El-P and Killer Mike were bound to cross paths at some point. The former Company Flow frontman has carved a niche as a beloved independent producer and emcee, while the latter has become a counter-culture hero who has become a respected political voice (not to mention a critically acclaimed emcee). With Run the Jewels, released as a free mixtape by Fool’s Gold Records, El-P and Killer Mike serve up a reminder that gritty, original hip-hop is alive and well. El-P handles production duties and although his beats are permeated with electronica and dubstep influences, it’s authentic hip-hop in the vein of dead prez and Company Flow.
Mike and El-P impressively trade 8- or 16-bar verses back-to-back on the 10 tracks contained on Run the Jewels, which clocks in at only 33 minutes and features few guests (namely, Big Boi on “Banana Clipper” and Prince Paul on “Twin Hype Back”). Still, it’s 33 minutes of aggressive rhymes and double-time flows that require multiple rewinds to fully appreciate. The grimy factor and political overtones are at full tilt on “DDFH,” an acronym for “do dope f**k hope,” which are ad libbed throughout the song. The track is as mosh-pit-inducing as anything released this year as the multiple guitars and spacey sounds combined with Killer Mike’s lyrics effectively channel dead prez’ consciousness but utilize reverse psychology to make the point.
Elsewhere, El-P, Mike and Big Boi put on a flexin’ clinic for aspiring rappers with “Banana Clipper” over an instrumental that evokes Run-DMC’s Raising Hell. Big Boi checks with a focused verse but doesn’t outshine either Mike or El-P. Each rapper’s unique cadence and delivery make the song one of the album’s highlights and the kind of material that fans will recite word-for-word at shows.
For all of the impressive lyrical acrobatics and superb beats, it’s hard to believe that Run The Jewels is just a freebie. Thankfully (for the artists), the free material is supported by a Killer Mike/El-P tour of the U.S. and Canada starting July 10. Without a doubt, experiencing these songs live will be worth the admission – not to mention probably cheaper and better than any 3D fare Hollywood has to offer in theaters.