I love Run The Jewels. I discovered them back when the instrumental for Legend Has It was featured in the Black Panther teaser trailer a couple years ago, and have been listening to them pretty much religiously ever since. Having consumed all three of their albums in an unhealthily short amount of time left me in anticipation of a fourth. It’s been a long wait, but finally, blessedly, it’s here. In anticipation of this, I’ve decided to write a little something to celebrate. A ranking and overview of each of their previous albums. And hey, what do you know, it’s releasing on the same day their new album drops. How convenient.
Alright, here’s how this is gonna work. I originally planned to rank every single song in a huge list, but I soon discovered that I do not have the confidence required to make a list that large and be comfortable with every placement. So, I’ve decided to tackle each album individually, giving a brief overview of each song and my thoughts, then talking about the album as a whole, then ranking all the songs from that particular album before moving onto the next. Sounds good to everyone? No. Well too bad, cause that’s how I’m doing it.
And I’m not doing the bonus songs either. I’m a busy man, y’know?
Run The Jewels
1. Run The Jewels
“Oh dear what the hell have we done?
It’s alive and it’s hungry as fuck”
“Run The Jewels”, the titular track from Run The Jewels, by Run The Jewels, is the perfect introduction to the duo. Killer Mike and El-P trade aggressive, unapologetic verses filled with dark comedy, over a fast paced synth-heavy beat. It’s not nearly their best song, which is saying a lot, because it’s fucking dope.
2. Banana Clipper (feat. Big Boi)
“Hey, me and Jaime killed the competition, top of the heap
Is where we stayin’ when they corpses resting under our feet
I sent they mom a little cash and a sympathy letter
Told her she raised a bunch of fuckboys, next time do better, bitch”
“Banana Clipper” continues that energy. Fittingly for the best rap duo since Outkast, they got Big Boi to feature on this song, and his verse is appropriately nice. Killer Mike and El-P are still the true stars of this song, however.
3. 36″ Chain
-The end of the song.
The quote says it all. RTJ always has good verses, but I’d like to highlight the beat on this one. It’s ridiculous.
“Do dope, fuck hope.”
“DDFH” is a departure from the first three tracks, showing the other half of what makes RTJ so great, besides their fun lyrics and instrumentals. While listening to RTJ is great for a high octane adrenaline rush, when they decide to tackle more serious topics they do so with gusto. Particularly in RTJ2 and 3, but this album also has a few moments where their more serious side shines through.
5. Sea Legs
“Trying not to walk crooked while this anchor’s dropped
But I been out on them choppy waves and it’s hard to say
Where this land begins and that water stops
I got sea legs
I got sea legs
I got sea legs”
-Killer Mike and El-P
“Sea Legs” is one of my favorite songs on the album. The song has Killer Mike and El-P each declaring themselves misfits and outcasts. Should I even mention that the beat is great at this point?
6. Job Well Done (Until The Ribbon Breaks)
“But naw, baby, you gon’ get this here vertical
Every word murderful, surgical, painful, purposeful”
If you have not said “Holy shit” at some point while listening to this album so far, this will be the song that breaks that streak. There are so many great lines in this song that I struggled to pick a quote to put above. From the first second, Killer Mike starts delivering bars, with increasingly intense delivery:
“It’s like Tyson in the ’80s
Nigga snap and punch your lights out, yeah
It’s like Tyson in the ’90s, if I’m losing, take a bite out”
Then El-P comes along with a verse that is equally great. To tell you how great, I would basically have to quote the entire verse, but I will leave some select quotes here:
“Monks won’t immolate themselves until the record hits the shelves“
“Yetis walk right out the woods to cop it without thinkin’ bout it”
“The bass make a whale off of the coast scream, ‘Ya’ll gotta stop!’”
“Mama said I wouldn’t leave the womb”
“Without a Yankee and some new kicks”
7. No Come Down
“Never did shit but inflict this damage
Never met a word that I wouldn’t like a weapon just brandish
Walk away, clown boy, vanish”
As you may have ascertained from the title, “No Come Down” is about Killer Mike and El-P getting high. In particular, Killer Mike. He gets very very high. Prolly my least favorite song on the album, and thus I don’t have much to say about it, but it’s still quite good.
8. Get It
“We’re overly fucking (awesome)
They watch and adopt our (concepts)
They squawk at the Run the Jewels squad
We skin ’em then (cop a coffin)”
-El-P and Killer Mike
I’ll admit, the main reason I like this song is because the beat is made for aggressive head-nodding, and the chorus is hype as fuck. However, the lyrics are also as good as you would expect from the crew by this point. You’ll find that many of their songs are just them talking about how awesome they are, which would get tiring if it weren’t indisputably true.
9. Twin Hype Back (feat. Prince Paul)
“I’m no respecter of person, I’m no respecter of rules
I catch the Prince of England slipping, he gon’ run me the jewels”
“Twin Hype Back” definitely falls within the fun and outrageous selection of Run The Jewels songs, a vibe which is assisted greatly by the interludes, which had me alternating between laughing in confusion and fearing for my life.
10. A Christmas Fucking Miracle
“Who are they to just take shit and hoard it?
Who am I that I don’t get my portion?”
Finally, to finish of the first album, we have “A Christmas Fucking Miracle”. The name is funny, but the song is actually another one of RTJs more serious and even uplifting tracks, as Killer Mike and El-P, both call out and decry the rich, and other people in power. This has been and will continue to be a running theme in their work.
I remember I listened to the RTJ albums backwards, starting with 3 (because that was the one that had Legend Has it) and working backwards to 1. At the time, I thought RTJ 1 to still be good, but missing a certain something, and ultimately I didn’t come back to it that often. Yet listening to it again for this has softened my view somewhat. While this album is definitely not as strong as what’s to come, it’s still very very solid.
1. A Christmas Fucking Miracle
2. Job Well Done
3. Sea Legs
4. Run The Jewels
5. Get It
7. 36” Chain
8. Banana Clip
9. Twin Hype Back
10. No Come Down
Run The Jewels 2
Fortunately, Run The Jewels 2 is much more than solid.
“I been here making raw shit and never asked to be lauded
Run the Jewels is the answer, your question is ‘what’s poppin’?’”
“Jeopardy” isn’t the greatest song in their catalogue but it doesn’t have to be. “Jeopardy” has one purpose. To hype you up, and they accomplish that in the first few seconds.
2. Oh My Darling Don’t Cry
“Style violent, give a fuck if you deny it, kids
You can all run naked backwards through a field of dicks”
“Oh My Darling” was my second Run The Jewels song, I think. Before I decided to start listening to their albums fully, I mean. Lemme tell you, once that low, thumping, bass-heavy beat started playing, I knew I liked these guys. El-P did great work before, but you can feel the difference already, and the duo’s trademark raw, aggressive lyrics hit much harder over this instrumental. This is definitely one of my favorite songs from them.
3. Blockbuster Night Pt. 1
“No hocus pocus, you simple suckers been served a notice
Top of the morning, my fist to your face is fucking Folgers”
The momentum does not stop with “Blockbuster Night Pt. 1”. This is another song where there is no shortage of quotable lines. There’s the line above, one of my favorites from them, as well as:
“Bunches and bunches, punches is thrown until you’re frontless”
“It’s all a joke between mom contractions and coffin fittings
So we disappear into smoke like we’re fucking magicians”
“I Jake the Snake ‘em, DDT ‘em in mausoleums
Macabre massacres killing cunts in my coliseum”
“The gates of hell are pugnaciously pacin’, waitin’
I give a fuck if I’m late, tell Satan be patient
But I ain’t here for durations, I’m just taking vacations
And tell him fuck him, I never loved him and salutations”
4. Close Your Eyes and Count To Fuck (feat. Zack De La Rocha)
“My battle status is burning mansions from Dallas to Malibu
Check my résumé, your residence is residue”
-Zack De La Rocha
This is my favorite Run The Jewels song. It’s got everything. Badass instrumental? One of my favorites. Lyrics that hit so hard they leave bruise marks? In spades. Political and social commentary. Hell yeah. But unlike “Early”, another good song that comes later on the album, “Close Your Eyes” isn’t a somber song. It’s angry. It’s a battlecry against the entire racist criminal justice system. The featured artist, Zack De La Rocha of Rage Against The Machine fame has a guest verse on here that is as good as anything from Killer Mike and El-P. He’s their most frequent featured artist, and their best. I’d go as far as to say, this isn’t just my favorite RTJ song, but one of my favorite songs, period.
5. All My Life
“One half the best tag team ever
Them other fellas alright we better
Anybody disagree they jealous
And anybody don’t just motherfucking yellow”
Five tracks in, the album finally takes a bit of a dip. Not bad, by any means, but when the first four tracks are “Jeopardy”, “Oh My Darling”, “Blockbuster Night Pt 1”, and “Close Your Eyes”, simply being pretty good happens to be a bit of a dip. Probably my least favorite track off this album.
6. Lie, Cheat, Steal
“I’ll teabag a piranha tank, heart barely beating
A wild one who’ll swim like directly after he’s eaten
While holding a toaster oven that’s plugged with a fork in it”
“Lie, Cheat, Steal” however, is an immediate return to form. The song starts out with a great verse by El-P filled with lines like the one above, once again asserting his individuality, and declaring how badass he is. Then, followed by a very memorable chorus, we get into a very different verse by Killer Mike, as he questions the established power structures of society, and wonders who really runs things.
7. Early (feat. BOOTS)
“As I peered out the window
I could see my other kinfolk
And hear my little boy as he screamed
As he ran toward the copper begged him not to hurt his momma
’cause he had her face down on the ground”
“Early” is a much more somber song than any of the one’s previously on the album. Once again touching on the topic of police brutality, Killer Mike and El-P both embody two different characters and show two different perspectives on a fictional shooting. Killer Mike is a father, who is arrested as he’s walking home one night, and becomes the victim of a terrible tragedy. El-P’s character is someone who happens to be walking by as it happens. Killer Mike’s perspective shows the tragedy from a more immediate and personal perspective, while El-P’s voice shows the more existential tragedy that at the end of the day, while these tragedies happen, a lot of people see them and get to go about their days as if nothing happened.
8. All Due Respect (feat. Travis Barker)
“The beat get abused like I rock a wife beater
Drinker, fired by the company
Friday, late on the car note tryna do taxes”
If that last song left you feeling a little depressed, “All Due Respect” is here to give you an adrenaline shot. The beat is raw. The lyrics are raw. The chorus is raw. Nuff said.
9. Love Again (feat. Gangsta Boo)
“He want this clit in his mouth all day
He want this clit in his mouth all day (Yeah, ho!)
I put my clit in his mouth all day
I’ve got this I’ve got this fool in love again (Yeah, ho!)”
“Love Again” is a sex anthem. It’s four minutes of Killer Mike and El-P talking about how much they love freaky shit. But just in case you thought this was just gonna be some bro-y male fantasy song, they also get Gangsta Boo to feature and give a woman’s perspective, leading to the above quote. Run The Jewels is many things, progressive is one of them.
10. Crown (feat. Diane Coffee)
“Give up your childish obsession with questioning
Anything we don’t tell you is irrelevant
Everything you’ve ever been is replaced by the metal and fire of the weapon you clutch”
The final two songs of the album swing the pendulum back into the direction of seriousness. Killer Mike tells of his time selling cocaine years ago, and the guilt he felt when he sold some to a pregnant lady, and how he finally managed to let go of that. El-P takes the perspective of a soldier being manipulated into killing for the government. Both very powerful verses in different ways. One of their best songs.
11. Angel Duster
“I kill my masters, I mentor none
That means when I die, that’s it, my style is gone; I’m a one of one”
Closing out the album, “Angel Duster” has Killer Mike and El-P both espousing their own philosophies and how they choose to live their lives. Turning their noses up at power, going their own way, mentoring none, and getting high. A fitting closing track.
Run The Jewels 2 takes everything that was good about the first album and pushes it even further. The album is, at once, even more in your face and bombastic than the previous while also being more serious and vulnerable. It succeeds at everything it tries to do, and rarely ever lets up.
1. Close Your Eyes and Count To Fuck
4. Angel Duster
5. Oh My Darling
6. Lie, Cheat, Steal
7. All Due Respect
8. Blockbuster Night Pt. 1
10. Love Again
11. All My Life
Run The Jewels 3
Debatably, we’ve saved the best for last.
1. Down (feat. Joi)
You’re gonna need a bigger boat, boys, you’re in trouble
Aye, gonna need a little hope, boys, on the double””
Very different from the opening tracks of the first two albums, “Down” is an uplifting song where Mike and El-P celebrate how they’ve risen above adversity. Not much to say about this one, other than that it’s a very nice opening track that helps establish a general theme and tone of this album.
2. Talk To Me
“My job is to fight for survival
In spite of these #AllLivesMatter-ass white folk”
This is the traditional RTJ opening album song. Do I enjoy this song quite as much as “Jeopardy” or “Run The Jewels”? No, not quite. However, that doesn’t matter. The outro to this song is amazing, and instantly gets you pumped to listen to the rest of the album.
“I told y’all suckers! I told y’all suckers! I told y’all on RTJ1! Then I told ya again on RTJ2! And you stiiiill ain’t believe me! So here we go, RTJ3!”
3. Legend Has It
“We are the murderous pair
That went to jail and we murdered the murderers there
Then went to Hell and discovered the devil
Delivered some hurt and despair”
Here we are. My first Run The Jewels song. This song is awesome. It immediately grabs your attention and forces you to sit down and listen as the crew tells you how dope they are and regales you with tales of their mythical exploits. All over an instrumental that’ll go down as one of their best. When the beat switches up in the last third? Godlike. Thank you, whoever made the Black Panther teaser. I am in your debt.
4. Call Ticketron
“Hello everybody, this is now bank robbery
Jesse James gang, we’ll walk you through the process
You don’t wanna be a hero, do not let that thought process
We will put a bullet where your thoughts get processed”
Now that things are in motion they do not slow down for a few more songs. RTJ3 has now begun. This song continues things with Killer Mike and El-P ping ponging verses back and forth over yet another impeccable instrumental. El-P really outdoes himself on this album.
5. Hey Kids (Bumaye) (feat. Danny Brown)
“Like a gram of blow, you inject
My words infect like insects havin’ incest, I’m in check
Like payday on a Thursday and it’s Wednesday”
Joined by Danny Brown, who they would later collaborate with on his own album uknowhatimsayin¿, Killer Mike and El-P give a warning to “masters”’ that they’re time is up. This is a recurrent theme in Run The Jewels but never more prevalent than in Run The Jewels 3, as evidenced by the song literally called “Kill Your Masters” later on the album. We’ll leave that for later though. For now, Hey Kids continues the streak of solid bangers.
6. Stay Gold
“Not your average guys, we play cool but see through savage eyes
We’re the crooks, we’ll run the jux and kidnap mom from jazzercise
Get Stockholm syndrome when she get home, mom’s like, ‘I like those fucking guys!’”
The hits keep coming with “Stay Gold”. Mike and El both dedicate the chorus and a portion of their verses to their relationship with their respective significant others, before going back to what we know and love. Saying ridiculous shit like “We’ll kidnap your mom from jazzercise”. Mike has a LOT of good lines on this record.
7. Don’t Get Captured
“Is that blunt? Oh well, hell, so’s this boot
We live to hear you say ‘please don’t shoot’
A pure delight, c’mon, make my night
When I file reports what’s right’s what I write”
“Don’t Get Captured” has Mike and El, once again, embody two different characters and viewpoints. Mike’s verse tackles the subject of gentrification, ending with a rare instance of acknowledging, that yes, even though gentrification is commonly seen as an exclusively Black problem, if you’re poor, they can, have, and will “put your white-ass out”. El’s verse has him take on the character of a cop who engages in acts of brutality. Both verses are linked by a catchy chorus, and, as always, a great instrumental.
8. Thieves (Screamed The Ghost) (feat. Tunde Adembimpe)
“No more moms and dads crying
No more arms in the air
We put firearms in the air
Molotov cocktails thrown in the air”
Listening to this song right now, at this moment in 2020 was an interesting experience, to say the least. “Thieves” is a song about riots. Specifically rioting in response to police brutality, making it a good continuation from the previous song, and a very very topical song. The beat is low and haunting, which acts as a great accompaniment to the lyrics. Throughout the song they repeatedly refer to ghosts or spirits of the dead rising, an eerie and impactful representation of those who fall victim to police violence. This song is a powerful depiction of not only riots themselves, but also the emotions that lead to them.
“And I don’t know how much it really means to be right
(Means to be right, means to be right)
And what a joy it’d be to see some peace in this life”
Another heavy track. In this one, the duo both lament the state of the world, criticizing and distressing over the increasingly bleak and troubling signs they see. However the song also carries the more optimistic and hopeful message that in these dark times it’s important to keep hold of hope and love.
10. Panther Like a Panther (Miracle Mix) (feat. Trina)
“The money wants me to have it, I have a hunger for data
I’m crunching numbers and crack unbreakable safes while I’m at it
I’m doing more than just rapping you have to grant me that dap
When you around where I’m at just know that it is not where you at”
“I got banana dick, your bitch go apeshit if she hit it”
This is the beauty about Run The Jewels. On one song you can have a very serious and earnest track about the state of society. And on the next have El-P talking about how he “keeps sneakers cleaner than nunnery pussy, evening of Easter”. Balance.
11. Everybody Stay Calm
“The opposite of humble and my swag on kung-fu
No admission for the cool, just kick it and come through
Hurry up we got liquor to run through
Bales to inhale, lies to not tell
She told me let her go and then I can exhale
I left her with a pound of dro and a Nextel”
I have a big soft spot for this song. It’s just so cool. Take it easy (easy, easy, easy, easy, easy, easy, easy) partner.
12. Oh Mama
“‘Notice me, senpai!’ they cry when I choke their speak
I’ll set this crooked city on fire to light the smokery
Old timers speak of us hushed and clutch their rosaries
I lust after greatness, I’m aiming right at its ovaries”
You look at the comments section on youtube or the page on Genius and it’ll be filled with references to the “notice me senpai” bar. I’m no different. Great moment. The rest of the song is also very good.
13. Thursday in the Danger Room (feat. Kamasi Washington)
“And I guess I’d say I’ll see you soon (I’ll see you soon)
But the truth is that I see you now (I see you now)
Still talk to you like you’re around (like you’re around)
And I guess I say you left too soon (you left to soon)
But the truth is that you never left (you never left)
‘Cause I never let myself forget (myself forget)”
-Killer Mike and El-P
“Thursday in the Danger Room” has the duo reflect on the people they’ve lost over the years. El’s verse has him struggling with his feelings as he watches his friend slowly die from an illness. Mike’s verse has him watch the burden placed on the family of a friend of his that was murdered for his chain. One of their heavier tracks, and one of their best.
14. A Report to the Shareholders/Kill Your Masters
“We dignified, they can’t erase us
We ain’t asleep, we rope-a-dope through the flames
Man, the world gonna ride on what’s implied in the name
-Zack De La Rocha
“A Report to the Shareholders” starts with El-P looking back at the past three albums, reminiscing that when he started he didn’t have a plan or see an arc beyond having fun. However, ultimately he couldn’t contain the desire to speak out on what he saw happening in the world. As these albums have gone on, they’ve become steadily more focused on commenting on the wrongs of society, as well as delivering a message along with the laughs. A message of hostility toward those in power who choose to abuse it. In El’s verse he mentions that he’s scared of one day being punished for talking too much about the evils he sees in the world. In Mike’s verse he mentions that he has been punished for such. However, at the end of both, they both re-affirm that they remain hostile.
Which leads into “Kill Your Masters”. “Kill Your Masters” sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a revolution. Mike and El both speak in such terms, decrying the fools who “speak to you like their rules do”, and “beating slave catchers”. It’s awesome, of course. But what’s more awesome is the uncredited Zack De La Rocha feature.
What a great way to close the album.
While Run The Jewels 2 has my favorite song from the group, and perhaps a higher selection of my favorite songs overall, Run The Jewels 3 definitely seems like the most purposeful, cohesive, and tightly knit album of the 3. It really feels like they refined everything good about themselves even further, and produced an album meant to stand specifically in opposition to the various tragedies going on in the world. Having released in 2016, there were an awful lot of them.
1. Legend Has It
2. A Report To Your Shareholders/Kill Your Masters
4. Oh Mama
5. Panther Like A Panther (Miracle Mix)
6. Call Ticketron
7. Thursday in the Danger Room
8. Thieves (Screamed The Ghost)
9. Everybody Stay Calm
10. Stay Gold
11. Hey Kids
12. Don’t Get Captured
13. Talk To Me
Run The Jewels good.
That’s it. What else can I say that I haven’t already. Listen to their shit if you haven’t. You really gonna read “I got banana dick, your bitch go apeshit if she hit it” and not listen immediately? Couldn’t be me.
If you’d like to see more of my inanity, follow me on Twitter I guess. If you scroll through it or my posts on this site, you’ll find that I usually just talk about Sailor Moon. But for whatever overlap that is between Sailor Moon fans and Run The Jewels fans, my twitter is the place for you. Also, make sure to follow the site on twitter as well. And here on WordPress. And join our Discord!