Run the Jewels
Revention Music Center
October 5, 2017
Revention Music Center wasn’t sold out last night.
It should have been, but it wasn’t, which is a shame for a city whose musical antennae are so heavily tilted toward hip-hop.
Fortunately for fans, Run the Jewels was undeterred. They're the type to bring a high-energy live performance no matter the venue. And Thursday night, they didn’t disappoint.
Composed of Killer Mike – Atlanta’s Grammy-award winning rapper and political activist – and El-P – a renowned producer and MC from Brooklyn – RTJ serves as a reminder of hip-hop’s greatness and promise.
While there’s nothing wrong with club anthems or mumble-rap per se, RTJ’s brand recalls a time when the genre boasted infectious beats and meaningful lyricism simultaneously.
The group’s catalog – spanning barely 40 songs over three albums – sounds like a greatest-hits record. Their songs touch on stop-and-frisk programs, police shootings, gentrification, female empowerment and political activism while allowing plenty of space for the duo to be lyrical showboats.
What might be a tightrope walk for some acts came across as nearly effortless when the duo visited Houston Thursday night, on tour in support of their third studio album, RTJ3.
Queen’s “We Are the Champions” blared through the speakers overhead as Mike and El-P emerged onstage, where they dispensed with the pleasantries and launched right into their set.
Four tracks in, RTJ finally addressed the crowd, expressing their admiration for the city of Houston and its response to Hurricane Harvey’s devastation.
“There’s an energy here that I think we all need right now,” El-P said as the crowd cheered.
“It is resilience. It is hope,” Killer Mike continued. “It is helping your fellow man…Thank you guys for showing us how to be good neighbors, how to be good human beings and how to take care of each other in times of trouble.”
And that was about it for the small talk. The rest of the night was filled with rapid-fire lyricism, energetic beats and even a few mosh pits during "Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)" and "Oh My Darling Don't Cry."
Noting one female fan in the pit wearing a Slipknot shirt, Mike told the crowd, “Women come to our concerts to party; they don’t come to get their asses grabbed.”
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Save for Kendrick Lamar's visit back in July, RTJ's show may have been the best rap concert of 2017. Unfortunately, many Houston rap enthusiasts weren't in attendance. Had they been, the concert would have been moved to a much larger venue.
To quote Kendrick himself: “Critics want to mention that they miss when hip-hop was rappin'/ Motherfucker, if you did, then Killer Mike would be platinum.”
Killer Mike and El-P haven’t slowed down since forming RTJ in 2013, and the hype surrounding their music grows with each record they release. That should continue with RTJ4, at which point we hope to see them performing in front of a crowd as dense as their lyrics.
Talk to Me
Legend Has It
Pew Pew Pew
Blockbuster Night Part 1
Don’t Get Captured
Oh My Darling Don’t Cry
Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)
Thursday in the Danger Room
Hey Kids (Bumaye)
Panther Like a Panther
A Report to the Shareholders/Kill Your Masters
A Christmas Fucking Miracle