Album Review: Run The Jewels 2

This week was a good one for Run the Jewels fans in Nashville.  This morning, two days after their sold-out show at Exit/In, Run The Jewels 2, the duo’s long awaited follow-up to their self-titled debut, appeared on my news feed.  I ate up this fresh musical morsel as soon I could.  What I found when I dove into this album was one of the best collection of dope beats, club bangers, and vicious verses I have heard out of the rap scene this year and a continuation of the trademark style that El-P and Killer Mike have developed.

El-P (left) and Killer Mike (right)
El-P (left) and Killer Mike (right)

This album begins with a solemn declaration of the return of the duo in the form of the song Jeopardy.  A slow-burner by Run the Jewels standards, this song starts off with the familiar rantings of Killer Mike’s manic voice echoing loudly.  Entering the album to this is like hearing the voice of your favorite uncle as you walk through the door to your grandmother’s house for the big family Thanksgiving dinner.  It eventually builds the intensity on top of its, for Run the Jewels, unusually jazzy beat as Killer Mike and El-P deliver a track with straightforward brag verses about how they are the best in the game.

The opener serves as an excellent momentum builder for the first half of this album, which features some of Run the Jewels’ finest club bangers such as Oh My Darling Don’t Cry and Close Your Eyes.  It’s hard not to bob your head to the front half of this album.  Although Close Your Eyes features a narrative about a prison, the front half seems to lean more heavily on braggadocio and boasting than the second half.

Eventually, we start to see Run the Jewels broaching on more sensitive social topics.  On Early, Killer Mike’s first verse features a story where he and his wife and son were stopped by police and had guns drawn on them.  In this song the duo recognize the recent events in Ferguson and and express their fear for the rights of not just black Americans, but all Americans, a sentiment that Killer Mike has publicly ( made clear.  On Crown, Killer Mike talks about the regrets of an ex-drug dealer and El-P delivers a biting commentary on the dehumanizing nature of military training.

Run The Jewels 2 Album Cover
Run The Jewels 2 Album Cover

Killer Mike’s lyricism and flow on here is just as strong as his previous work.  As with Run The Jewels 1, I found that Killer Mike tends to steal the show as far as the actual rapping goes.  He delivers absolutely brutal verses on All My Life and All Due Respect.

In general, the beats on this release show El-P’s production prowess at its best.  The instrumentals on tracks like All My Life, Early, and Love Again are absolutely infectious.  El-P has been working more elements of noise and different styles into his latest Run the Jewels beats and the result is incredible.  He has preserved his style from Run The Jewels 1 with subtle evolutions and new ideas here and there.  Overall, I give a big edge in production to this album over their debut self-titled.

The features on this album are just awesome.  Zack De La Rocha contributes a solid verse to Close Your Eyes and there are a couple of features from non-rappers such as BOOTS and Travis Barker that add a little diversity to the album.  My favorite feature, though, comes from Gangsta Boo on Love Again, which features a narrative told from the perspective of a man that falls in love a second time with an old flame.  In the last verse, however, the perspective shifts to the woman in question, Gangsta Boo, and it is revealed that she is just using him for sex and money.  It is a clever song if nothing else and Gangsta Boo’s flow is on point in her verse and hook.

Run the Jewels has not deviated far from the winning formula of their debut self-titled.  Killer Mike and El-P are spitting about mostly the same topics and they are still telling great stories with gripping lyricism.  Their tunes are generally still upbeat and club-ready.  The biggest improvements in my view are found in El-P’s production.  Run the Jewels aren’t exactly blazing a new trail with this LP but any fans of the duo or fans of today’s rap scene will love this release.


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