Run The Jewels Refine Their Formula On RTJ 3
In the wee hours of Christmas Morning, Killer Mike & El-P slid down our collective chimney leaving 14 tracks under the tree in the form of Run The Jewels 3. Three singles, one spurred on by the Presidential elections, came out between November and December. The tracks were a perfect example of why RTJ have gained a huge following in the four years they’ve been around. Talk to Me released as a high energy blast of the duo lighting up Donald Trump, conspiracies and a jaded view of Modern America. It immediately set the stage for the upcoming release, name dropping the album in its own single. The heavy, thumping beat of Legend has It opens with the line ‘Hear what I say’ and the track takes it slower to make sure we do. By December second, the three releases made it clear we were in for something sick.
Producing an El-P Beat
Both members of Run The Jewels are talented rappers but the group’s defining feature is El-P’s production. He’s making some of the most immediately recognizable beats around and has carved out a style all of his own. There are few people who can make tracks that sound as connected as his without them becoming stale. He’s successfully brought something fresh over the course of three albums and the remix album Meow The Jewels.
RTJ 3 is El-P at his best. Every track has weight behind it thanks to El’s balancing of heavy drum cues, samples and decaying sounds.
Of the five features on the album the stand out is Danny Brown on Hey Kids. Danny is the perfect collaborator for RTJ. The mix of frenetic energy and high pitching he brings to the table knits into the track and elevates him from a featured artist. The high notes on the mainly bass heavy track leave threads that Danny picks up.
Run The Jewels treat a feature of a saxophonist the same as it does Danny Brown’s. Kamasi Washington’s Sax on Thursday in The Danger Room is a subtle element that adds a lot of depth to the track. The same can be said of the Trina and Tunde Adebimpe features. The singers aren’t a huge part of the tracks, Trina features heavier on Panther like a Panther than Adebimpe does in Thieves!, but both artists additions to their tracks elevate the songs without changing them from RTJ’s sound.
The Album as a Whole
RTJ 1 and 2 showed that Mike and El are able to keep an album strong the whole way through. Even if you’re not a fan, it’s hard to make the argument that anything about Run The Jewels doesn’t work. El-P seems incapable of producing a bad beat. RTJ 3 is start to end top tier tracks. Most of them will get a lot of play on their own but the album is one to leave playing the whole way through.
It’s hardly worth mentioning the lyrical content. If you’re going into a Run The Jewels album you can expect some biting commentary. Their decision to release the single 2100 as a reaction to the presidential elections makes that clear without even listening. RTJ 3 continues their streak with Killer Mike resuming the role he’s had in Run The Jewels and his solo work. The Narrator of stories about the government, people, the war on drugs, the rap game.