Run The Jewels: Killer Mike and El-P
Friday, Aug. 9, 2013
On Friday night, Run The Jewels—the hip-hop BFF duo of Killer Mike and El-P—alternately took the sweat-soaked Cat's Cradle crowd to church, their hometowns of Atlanta and Brooklyn, and everywhere in between.
The evening captured both the unstoppable essence of their self-titled debut and their relatively new friendship, which started when Mike was shopping for beats to create what became one of 2012's best albums, R.A.P. Music. He was so taken by El-P's Bomb Squad-ian instrumentals that he enlisted the former Definitive Jux president to produce the entire project. The two have been seemingly inseparable since. At one point during the show, El-P threw his arm around Killer Mike and exclaimed, "This is my best friend right here."
Mike and El tore through the entirety of Run The Jewels, minus tongue-in-cheek bro jam "Twin Hype Back" featuring rap god Prince Paul. Concerts of this ilk, wherein artists perform an album in full, often feel like cheap cash-grabs, but Run The Jewels was built for the stage. From the chest-beating title track through the menacing, mournful "A Christmas Fucking Miracle," the set, like the album, delivered a shot of raw rap adrenaline. Chuck D and Ice Cube, two major influences, would be proud.
Their respective solo sets were equally incendiary, filled with palpable anger and new-world gospel that never lacked sincerity or sounded preachy. The crowd transformed into a boom-bap pulpit before Mike's hulking glow. Highlights included an a cappella version of R.A.P. Music's powerful "Reagan" and an in-the-crowd annotated take on "God in the Building."
El-P burst from backstage to "Drones Over BKLYN," a brain-crunching single off 2012's Cancer 4 Cure. Backed by a hypeman and a multi-instrumentalist duo, he dipped deep into his catalog. His love for his craft became most evident during "EMG," when a mid-song beat-switch found El spitting over the Slick Rick classic "Children's Story." It was just as crowd-pleasing as it was seamless, even leading into an on-the-spot remix of A Tribe Called Quest's "Can I Kick It?"
Before Run The Jewels destroyed eardrums, Kool A.D. (formerly of Das Racist) supplied his free-associative rhymes with an unmatched suave. While his tourmates were more immediately electrifying, the Bay Area native controlled the crowd with wit and wordplay. That's no easy win for an MC whose lyrics bounce from one topic to the next, especially during his epic 10-minute closing track, "Dum Diary." No surprise, then, that when he asked "Who's your favorite rapper?" for the thousandth time, the overwhelming response of "KOOL A.D.!" felt genuine.