Run the Jewels 2 is not the sort of album you often find reviewed in these pages.
It is one of the most highly anticipated hip hop albums of the year and on the whole it does not disappoint. But a word of warning is necessary.
It is definitely not for the faint hearted, both in its production and its lyrical content. In terms of the production it is layered, very detailed, aggressive and eerie. Much the same can be said of its lyrical content.
One of the stand-out tracks is “Early”, about a man being arrested in front of his wife and child and how he loses respect for the badge. It was written before the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson although the parallels are clear.
In many ways that is the point. It highlights the extent and depth of issues around police violence and surveillance. There are some fantastic lines on the track:
Street lamps stare when you walk watch the birdy
They’ll watch you walk to the store they’re recording
But didn’t record cop when he shot, no warning
All of this over urgent and menacing production, goading the listener and demanding action.
There are songs like “Crown” that try to deal with real predicaments people can find themselves in where simple moral responses are not enough.
The track deals with the guilt a dealer feels after selling drugs to a pregnant woman. You feel it is cathartic for the character, but at the same time it is as if he had little if any alternative.
“Lie Cheat Steal” as a song title encapsulates the hypocrisy that El P and Killer Mike see in the world. It has some fantastic lines:
And I love Dr King but violence might be necessary
We overworked, underpaid and we underprivileged
That is the beauty of the album. It looks at the world and doesn’t like what it sees. This comes across in the production, lyrics and the whole feel of the project. There are parts of this album where the imagery is problematic or attempts at subversion do not work. But I do not think these should stop you from listening to it.
There are few answers to be found here, but what you will find is the reflection of a world in turmoil, and anger is a valid response.