When Run the Jewels, the collaboration between New York rapper/producer El-P, and Atlanta rapper Killer Mike, dropped their first record in 2013, it was a full-force uppercut to the chin of hip hop. It was loud, angry, deftly written and the two’s chemistry was immediately palpable. With “Run the Jewels 2” the year after, they (somehow) improved in all the areas they were excelling, topped multiple year-end lists, and solidified themselves as one of the best hip hop projects of the decade so far.
Now, with “Run the Jewels 3,” they, amazingly, outdo themselves once again. While RTJ2 was chock full of furious bangers, and RTJ3 has its fair share as well, El-P mixes things up a bit with his beats. Songs like “Everybody Stay Calm” and “Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost)” tread new ground. They’re more low-key and nuanced, and perfectly compliment the ferocious bangers like “Panther Like a Panther” and “Legend Has It” (two of the best tracks of last year) that fill the rest of the record.
The duo’s lyrical content has gotten even better as well. They could have stuck purely with the pissed off tough guy rap that was working so well for them, but instead they enhance it by adding an intense political side. The both of them have always been politically outspoken, Killer Mike especially, but this is the first RTJ record to have an overt political heat to them. Pointedly vicious lyrics take aim at Trump, fascism, and authority. The closing track, “A Report to the Shareholders/Kill Your Masters,” which features a surprise appearance from Rage Against the Machine front man Zack de la Rocha, is probably the most piecing track they’ve ever made.
In trying times like these it is important to have an outlet in music, and Run the Jewels fit the bill. Not only have they perfected the heavy as bricks song formula, but they’ve managed to make them politically and socially relevant as well. With only a few years in existence, and a handful of records, RTJ are already breaking in legendary status in the annals of hip hop. An impressive feat indeed.