Album Review: Meow the Jewels – Run the Jewels

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“Y’all gonna do a whole cat album?” These are the opening words to hip-hop duo Run the Jewels’s new release Meow the Jewels, an album that remixes the songs from their sophomore release, Run the Jewels 2, using almost entirely cat noises as instrumentation. It started as a dream; Run the Jewels, in anticipation for Run The Jewels 2, offered a special package known as the “Meow the Jewels Package,” its description being, “Run the Jewels will re-record RTJ2 using nothing but cat sounds for music.” Its initial price was $40,000, and soon after this special package was announced, a Kickstarter project sprang up to fund it. Now, a year after project was conceived, Meow the Jewels is a reality. Let’s get down to brass tacks; while the idea behind this album is hilarious, Run the Jewels have seriously outdone themselves with respect to delivering a quality remix album that is on par with their previous releases. Before my first listen of the album, I had a preconceived notion that it was going to be one big practical joke—there’s no way only that an entire album can be made using no instrumentals whatsoever, only cat noises; however, after just listening to the first song, it became clear that Run the Jewels and the other producers who helped weren’t joking around. The cat noises are so flawlessly integrated into the song as instrumentation that it’s all too easy to forget that you’re listening to meows and purrs in the first place.

The opening tracks, “Meowpurrdy” and “Oh My Darling Don’t Meow”, carry the same energy and power that one would expect when listening to Run the Jewels—heavy, unrelenting bass, violent lyrics, and an upbeat production which epitomizes party culture—and quite honestly, I personally like them more than the songs from which they’re based; in true remix spirit, they’re good enough to even pass as feature songs on an album.

Unfortunately, the album loses some of its momentum as it progresses. As awkward as it feels critiquing a cat album, this album isn’t as perfect as the hip-hop community anticipated it would be. Besides a few notable songs, the beats come off as simple, light, and even downright lazy. Because the violent, explicit lyrics are kept in the remixes, there exists a conflict between the lyrics and the beat, which is both disappointing and underwhelming.

Going into this album, I thought it would be difficult to rate it from a quasi-objective point of view; however, I find it much easier than I thought it would be. This album is much less of a joke than you, me, or anyone could have imagined, and for that reason, it demands and requires the same metric of grading as any other album. This album does have its weaknesses, yes—the simply-produced beats can be monotonous and the thrill of listening to cat noises can eventually lose its allure—but they are outweighed by its strengths, primarily the fact that this album evokes the same degree of seriousness that any other album would present. From a more general perspective, it’s amazing to me that a group of people can crowdfund an experimental album made almost entirely of cat sounds. What a time to be alive.

Favorite Tracks: “Meowpurrdy (El-P Remix)”,Oh My Darling Don’t Meow (Just Blaze Remix)”, “Creown (3D of Massive Attack Remix)”

https://play.spotify.com/user/1244263897/playlist/5QTbfxBwTa6zi2CExGCcPM

Artwork designed by Joel Nixon @GoodMorningJoel.