What’s to say that hasn’t been said already by journalists, bloggers, hip hop fans - strike that - MUSIC fans, fellow artists, people you've met on the street, that girl you think is cute but haven't asked out, etc. What I'm getting at is El-P and Killer Mike, the ferocious duo who make up Run The Jewels, are taking over the world. And the world is reacting accordingly. I haven't heard a duo this dominant since Outkast hung up their title in 2003 (realistically in 2000), and there isn't anyone else that's even knocking at the door.
When Run The Jewels came onto the scene in 2013 I had no idea what I was getting into, I don't think anyone did. I seldom listened to El-P, but was a fan of Killer Mike, which was the reason I snagged their debut. Once it started there was no looking back. I can say with quite a bit of certainty that I listened to it at least once a day until their 2015 followup Run The Jewels 2 (and the same habit formed). It was...no, it IS, that good. El-P's production from the opening track made me realize what I'd been missing by not giving his albums their due diligence (an act which I've been doing my best to correct since then). It brought me back to the pass-the-mic method that endeared me to hip hops group dynamic I'd grown up with. The record was brash, to say the least, but under the constant grit and chest pounding there is a level of intelligence met by few other acts in the genre. The album ender is the perfect example of that, "A Christmas Fucking Miracle," was my favorite song of the year, and one of my favorite tracks ever. Right from the start you knew these dudes were special. To label them and their record as fire would have been an understatement, this duo was a volcano waiting to explode.
Perhaps the best thing about the group's 2015 followup Run The Jewels 2 is the doubling down on their fuck-you-we-do-what-we-want persona. They gained a loyal following most acts spend years establishing, though one can make the argument that both guys already had devoted fan bases, because they did, but this was different, and everybody knew it. So when the album dropped, it was no surprise that halfway through the first song, when the bass hits heavy and the saxophone comes into the picture (genius), a smile spreads across your face because right at that moment they not only confirm that the first album was no fluke, but that they were only going to get better. The record goes on to surpass the original in every way, their flows more relentless, their chemistry evolved to new heights ("Oh My Darling Don't Cry" is next level), El-P's production is merciless, hitting as hard as anything I've ever heard, the list goes on and on; and to think, they did all this just one year later. Every track is worth your time, and with it coming to you in under 40 minutes, it's the equivalent of a first round KO. You don't even know how hard you've just been hit until you listen again...and again, and again (repeat process forever and ever amen).
Before I step into the holy ground that is Run The Jewels 3, I just want to say, if you don't already know, Run The Jewels' live show is worth however much money you currently have in your bank account. I've seen them six times now and these guys light up a stage like few I've ever seen (and I go to way to many shows). It's a reminder of what a live show should feel like, it's the experience you hope to have every time you purchase a ticket. But the beauty of RTJ is that you don't have to hope, they are going to kill it. FACT. Now, let's talk about the album that would be sitting pretty in my Top 5 of 2016 had it dropped one month earlier...
In a nutshell, Run The Jewels 3 is what you want. It doesn't matter about the specifics of what you want, just...it's what you want. Trust me. Since it's Christmas Day release (honest to God the best gift I received) I've listened to this record 20+ times and I don't get it; HOW ARE THEY'RE SO DAMN GOOD?? And good news, I finally have the answer. They just are. Profound, I know. Where's my genius grant! Seriously though, their consistency in terms of quality is one thing, but maintaining quality while evolving with each record is what puts them in a league of their own. Despite their international fame and an ever-growing fanbase, they still remain as involved as they were when they started, which I think speaks more highly about who these guys are than anything else. RTJ3 is their most ambitious project to date in terms of scope (14 tracks, 50+ minutes); thankfully it doesn't feel like they made it bigger for the sake of being bigger, the growth feels both natural and necessary. All in all, the level of craftsmanship isn't a surprise, we know what they're capable of, and this record is just another unbreakable link in their 36" Chain. With every song possessing the ability to be my favorite at any given moment, this is something that's going to be spinning for quite awhile, and I can't imagine anything better.
It's hard to compare this to the first two records just yet, mainly because I know both RTJ and RTJ2 front to back and I'm still taking in RTJ3. But the fact that I haven't felt the need to dip back to the other two is a sign that this record is the real deal. Run The Jewels is more than just good music, they're a model for what I want to see from the artists I listen to. They preach about what they believe in, and while their wit and wordplay is a major part of the appeal, their emotion and genuine respect of their art is what keeps me coming back. They embody the mentality and life they glorify. They just just want to spread their passion, and whether the ultimate goal is entertainment or education it doesn't really matter, because the fact that they do both at all is the reason they deserve crowns.