“2100” (featuring Boots) is complex. The song references the flaws of the world, but also incorporates positivity at times, in spite of the cruelty. Boots embraces “hope” at the end, singing:
“Save my swollen heart / Bring me home from the dark / Take me up, take me up, take me up…”
On the ferocious “Panther Like a Panther,” El-P and Killer Mike clearly don’t give a… After El-P nails the opening verse, Mike drops some of his most aggressive, risqué rhymes. He takes a masterful shot at the Grammys:
“And I refuse to play humble as thought my d*ck itty bitty / I got banana d*ck, your bitch go ape-sh*t if she it.”
From there, he unloads on the preacher’s wife…
“I put my hand up her skirt and then we prayed for a purpose / I baptized her in Jesus name, left her shakin’ and squirtin.’”
Trina adds the icing on top, helping the boys deliver a sick hook, characterized by three simple words: “I’m the sh*t.”
There is nothing calm about the flex-fest of “Everybody Stay Calm,” once more finding Mike and El-P spitting mad game and trading verses. “Oh Mama” ranks among the funkiest joints of Run the Jewels 3. Unapologetic, El-P and Killer Mike trade some of their hardest rhymes of the album. As awesome as “Oh Mama” is, the crowning achievement follows.
“Thursday in the Danger Room”
“Thursday in the Danger Room” featuring saxophonist Kamasi Washington is arguably the best song from Run the Jewels 3. Lyrically, Mike and El-P knock it out of the park, detailing the utter devastation and emptiness left by losing someone special to death. Washington’s superb sax playing further amplifies the emotion of the exceptional penultimate cut. Closer “A Report to the Shareholders / Kill Your Masters” isn’t shabby in the least, concluding the album magnificently. “Kill Your Masters” is arguably the best part of the two, featuring a sweet verse from Zack de la Rocha.
All in all, Run the Jewels “nail it” on Run the Jewels 3. Simply put, Killer Mike and El-P never miss. Every song offers something truly rewarding to the listener. Sure, Run the Jewels 3 won’t receive the commercial attention it deserves, but critically, it’s magnificent.
Gems: “Legend Has It,” “Call Ticketron,” Hey Kids,” “Stay Gold,” “Thieves (Screamed the Ghost),” “Thursday in the Danger Room”