Run the Jewels roars back

“My beats is banging. F**k what you rapping, who produced you?” Killer Mike and producer EI-P form the rap duo Run The Jewels and just released their second album, creatively titled Run The Jewels II. EI-P comes out in this record with some hard and driving beats that are catchy and aggressive at the same time. Indeed, as the tagline suggests, the production is the main draw of this album. Killer Mike’s lyricism is as dynamic as it ever was on albums like R.A.P. Music. This album does suffer in its lyrical content; still, considering that the album is free on iTunes and other digital venues, it would be ridiculous for any rap lover not to pick this one up.

The production is the strongest element of this album. From driving bangers to eccentric drums provided by Travis Barker, EI-P leaves no stone unturned. Building on the subtle electronic beeps and bloops found on R.A.P. Music, EI-P turns the electronic sci-fi accents up to 11 on the latter half of the album on tracks like “All My Life” or “Lie, Cheat and Steal.” (There’s a chopped sample of the sound of Pac-Man dying on “Early” that works very well.)

On the front half, EI-P makes it impossible not to start tapping your foot or bobbing your head to chopped vocals on “Close Your Eyes” or the infectious beats on the latter half of “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” or “Blockbuster Night Part I.” With the sound Run The Jewels is aiming for, it’s not surprising that they got former Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack De La Rocha to drop a verse on “Close Your Eyes.” Just a word of warning: Even though they’re infectious, these are not club beats ­— they’re catchy but incredibly aggressive.

The lyricism that Killer Mike brings to this album is some of his best, matching his dynamic flow on albums like R.A.P. Music. He drops quotable lines every other bar, ranging from lines like “I’ll beat you to a pulp, no fiction” to “run backwards through a field of d***s” and many more. Mike goes, as he often does, for an intensely aggressive approach to lyricism, keeping the tempo up on most tracks, (with notable exceptions on tracks like “Crown” and “Love Again”) resulting in lines like, “so f*** you f***boys forever/Hope I said it politely / And if I can’t rap it, maggot, f***, then fight me.” EI-P’s lyricism, when he raps, is less stellar. He holds his own with Mike surprisingly well, but can’t match Mike’s flow, and often it seems like he doesn’t really know what he’s rapping about.

The lyrical content on this album is ... varied in quality. If you’ve listened to R.A.P. Music, it’s more of the same, though slightly more socially cognizant in light of the tragic events in Ferguson, Mo. But if you’re tired of Killer Mike complaining about how the U.S. is a fascist state where every cop is crooked, every clergyman wants to touch your kids, and the government’s biggest agenda is to murder African-Americans, then the album’s latter half may not be for you. Tracks like “Early” are a good example of this, even though that song has the best hook on the record.

I’m fairly positive this album won’t incite a single violent protest, but one wonders if there’s some sense of accountability when the duo raps “And even if some good ones die, f*** it, the Lord’ll sort ‘em” or “I love Dr. King, but violence might be necessary.” The high point of the album content-wise is Mike’s verse on “Crown,” a surprisingly heartfelt portrayal of guilt as a drug dealer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last very long before EI-P comes in and starts rapping about something barely related. Indeed, it seems that in general, Mike’s verses have the most impact when he’s rapping not about shooting cops and urban discontent, but about personal events that shaped his view of the world. Another high point content-wise is Gangsta Boo’s verse about objectifying men in “Love Again.” For a split second, I had an insight into how uncomfortable women must feel when listening to verses that are all too common in rap music.