The poster for the Run the Jewels World Tour imagines members El-P and Killer Mike as Godzilla-like monsters destroying cities and breathing blue fire. It’s the sort of visual aid any rapper (and his ego) would embrace. However, just four years into the collaboration between the two
This past Wednesday night, the duo took the stage at the Fillmore Miami Beach victorious and more confident than ever. The day before, various media outlets reported that RTJ found itself atop the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart for the first time with its third LP, Run the Jewels 3. After more than 20 years of grinding, each member had found a modicum of individual success, but nothing like this.
As if to drive that point home, the two emerged from the shadows to the triumphant blares of Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” They were lions surveying their pride and the land that now belonged to them. It might have been difficult to see at first thanks to all the smoke, none of which came from a fog machine.
Almost immediately, El-P thanked the fans for helping them score that number one slot before the duo launched into “Talk to Me.” It’s a track that succinctly embodies the crux of what RTJ does so well. In the span of just two and a half minutes, they tackled a whirlwind of topics, including the crack-cocaine epidemic of the '80s, Donald Trump, the Vietnam War, and violence in the African-American community.
That is what makes Run the Jewels an elite rap group — two wordsmiths spitting hard-hitting truths over thumping, equally hard-hitting beats. Assisted by their tour DJ and a little help from the crowd, inserting the odd “RTJ” at appropriate moments and singing every chorus, the two put on a show that was an old-school rap experience for the 21st Century.
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Aside from their lyrical creativity, much of what makes this partnership work so well is their onstage chemistry. The interplay between El-P and Killer Mike is flawless. They weave in and out of each other’s verses and have even perfected a bit of choreography, bouncing and hopping in sync to the rhythm of each other’s words.
The Atlanta-meets-Brooklyn duo used their voices as not only instruments but also weapons of war, specifically against
Standout cuts included “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry,” “
Between some songs, both El-P and Killer Mike busied themselves with advice and exaltations. “If you didn’t come with her,” Killer Mike shouted at one point, “don’t touch her, or we’ll punch you in the face.” In addition to respecting the ladies at the show, he also asked everyone to be careful if they crowd-surfed. Later, with numerous RTJ hand signs in the air, Killer Mike declared, “We a motherfuckin’ community!”
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That sentiment fell on deaf ears for a few idiots: A minor fight erupted in the pit but was quickly broken up. Similar incidents occurred in Tampa and Nashville earlier in the tour. Some people just shouldn’t leave their homes.
Still, a common enemy can always bring people together. Not long after El-P lamented that it had been “a stressful couple of months,” chants of “Fuck Donald Trump” rang through the Fillmore, to which Killer Mike punctuated with a simple “yup” after each beat. It was fitting that this led directly into “Lie, Cheat, Steal,” a commentary on the hidden powers that be, running our lives by lying, cheating, stealing, killing, and, ultimately, winning.
The now-iconic Run the Jewels logo was designed by El-P and artist Nick Gazin. In a 2015 interview,