What started out as a friendly collaboration between rapper and producer in 2012, Killer Mike and El-P, a.k.a. Run the Jewels, became one of the biggest rap duo’s on the planet. Even more so, Killer Mike might have just been the best rapper of 2014 when RTJ2 dropped.
They’re both veterans in the field: Killer Mike with a successful Atlanta career on Outkast features and signed the T.I.’s label Grand Hustle, and El-P, producing records for Company Flow and Aesop Rock on his Brooklyn label Definitive Jux—but neither had as much success as they have with the partnership of Run the Jewels.
Working together as a duo, the pair have also challenged themselves to evolve their skills as musicians. El-P’s bombastic production techniques have never sounded better than when they’re under Killer Mike’s aggressive rhymes.
On RTJ3 however, the kick isn’t as potent as it was before. On all fronts really, Killer Mile and El-P sound too comfortable with their rhymes, not hitting any of the higher speeds from RTJ2, making this third release a little less impressive than their previous stretch of jaw dropping material. “Talk to Me” is the clear front-runner track, with Killer Mike getting the audience psyched for another Run the Jewels project, but the rest of the record doesn’t always deliver the never-ending hype or pure adrenaline feel of their previous two records.
RTJ3 is also less directly political, seeming more celebratory of their success, which also affects the clarity of some of the song’s meanings or purpose. It’s not all to say that RTJ3 doesn’t still bump, as there are a lot of fantastic moments—the first four tracks, “Panther Like a Panther,” “Oh Mama,” the reprise of a Zach de la Rocha feature to close out the record—it’s just that RTJ3 didn’t have my jaw drop like RTJ2. It’s a decent record with some decent tracks all the way through, and a very enjoyable Run the Jewels third project, it just doesn’t feel like Killer Mike and El-P took another step up the ladder.