11
Dec
13

Best New Albums 2013 – #13: El-P and Killer Mike – Run the Jewels

Running through the end of the month (with a short Christmas break), I’ll be running a post each weekday taking a look at one of my top 20 albums of the year, slowly working my way down to number one. Some I’ve reviewed previously for Bearded Gentlemen Music – I’ll provide links where necessary – and the entire list will eventually end up there, too. But for most of these records, this is the first time I’m writing about them at length, making this a chance to explain my choices in a little greater detail. Last year’s list is no longer online, but for 2011’s Best Canadian Music click here and for 2010’s list, click here.

#13: El-P and Killer Mike: Run the Jewels

This year saw several highly anticipated hip hop releases by Eminem, Jay-Z and Kanye West. For my money, though, the best was one that came out with almost no hype and was even available as a free download: the El-P and Killer Mile collab Run the Jewels.

It’s a lean album: ten tracks, no filler and all tension, done with a sly sense of humour too. There’s searing guitar on DDFH and a callback to El-P’s 2011 track Drones over BKYLN. Prince Paul hilariously plays a nightlife creep on Twin Hype Back: after an aggressive come-on, he offers to take a woman back to Long John Silvers. And on the lead single, 36″ Chain, they work in a dig at former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow (“better pray for … Tebow though cause right now, he stay losin’ like The Jets”). The video’s pretty good, too.

Things really come into focus on Banana Clipper, which explain their partnership over a sparse, electric backing track: Killer Mike moves “with the elegance of an African elephant,” and explains that only El-P is worth working with:

“Producer gave me a beat, said it’s the beat of the year / I said El-P didn’t do it, so get the fuck outta here”

Indeed, El-P’s production here just about steals the show. They’re littered with pounding drum machine beats and keyboard effects, but never distract from either him or Mike. Instead, they propel everything along, never letting the listener take a moment off. By the time I got to Get It, I realized I’d been nodding along without realizing it, something that never happened once on Yeezus.

I think the album’s best summed up there, too, when Mike says “We’re here to tell you all your false idols are just pretenders.” He’s right. Forget Eminem’s latest plodding record or Kanye’s over-ambitious Yeezus. This is one of the best hip-hop albums of the year.

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