Run the Jewels’ Run the Jewels 2 (Known throughout the rest of this review as RTJ2) was one of the best rap albums of 2014 without a doubt. It showed Killer Mike & El-P coming together and really getting on the same wavelength required to become a stellar duo. Now on Run the Jewels 3 (RTJ3), dropped for free as a digital download through RTJ’s website on Christmas Eve, we see them stating their manifesto for capturing the only jewel left to run: yourself. Through the group’s best production to date and a camaraderie that’s only seemed to grow stronger in-between album releases, RTJ3 shows a dynamic duo that is still fighting like hell and keeping their eyes firmly on the prize.
El-P has produced RTJ3 to perfection. It’s the same unique production that helped RTJ2 brought to its next logical conclusion, seeing that it all comes from the same source—but it’s not overly homogenized or familiar. With instrumentals that run the gamut from being ripped straight from an action movie soundtrack (like the viciously exuberant “Talk to Me”) to songs such as the hopeful, yet hard hitting “Thursday in the Danger Room” that make you want to shake your ass and then land on it with tears streaming down your face, this album is in no short supply of great music to back some of the best lyrical work the group has done to date. The group uses RTJ3 as their soapbox to lay out their manifesto, an endeavor made more legitimate through each track leading into the next to show that there are truly no gaps between one group of thoughts and the next one when it comes to these two. Ideas of making people laugh while they’re still here, staying focused on a goal in order to keep from becoming complacent and seeing the those who have been killed by police rise from the dead (literally and figuratively) to exact their revenge. There is no one subject that RTJ can’t touch on in their quest for world domination. There are also more than a few nuggets of wisdom throughout the album that go past conspiracies and lies to talk about how to survive the crazy world we’ve been shoved into as a side-effect of being yanked from the ether of nonexistence without our consent. But don’t worry—it’s all done with the same ridiculous sense of humor that we’ve all come to expect from Jamie and Mikey, nun pussy punchlines included.
Though there are plenty of zingers and brilliant lines in the lyrics backed by inimitable instrumentals, the real thing that shines in of these songs lyrically and musically are the strong and catchy choruses. Some of these songs are just “Whoo!” with a phrase thrown between them like on “Legend Has It”, other times they’re fully formed rallying cries like in the larger than life “Don’t Get Captured”. Whatever they are, it doesn’t matter, because RTJ consistently kills whatever the hook is on any one of these tracks. If you don’t find yourself spelling out the word “gold” over and over again like El and Mike on “Stay Gold”, you may need to go see a doctor as something is clearly amiss. They are just too infectious to not hum, sing in your head or scream at the moon while under the influence of a dangerously crafted drug cocktail.
RTJ2 may have been the album that solidified what Run the Jewels is all about, but RTJ3 is the purest possible distillation of what Run the Jewels is all about. The absurdity, chaos and thoughtfulness that were present before now feel more legitimate than ever, seeing as that’s the world we currently live in. With its banging beats, calls to action and mournful eulogies for those lost, RTJ3 could very well be the soundtrack to the apocalypse. Even if we are headed to a Mad Max-esque future, I’m sure there will be plenty of war boys who are bumping this album on their way to Valhalla. Plus, the album is free from the group’s website, so, there’s no reason not to at least give it a shit before we’re all blown to smithereens.