The rap duo Run The Jewels is arguably one of the best duos in hip hop. Along with duos such as Kriss Kross and Rae Sremmurd, Run The Jewels have found their way into the hip hop history books and, unlike certain duos, are still going to this day. Hailing from two different cities, the two members of Run The Jewels created a melting pot of sounds that was and is fantastic. With Brooklyn rapper and producer EI-P and Atlanta rapper Killer Mike, the two, together, married the East Coast and Dirty South cultures and, since their inception, have been nothing but praised.
With the duo’s formation beginning around 2011, EI-P and Killer Mike had individually been around for a long time. EI-P had been musically active since the early 1990s and was part of the Brooklyn trio Company Flow. Signed to Rawkus Records in 1995 along with the likes of legends Mos Def and Talib Kweli, Company Flow’s success was short-lived due to their discontent and frustration with the record label. By 2000, El-P started his own record label and began pursuing a solo career.
Killer Mike had also been musically active since the 1990s and similarly found success in 1995 by attending the same school as Big Boi of Outkast. He went on to be featured on their debut album Stankonia. The rapper also featured on their 2001 single ‘The Whole World’, which went on to win a Grammy award. However, Killer Mike was not an official member of Outkast but a musical affiliate.
Determined to pursue a solo career, Mike went on to release his own solo projects throughout the early noughties and would end up being signed to T.I’s Atlanta-based record label Grand Hustle Records and in 2011 would begin to work on his project R.A.P Music executively produced by EI-P. Knowing and feeling there was a natural synergy there, the two would form the duo Run The Jewels and the rest is history.
Still performing live, even performing and Reading and Leeds festivals, Run The Jewels are far from irrelevant and are extremely popular. So such an incredible catalogue of music, this feature will try to carefully select the five best Run The Jewels songs of all time.
The five best Run The Jewels songs of all time:
5. ’36” Chain’ – (2013)
Off the duo’s debut studio album, ’36” Chain’ is an interesting song production-wise with drums that are slightly off-beat it is slightly experimental, and with the snare drenched in copious amounts of reverb, it is a very interesting listening experience.
Produced by EI-P, Killer Mike rides the beat beautifully, and with its progressive backbeat, the song becomes more and more interesting as you advance. Although the lyrical content is not super-conscious, the song does have a very distinct sound and swag to it, so it undoubtedly deserves a place on the list.
4 ‘Run The Jewels’ – (2013)
The first track off the duo’s 2013 self-titled album, the track ‘Run The Jewels’ was the world’s introduction to the duo. As the two rappers rap back to back over a heavy and gritty distorted bassline, the track is an epic cacophony.
With a sublime synergy between the two artists, they rap their lyrics at super speed raining rapid fire upon their listeners. With lyrics such as “we’re the wolves” and “we’re f*ckin’ crazy”, the duo definitely present their unity on this track.
3. ‘Yankee And The Brave (Ep. 4)’ – (2020)
Off the duo’s fairly recent self-titled album RTJ4, this track is an amazing fusion of old school and new school. With a heavy boom-bap influence from classic New York hip hop, the track (produced by EI-P) also manages to weave in various electronic elements, making it feel more current.
Rapping back to back, EI-P shows a lot of lyrical skill with complex rhyme schemes and incredible flow. Returning from a long hiatus by the duo, with Killer Mike declaring they were Mike immediately proclaiming “Back at it like a crack addict”, listeners knew that the duo had returned for good. definitely deserving of a spot in the top three.
2. ‘Blockbuster Night Part 1’ – (2014)
From the duo’s second full-length studio album Run The Jewels 2 ‘Blockbuster Night Part 1’ is effectively a hip hop and rock fusion. With distorted electric guitar providing the melody, bolstered by a deep 808 ‘Blockbuster Night Part 1’ is a quality alternative hip hop track. In fact, the track is not too dissimilar to something that Kanye West would produce and sounds like something that could easily fit on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
With the sound of sirens opening up the track and with the music video being set in the back of an ambulance, the track is aggressive and sonically looks to inflict damage. This is definitely supported by lyrics like “We run a brand where destruction’s the number one commitment” from EI-P. The track is fantastic and shows how versatile the duo are with regard to their rapping and production.
1. ‘Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)’ ft Zack De La Rocha – (2014)
Another album cut from Run The Jewels 2, this is arguably one of Run The Jewels’ best and most popular tracks. With a thumping 808 that pumps throughout the track and a vocal chop that bounces for the entirety of the track screaming “running”, the song is immensely raw.
The music video is also extremely cinematic. Neither EI-P nor Killer Mike feature in the music video, which depicts a fight between a white police officer and a black civilian that gets out of hand and is violent.
Produced by EI-P in conjunction with the legendary Swizz Beats, Stereogum called it “hammering (and) buzzing” and “just a ridiculous banger”. The song really is that good. You can watch the video for ‘Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)’ below.