Run the Jewels at Boston Calling

When OutKast was announced the winner of the category of Best New Rap Group in 1995 at The Source Awards, they were booed by the crowd. But OutKast rapper, Andre 3000, had a message for their haters: “The south got something to say.” The ATLiens artists had beamed us up into a world of smooth rapping, funkdafied, soul-strangeness.

But this isn’t about OutKast. It’s about Run the Jewels, the heirs to the southern sound throne. Although Run the Jewels was not the overnight phenomenon that OutKast had been, the faith they had in their abilities knew no bounds. After all, persistence begets success.

Atlanta rapper Killer Mike and Brooklyn-native rapper and producer El-P each gained low-key notoriety in the rap scene. Mike had been featured on an OutKast track back in their landmark Stankonia days, and El-P was a veteran of the New York underground.

I have a hazy memory of the first time I heard Run the Jewels. I remember I didn’t like it. Kind of strange to write a story about a group you don’t like, eh?

RTJ’s sound made it’s way back to me through the sonic booms of relentless 808s in my eardrums when I overheard their song “Ooh La La.” I didn’t know who I was hearing, but the sheer lyrical talent had me rewinding the verse over and over again.

Maybe I loved it because it turned out this track was co-produced by the legendary Rick Rubin––a man who is partly responsible for hip-hop as we know it. Maybe I loved it because, lyrically, the song employs masterful poetic techniques that have taken rap from nursery-sounding terminal rhymes to structured masterpieces of consonance and assonance laden slant rhymes worthy of analysis in the hallowed halls of academia. I definitely loved the feature from former Rage Against the Machine frontman Zach de la Rocha, whose climactic verse is the song’s capstone.

There’s diversity in Run the Jewels. Killer Mike, a person of color that brings the Southern style, compliments El-P’s New York swagger. The topics of their songs flow seamlessly from politics and love to street life and drug use.

If you don’t already know the gangster rapping, sociopolitical, bass booming sounds of Run the Jewels, you can see them live at Boston Calling on May 28th.

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