Peanut butter and jelly. Protons and electrons. El-P and Killer Mike. I have no doubt that the hip-hop collaboration known as Run The Jewels was simply meant to be.
On their own, Brooklyn’s El-P and Atlanta’s Killer Mike have released solid records that have helped boost the recent resurgence of independent hip hop, but together they have this incredible chemistry that you can’t just make up by “joining forces.” One complements the other so naturally that, in just two years, the duo has released two of hip hop’s best records. They’re so good, in fact, they are likely to catapult the duo to legendary heights and inspire a new cult of jewel runners.
This year’s sophomore album, RTJ2, has been praised by pretty much everyone here at LA Music Blog, and with that amount of hype behind a release, I had to go see Run The Jewels live when they stopped by The Echoplex in Los Angeles Thursday night as part of Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in LA.
Granted, I had the opportunity to see the duo twice this year and missed both of my chances (they played too early at Governors Ball in NYC, and I got sick and missed FYF Fest), but I’m glad I was able to make it out this third, sold-out attempt. The night saw the duo in beast mode; a couple of weeks had passed since the release of the album, giving all in attendance plenty of time to become familiar with the new material, and special guests capped off a night of satisfaction overload that I think might have been my favorite concert of 2014.
As seen and heard in the Instagram video above, Run The Jewels appropriately entered The Echoplex with Queen’s “We Are The Champions,” which set a spectacularly fun evening in motion as they were, indeed, champions of the night. Also noted above are the names Zach de la Rocha and Travis Barker — more on that later.
Run The Jewels’ hour-long set was primarily dominated by performances of tracks from their 2013 debut album, kicking off with their mission statement title track and following it up with bangers “Banana Clipper,” “36 Chain,” “Ddfh,” “Sea Legs,” “Job Well Done,” and “A Christmas Fucking Miracle.” The songs were all received with unanimous cheers and hollers, as if not one single person in the entire venue was just there to discover this new act. Practically everyone had their hands up in the air, fists held in the same manner as the hands on RTJ’s album covers, like an affirmation (or “amen”) to a burgeoning religion.
Run The Jewels did perform their newer tracks during the set, too. Exploding the beginning of their set was the one-two punch of “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and “Blockbuster Night Part 1,” which basically bumped and bruised the Echoplex’s walls as well as the ear drums of those in the crowd, with El-P and Killer Mike swaggering and owning the stage amidst the hazy air and insanely cool laser lights.
They also performed the rapid-fast “Lie, Cheat, Steal,” which showcased just how versatile each artist is as an emcee, and personal favorite “Early,” which did not feature guest Boots but was still great to hear live. Speaking of guests, though, the show featured quite a few rather unexpected surprises. The hilarious “Love Again” brought Gangsta Boo to the stage to perform her verse, which re-emphasized the song’s vulgarity, and while I couldn’t in good conscience say “Dick in her mouth all day” during the vocal break while standing next to three women, seeing Gangsta Boo tear it up was fun as hell. DJ Z-Trip also came out during “Get It” to do some turntable shredding that made the track feel sweeter than its studio recording counterpart.
While many people probably weren’t expecting Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against The Machine to perform his verse on the excellent “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck),” I kind of saw it coming before I even drove over to the venue. Putting the pieces together, Zack is from Los Angeles and Run The Jewels just happen to be rolling into LA, so when he was announced to come out on stage during the performance, I was probably initially happier that I had called it than I was that he was actually on stage. Regardless, Zack absolutely killed it with his vocal work, and it just amped up what would have otherwise been a winding down of Run The Jewels’ set.
Run The Jewels and ZACK DE LA ROCHA at The Echoplex! A video posted by LA Music Blog (@lamusicblog) on
The end of the set was met with the biggest surprise of all, which was having Travis Barker of blink-182 join the guys on stage to perform the drum track behind “All Due Respect,” which features him on the studio version. It also happened to be Barker’s birthday, so Killer Mike had the crowd chant “Happy birthday, Travis!” before the drummer just went on and blew up the whole shebang. The set ended justly with the last track off RTJ2, “Angel Duster,” leaving the audience equally stunned by what they had just seen and with high expectations for what the duo will do next.
Killer Mike truthfully says, “Last album voodoo, proved that we was fuckin’ brutal,” and given how wildly improved RTJ2 is over its predecessor, I’m not surprised by how much more celebrated Run The Jewels is now compared to just one year ago. The duo put on an all-killer no-filler set with special guests left and right that made this particular show a special one, and I couldn’t have been happier to have witnessed it along with other jewel runners. They’re the guys in hip hop right now that we must answer to, and I can’t wait to bow down or raise my hands to them again.
Do yourself a favor and catch Run The Jewels on their current US tour. You might not see this many guests, but that doesn’t change the fact that El-P and Killer Mike play the game, own the stage, and make it a blockbuster night.
Run The Jewels Tour Dates:
11/17 – Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge *
11/18 – Englewood, CO – Gothic Theatre *
11/20 – Minneapolis, MN – First Line Music Café *
11/21 – Madison, WI – Majestic Theatre *
11/22 – Chicago, IL – Metro*
11/22 – Chicago, IL – Metro *
11/25 – Detroit, MI – St Andrews Hall *
11/26 – Toronto, ON – Danforth Music Hall *
11/27 – Montreal, QC – Club Soda *
11/28 – Boston, MA – Paradise *
11/29 – New York, NY – Stage 48 *
11/30 – New York, NY – Stage 48 *
* with Ratking and Despot