Tag Archives: el-p

The #1 Album of 2014: Run The Jewels 2

Run The Jewels 2 Album Cover

“We have done our job then my friend. Our work is done here.” El-P said when I told him of my desire to knock out my laptop cause I was so jacked when I first heard RTJ2. Wanting to punch my screen in excitement was just one of the many reactions the album elicited on first listen. There was jumping, there was bouncing, there were battle-rap hand gestures, there was eyes-closed-elbow-dancing…Some straight up groove shit. When an album makes you move & react with such passion and fervor towards it right off the bat, chances are you’re staring the Album of the Year in the face.

And with this, Run The Jewels 2 succeeds on multiple levels. It’s not just the explosive energy of the first half of the album into the deeply reflective and tempered honesty of the second half; it’s the genuine and rare cohesion of El-P, Killer Mike & the album’s multiple collaborators; it’s an album by the people and for the people, that was delivered for FREE MUTHAFUCKAH! FREE! And that’s an industry-tilting idea to consider: The Album of the Year was distributed to anyone who wanted it for free. I talked to Run The Jewels about this model back in October and El-P had this to say about it:

It’s our contribution to a relationship with a fan base that we want to continue for a long time. I feel that if you give someone something thats quality and heartfelt then you have a really good basis for establishing real support for people who appreciate it.

I want to control it. If I’m gonna give it away, if its gonna be out there and play the game of “hey everybody, buy my record when it comes out…wink, wink. you already have the record.” Id rather be like “Here’s this gift to you, here’s my gift and here are the ways that you can support and here are the ways that you can buy it”… and for us it works, its a career model and its working. I don’t know that that works for everybody. because we’re still healthy and young and able to tour and make money in different ways, but not everyone is always gonna be able to do that and not be able to make money on music because you’re older and can’t tour….But to us right now, its very workable. We can have a really good career and at the same time present somebody with something. A lot of people don’t buy music and just because you don’t buy music doesn’t mean you’re not a fan of this shit. Maybe you just wanna come to the show, maybe u wanna buy a t-shirt and thats fine… and if u wanna support, you have a lot of ways to do it and we’ll make you aware. We know from doing it like this last time (on the debut album) that it’s a real way to do it.

Real as fuck from my perspective. And that’s something that sets Run The Jewels apart. They’re El-P and Killer Mike, but they’re not trying to hide behind some hip-hop alias. On the album’s opener, “Jeopardy,” Mike shouts:

So fuck you fuckboys forever
I hope I said it politely
And that’s about the psyche of Jaime and Mikey

Jaime and Mikey are accessible dudes. If you’ve ever tried to tweet at them, chances are they’ve RT’d you, or maybe they read your tweet mid-blunt and you’ll have a back and forth about something random. As a music fan and a hip-hop head, that’s a #rare and refreshing approach that you gotta respect. There’s no enigmatic aura around these two, they come straight out and tell you what’s on their mind; on album, in person and on the internet. And they don’t shy away from the hot-button socio-political issues clouding our nation right now either. Killer Mike has long-since been an out-spoken figure against police brutality in America. In fact, before anything happened in Ferguson or in Cleveland, etc.. Killer Mike and El-P had an eloquent response to shitty politicians, the prison state, and race issues already crafted in the form of RTJ2. Most notably on “Early,” it’s an eerily clairvoyant re-count of the unjust use of force by NY police that led to the death of Eric Garner:

I said “Man, I’m tryin’ to smoke and chill
Please don’t lock me up in front of my kids
And in front of my wife
Man, I ain’t got a gun or a knife
You do this and you ruin my life

They’ve been a front-facing voice of the voiceless when we need it most. On “Lie, Cheat Steal,” Mike blares the repeatable query on who truly is pulling the strings of our society:

Like who really run this?
Like who really run that man that say he run this?
Who who really run that man that say he run this, run run run run this?

On “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry,” El-P refers to “these FUBAR rulers gettin rich!” When I asked El and Mike about the “FUBAR rulers” or who do they think is the the lowest of the low, El said “To me the lowest of the low is anyone who wants to control another man’s life” and Mike almost immediately chimed in with “Whoever is on the other end of that Donald Sterling call….whoever he’s referring to on that call. That’s the lowest of the low.”

Can’t emphasize enough how genuine, respectful, yet humble RTJ have presented themselves across all mediums.  They’ve created a record that’s a conscious hip-hop journey through and through. From the hard-hitting “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” (best beat I’ve heard in years) and “Close Your Eyes And Count To Fuck” with Zack De La Rocha, to the more atmospheric “Crown” with Diane Coffee and album closing “Angel Duster,” RTJ2 is fluent in it’s phases and you feel their emotions on every damn note. Their performance of “Crown” (with Boots) on David Letterman is an emotionally riveting one from the moment Killer Mike opens his flow and El-P starts punctuating:

It’s a chill-inducing performance and it’s exactly what Run The Jewels are in the business of doing: “Making quality and heartfelt music.” This is shit you can feel and they’re having a damn good time doing it. El-P says: “About a year ago, we sat down and were like yo…“Let’s do this shit again. Fuck it!” We did everything we could to make it happen. I’m proud we got it done.” One love.

Run The Jewels Drop New Jam, “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 1.01.57 PM

The 2nd track dropped off of the upcoming Run The Jewels 2 and it has a classic El-P beat with looping effects in the background of a NASTY bass line. Switching flows from Mike to P and it feels like we’ve been here before. Not straying too far from the first RTJ equation is a wise move, cause there is NO WAY i’m tired of this sound and it’s obvious that I’m not alone on this one. Check it here:



6 Under The Radar Acts You Need to See at Outside Lands…

Outside Lands has quickly become Northern California’s largest music fest and the glorious weekend is upon us. Peeps are chattering about heavyweights like Kanye West, Arctic Monkeys, Death Cab for Cutie, Tom Petty, etc, etc, etc… But there’s a slew of artists on the flyer in a smaller font size that are worth an hour of your weekend. Check it:

6. Lucius – Sunday, Sutro Stage, 2:30 – 3:20

The Brooklyn band is led by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, who despite looking calculatedly stylish and similar when performing, are not sisters. Their 2013 Wildewoman (One of my favorite albums of last year) is packed with a unique energy that comes alive on stage. Blast “Nothing Ordinary” and i dare you not to feel the uncontrollable urge to jump up from your seat and dance when the chorus drops. They’ll likely be starting off my lazy Sunday. Get there!

Fun Fact: Holly and Jess provided the vocals on the album recording of San Fermin’s brilliant single, “Sonsick.”

5. Deer Tick – Saturday, Sutro Stage 4:00-5:00

The sound of Americana comes from Providence, Rhode Island…Well, at least as far as Deer Tick is concerned. These bluesy rockers were all over the soundtrack for Hall Pass, written by fellow sons of Providence, the Farrelly Brothers (not their best movie bee tee dubs). But there is indeed something so American about their sound…Be it their epic record Born on Flag Day or singer John Macauley’s labeling the band as “drunk buffoons” when they’re on stage. Go to hear “Easy” and stay to hear jams off of 2013’s Negativity and maybe you can tell me why i think they might be the embodiment of the fictional band Stillwater from Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous. 

Fun Fact: McAuley married pop singer Vanessa Carlton last December. Their officiant? Steve Nicks!

4. Gardens & Villa – Sunday, Panhandle Stage, 5:55-635

The Santa Barbara based band just put out the follow-up to a masterful 2011 self-titled debut that stood out with beautifully written and arranged tracks like “Black Hills” & “Star Fire Power.” On Dunes, they continue to explore the use of the flute and electronic waves like on “Bullet Train” and no track is as sublime as the synthy and bouncy “Colony Glen.”

Fun Fact: You can buy your very own Gardens & Villa flute here!

3. Gold PandaSunday, Panhandle Stage 7:40-8:25

Do you not give a shit about Tiesto? Think the Killers are just overhyped arena-rock? Cool..me too. We can all end our festival weekend together on Sunday night with what promises to be a spacey, yet lively closing set on the panhandle stage from Ghostly International’s Gold Panda. Avant-garde electronica fans might already be familiar with the London producer’s music, but you might know him best from the beat he produced for Charli XCX’s “You (Ha Ha Ha)”. Look to hear tracks from his 2013 release Half of Where You Live likeJunk City II” and my personal favorite “Brazil.” Gold Panda’s sounds are intelligent, interesting and memorable. The Panhandle stage is a treat of a venue for this set and best part is, when it’s over, you can make a smooth exit through Hellman Hollow to beat the crowds. You might even be able to get a cab or Lyft home that early!

Fun Fact: Gold Panda used to wear a Panda knit cap onstage…Surely SFers can get behind that.

2. El-P and Killer Mike (Run The Jewels) – Friday, Lands Ends Stage 215-305

Straight up, hip-hop like this doesn’t come around too much anymore. Last year’s show at the Independent was such a throwback to the heyday of hip hop: An El-P set, followed by a Killer Mike set and then a Run The Jewels set. The crowd fed off how much fun they were having on stage, everyone was bouncing, hands in the air and it felt for a moment that we were transported to the early 00’s. They’ve been taking the Run The Jewels on tour non-stop ever since, including playing Lollapalooza this past weekend where Rolling Stone attested to the “made for each other” vibe by dubbing them “The Best Hip-Hop Buddy Movie in the Making.”  The project sees two of the fiercest rappers comin’ correct on the mic with the same flawless production that put El-P on the map in 2000.

Fun Fact: Run The Jewels 2 is nearly done and a teaser track titled “Blockbuster Night Part 1” was just released. Hear it here.

1. Courtney Barnett – Sunday, Panhandle Stage 4:20-5:00

Ok, full disclosure: The purpose of this post was just a ploy to get you to see Courtney Barnett. Here lies THE hidden gem of the festival. The Aussie singer-songwriter has been hitting the global festival circuit hard and she impresses with tongue-in-cheek jams like “Avant Gardener,” where she sings about the perils of leaving the house, egad! She’s clever as can be and plays guitar like a madwoman. She’s in the same breath as a contemporary like Sharon Van Etten, but sounds more like Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval. Her 2013 release, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas is a can’t miss record and her set will surely be packed with just about every track off of it. Another fine act for the Panhandle stage, Barnett’s irresistibly cute and  clever will be just what your mid-afternoon craves.

Fun Fact: Barnett covered the entire Kick album by fellow Aussie rockers INXS at Pure Pop Records’ “Summer of Classic Albums” show. She nailed it.

Here’s a handy dandy spotify playlist of tracks (only instrumentals for Run The Jewels) mentioned in this post and other by these artists to gear up for the Festival!