Run The Jewels makes no sense on paper. Killer Mike and El-P look about as different as they sound, as do their lives and their upbringing.
The duo exposed the world to something completely unprecedented last summer when they released their self-titled debut project. It sounded like nothing else that the entire music industry could produce. By blending the sounds of Atlanta and Brooklyn, a formula that (again) doesn't seem to work in any plausible atmosphere, something new was born.
Killer Mike is a man that defies logic and octave. His delivery and vocabulary are nearly as commanding as his presence. El-P is one of the godfathers of underground rap in the 21st Century, as he is the co-founder and CEO of Def Jux, and the producer of some of the grimier records of the last 15 years.
Their similarities exist in the fact that they both have been dwelling in the shadows of much larger names in a crowded market. Mike, part of the legendary Dungeon Family, will almost always be referred to as a feature artist on OutKast songs in music's formal settings. El-P may always be seen as the mind behind Def Jux and the early gems he laid the foundation for.
For now, the legacy they've made is propped up by two of the most unapologetic, boom-bap records of all-time.
Last week, I woke up before work and went through my usual routine of struggling to get out of bed while purging my email inbox, when I noticed a line from "Mike and Jaime." (Killer) Mike and Jaime (El-P) have this habit of being oddly endearing to their fans, at least moreso than the usual record label mailing lists, when they announce big news. That day, they gave their fans the heads up that Run The Jewels 2 was being released a few days earlier than planned, and enclosed a download link for everyone to use.
This, in itself, is part of the allure of the duo. In a very unabashed way, they realize that free music is the best music. And, while labels and the few existing music retail markets might clamor for a shrink-wrapped physical album for $15, RTJ plays to their fans' interests. Though I must say, I did pay for the album... and a t-shirt. For $25, I couldn't really complain.
RTJ2 is nearly as satisfying as the first. The only real complaints I have about the new installment have to do with the incredibly cheesy, poorly written guest verse from Zack de la Rocha (from Rage Against the Machine) on Close Your Eyes, and the fact that the shiny "OMG THIS IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT AND REFRESHING" lacquer isn't as present the second time around.
Altogether, the album is one of the best efforts of the year, regardless of genre. It's energetic, very well produced, and fluid. Nothing feels disjointed throughout the entire playlist, possibly because there's no radio friendly single present to water down the rest of the tracks. There isn't one song that aims to impress anyone, or go out of its way to outright offend the listener.
As an added bonus, one fan had an idea capable of conquering the internet, to launch a Kickstarter campaign to get RTJ to record something called "Meow the Jewels," which would entail the duo re-recording the entire album using only cat sounds. It worked, and now it's happening.
Run The Jewels has found that polarity in a vast hip-hop industry is one of the keys to success. Fans from all over the world can now access the sounds of two complete opposite markets in one succinct package. Hopefully next summer, we'll get another chapter.