Run Them Jewels Fast: RTJ II is a Surefire Blockbuster Night
Put the kids to bed. Turn off the late night TV. Retreat to your basement den. Clear your surroundings. Put on noise cancelling headphones. Crank up the bass till your computer begs for mercy. Lock the door. This is the safest configuration for listening to Run the Jewels II. I went into depth on the duo Run the Jewels in my hot track of the week from November 5th. To summarize, RTJ is a rap duo made up of El-P and Killer Mike, both of whom had successful solo careers. They merged in 2013 in what must have looked like the Power Rangers morphin’ together. They released their first album, the self-titled Run the Jewels in 2013. The album shook up the rap industry, as a fresh style.
What separates RTJ from the chaff is their unique style. The duo spout rhymes like auctioneers spout prices, building off one another smoothly. Each rapper has his own style that comes through in their verses. El-P is more laid back and rhyme heavy. Killer Mike is boisterous and almost hypnotically fast and pronounced.
Rap is half vocals and half beats and instrumentals. RTJ II does nothing less than all the way, and the instrumentals are incredibly deep and verbose. It is an auditory treat to crank up the bass and listen to this album. I thought my car was about to shake itself apart while listening and driving around this Thanksgiving/Non-Denominational-Day-of-Reflection break. The screws were shaking, the windows vibrating, and my head bobbing. Listen to the middle of the album. It’s all wonderfully bass-rific.
As I do for most of my reviews, here’s is the track by track analysis:
The scale is arbitrary, and the points don’t matter.
- “Jeopardy”- I am kind of dumbstruck why this song was chosen for the intro. Besides the hilarious and scene setting opening sound bite, the song is pretty lackluster. The beat is strong, but the lyrics are rambling and nowhere near as cohesively hilarious as the rest. Killer Mike does call out some of his imaginary enemies, which is always needed. 2/5
- “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” – The bass almost killed me. I almost died. I absolutely love the ridiculousness that is this song. The beat features a really odd sounding bit which sounds like a child’s voice manipulated past recognition. It contributes to the otherworldly vibe. Even better is the surprise whipping sound. The breakdown is fast and makes me want to punch something. 5/5 (WARNING: VIDEO FEATURES NUDITY)
- “Blockbuster Night Part 1”- WHERE IS PART II? Picking up right where the last song left off. The beat is grinding and sets up a really cool pattern of rhyme. This song highlights one thing that RTJ does great—sound effects at relevant lyrics. The song doesn’t fully live up to its incredible build and introduction but that makes it even weirder. I like it. 4.5/5
- “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” – I made this Hot Track of the Week earlier in November for a reason. This song is fire. Literally my headphones combusted. Zach de la Rocha is just as tight in his lines and his chorus as the duo. This song is one of the best from the album. It combines RTJ’s strengths: ridiculously aggressive lyrics, hard beats, and eccentric remixing. 5/5
- “All My Life”- I am a big fan of the beat in this song. It almost sounds like an old 8 bit video game soundtrack retooled for gangster rap. I don’t really like how the vocal adds on to it in the background. They just do nothing for me. El-P is really on here, delivering some great rhymes. I think the chorus is just lacking something. It is pretty uneventful at the big builds. 3.5/5
- “Lie, Cheat, Steal” – Another strong song. This song is very diverse. The beat and instrumental changes as often as the topic that El-P currently says he will kill. I also feel that the chorus is just not fully what it could be, but the rest of the song is on its top game. Killer Mike is on his lyrical game, being aggressive and over the top in all the right ways. Fun. 4/5
- “Early” – The intro is a bit generic, but the breakdown is brutal. This song portrays a great story of urban survival. Killer Mike tells a tale of police brutality and ruining one’s life. The chorus is odd; it’s a vocal bite from Boots. But the beat marches through. More awesome sound bites are to be found (including the Pac-Man death noise, a great touch). This song is especially relevant right now given the recent attention to police brutality around the country. 4/5
- “All Due Respect” – Back to the fun. This song features Travis Barker on drums. Yep, from Blink-182. I am amazed how RTJ can pull all these people from such diverse musical fields to roll with them in this ghetto journey of an album. The drums are nothing out of the ordinary, so don’t expect Barker to do something incredible. The powerful bass stands out more. 4/5
- “Love Again” – This song is wonderfully ridiculous. Killer Mike sings a love song right out of the mind of a gangster. It’s vile and explicit, but all fun. The guest vocalist, Gangsta Boo, creates an interesting dynamic. She is a powerful female lead singing about how much she loves her man pleasing her. That’s not something you hear often in rap. This song is hilarious, but just don’t play it out loud on Thanksgiving dinner. 4.5/5
- “Crown” – This song slows the pace down considerably. It’s both a good and bad thing. It bores me, but the instrumentals are cool. 3/5
- “Angel Duster” – What a closer! This song sounds like RTJ rapping over a Purity Ring instrumental track, which it might be for all I know. The instrumentals flow at a both fast and slow pace. The lyrics show that this is the most self-reflective song since the intro, a nice full circle touch. It feels much more sincere than anything previous. The lyrics are more slow, and less in your face. The end. 5/5
This album is over the top. It’s ridiculous and aggressive. But it does almost everything right. RTJ takes risks, and does things unconventionally. The choruses are not catchy and the bass lines are not consistent. But why should they be? This is the core of RTJ: glorious fun.