Run the Jewels Credit: Todd Westphal

Killer Mike and El-P up the ante on their self-released third album as Run the Jewels, tapping into floor-rumbling old-school Miami bass fundamentals—albeit a strain that pushes the tradition into the present—and laying out classic, rhythmically agile, hectoring flows. Both MCs convey steamroller energy, infusing every track with a ferocity that draws juice from our current political environment even though their words rarely address it directly. Much of the power comes from a sense of triumph, both in that Killer Mike and El-P have achieved supremacy so late in their careers, and that Run the Jewels have refused to play by rules other than their own (this is to say nothing of Mike’s surprising political influence in supporting Bernie Sanders). On the unstoppable “Call Ticketron” the duo trumpet their authority as El-P brilliantly changes up a rhythmic accent every four bars while Mike spits lines like “We be the realist of killers of the fuck shit squadron / Movin’ through the streets and we lootin, robbin’ / Mobbin’, marchin’, carrying our carbon.” Later on the album “Thursday in the Danger Room” dares to expose vulnerability while operating with a keen sense of righteousness. Mike yields to life’s uncertain preciousness: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth will leave us mumbling and blind / So we stumble blind through the depths of the dawn looking for something divine.”   v