Prior to 2013, both Killer Mike and El-P had had middling music careers, Killer Mike as a solo artist and sporadic guest rapper with Outkast, and El-P as a rapper, producer and record executive. That was until, at the tender age of thirty-eight and buoyed by the critically acclaimed collaborative efforts of ‘R.A.P. Music’ and ‘Cancer 4 Cure’, the duo decided to take things one step further and form the supergroup, Run the Jewels.
Since then they have combined for three remarkable albums and have graced our shores four times. In 2015 we claimed that RTJ were the best act in the world right now. Two years on, and not a lot has changed. Well, aside from Donald Trump becoming president and social inequality, police brutality and systematic racism being the rifest they have been for a long time, not just in the US, but worldwide.
But true to the gun-fist salute that appears on their album covers, behind them onstage and aloft the legions of fans that have come out to party with them on the night, RTJ are on hand to conquer our fears the best way they know how, through a fun yet fury-packed hour of musical brilliance.
Offering support duties for the night was Brainfeeder disciple, The Gaslamp Killer who, with all the dance moves of someone losing their shit on speed and 8-bit Nintendo sounds and explosive hip-hop to boot, served as the perfect preamble towards a night with our favourite abrasive rap pairing.
First introduced in 2011 by one of Cartoon Network’s executives at the time, Jason DeMarco, Killer Mike and El-P’s humour during the show is, for use of a better word, cartoonish, the latter performing a skit where he pretends to the audience that he is planning on breaking away from the band to begin a poetry career while his comrade diverts attention away from him by sinking a pint of Guinness before sinking his too.
Elsewhere, the duo strut about the stage with all the energy of a kid after his first ever cup of coffee and the telepathy of hip-hop’s greatest ever bromance, Killer Mike truly moving “with the elegance of an African elephant” that fully belies his, ahem, big bonedness.
But let’s hold up for a minute and focus on the music. Launching into Talk to Me (after Queen’s We are the Champions, their traditional entrance tune), El-P declares “my dick got a Michelin star, I’m on par with the best ever took the gig” while Killer Mike tells us that they’ve returned “from the depths of the badland/With a gun and a knife in our waistband/Went to war with the Devil and Shaytan/He wore a bad toupee and a spray tan” (an obvious reference towards Donald Trump’s farcical appearance).
The ‘RTJ3’ highlight sets out everything in the Run the Jewels manifesto (the caustic production, the hip-hop scratching, the humorous braggadocio, the call-to-arms, the politicisation, the self-expression, the exquisite wordplay) and they can be happy in the knowledge that it is the perfect substitute for usual set opener, Run the Jewels.
The night’s performance is mainly an avenue for RTJ to promote their new album. And tracks like Stay Gold and Panther Like a Panther receive as rapturous a reception as already solidified fan-favourites, Oh my Darling, Don’t Cry, Run the Jewels and the DJ Shadow-featuring, Nobody Speak.
What is most impressive about Run the Jewels is how expertly their set is weaved together, the pair often either performing a skit or instructing the crowd to say something before hurling into a song.
Attendees may be able to see their footage of the night broadcast by the band themselves soon, as the crowd were told to film them playing Call Ticketron on their phones for their upcoming video. But in the meantime, they should prize their memories of the night until they return in September for Electric Picnic. A truly exceptional performance from a truly exceptional band. A blockbuster night indeed.