Back in 2012, when Killer Mike and El-P first collaborated on his critically acclaimed album, R.A.P. Music, helmed entirely by El-P himself behind the boards, few would have guessed that the odd pairing between the Dungeon Family and Company Flow alumni would be anything more than a novel, one-and-done collaboration between the Atlanta emcee and New York underground producer, let alone the pre-cursor to a full-blown musical legacy. Fast-forward nearly five years, three critically acclaimed albums, one remix album, several tours, and a Coachella performance later, Run the Jewels has transformed from simply being an unexpected, chance collaboration into an explosive, electrifying partnership and seized the crown as one of the most successful rap duos in recent memory.
After releasing the album for free digitally online on Christmas eve as an early gift for fans three weeks ahead of its scheduled release date, Run the Jewels 3 has finally received a physical release for brick and mortar retailers where fans can get their hands on a physical hard copy filled with a various assortment of bonus items. Serving as a follow-up to 2014’s Run the Jewels 2 which was also released as a free download as well as receiving a physical release on CD and LP, Run the Jewels 3 continues the duo’s tradition being funny, political, funky, introspective and lyrical all juxtaposed behind the backdrop of relentless, pounding soundscapes supplied by El-P. Like its predecessors, Run the Jewels 3 is an unrelenting 14 track journey with Killer Mike and El-P effortlessly trading bars over the buzzy, electric production that has become the group’s hallmark sound. Run the Jewels 3 sounds and plays not unlike an action movie, even down to the album’s interior artwork, rarely taking a break nor giving the audience a chance to catch their breath as Killer Mike and El-P barrel through verse after verse like lyrical wrecking balls yielding to no obstacle.
At a length of 14 tracks, Run the Jewels 3 is the duo’s longest release to date; spanning over the length of 52 minutes. The 14 track album also features the most illustrious and eclectic cast of guest performers yet, featuring the likes of Danny Brown, Trina, Boots, Joi, Tuned Adenimpe, Kamasi Washington and an unaccredited Zack de la Rocha on the album’s closing track ‘A Report to the Shareholders / Kill Your Masters’. Other stand out tracks include ‘2100’ which was released as a single on SoundCloud the day after the 2016 presidential election with the message, “For our friends. for our family. for everyone who is hurting or scared right now. here is a song we wrote months ago. we weren’t planning on releasing it yet but… well it feels right, now. its about fear and its about love and it’s about wanting more for all of us. It’s called 2100. we hope it finds you well”. The politically-charged track begins with Killer Mike rapping “How long before the hate that we hold lead us to another Holocaust? Are we so deep in it that we can’t end it? Stop, hold, ever call it off it’s too clear, nuclear’s too near and the holders of the Molotov, say that ‘Revolution’s right here, right now’ and they ain’t callin’ off”. Though penned months prior, the song’s timeliness mirroring similar sentiment that much of the public feels in uncertain times is a testament to the duo’s foresight and continued ability to capture the raw tone of the national atmosphere in their music. ‘Thieves! Screamed The Ghost’, another stand out cut, is a fiery indictment of U.S. society as Killer Mike and El-P deconstruct the common, hypocritical criticisms of riots and the methods used by the state and mainstream white America in an attempt to shame and blame those that are rioting while refusing to confront or even acknowledge the countless atrocities and justices committed that ultimately lead up to them. Even sampling audio from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s commentary stating “a riot is the language of the unheard”. The song is a cold, straight-faced acknowledgement to the stark reality that historically has been and continues to be the all too real experience for millions of people of color in the U.S.; while vehemently calling out those who continue to ignore the violence, suffering and death that marginalized people and communities continue to experience at the hands of the state in the U.S.. Songs such as ‘Thieves! Screamed the Ghost’ and ‘2100’ prove that Killer Mike and El-P haven’t lost an ounce of their lyrical dexterity and despite their newfound mainstream audience and appeal, still aren’t afraid to speak hard truths and confront injustice in their music.
Being third in any series is rarely held in high esteem, however, Run the Jewels 3 is proof that Killer Mike and El-P have no plans of slowing down and that if anything the group is more focused, angrier and hungrier than ever before. Music, accolades and critical acclaim aside, one actually has to acknowledge and appreciate the friendship between Killer Mike and El-P. In an era and corporatized Hip-Hop scene that seems to have mostly abandoned the institution of the classic rap duo, Killer Mike and EL-P hold the tradition down and prove that some staples never go out of fashion. Three albums in, the duo’s chemistry is still as volatile as ever, and one can hear a genuine, creative friendship that transcends just a business and occupational partnership. Unlike many modern collaboration efforts that more often than not serve as one-and-done albums or filler projects to pad out the space between artists solo releases, Run the Jewels has grown into a thriving, full-fledged partnership that ranks with the likes of Gang Starr, Pete Rock & CL Smooth and other iconic Hip-Hop duos. Run the Jewels 3 is a solid effort that hits all the right notes, at all the right moments. It serves as yet another jewel in the group’s crown which thus far shows no signs of stopping now or anytime time in the near future.
Run the Jewels 3 is available now for free through the Run the Jewels website
and is available in stores now to purchase as well as stream on Tidal, Spotify, Apple Music & iTunes.