Run the Jewels at Fitzgeralds, 11/8/2014
El-P (right) called Run the Jewels' Houston stop Saturday "my favorite show so far" on the duo's fall tour.
Photos by Derrek Barlow
Run the Jewels, Despot, Ratking, The Outfit Fitzgerald's November 8, 2014
"No bullshit: Three songs in, this is already my favorite fuckin' show so far," El-P told he sold-out crowd at Fitzgerald's on Saturday. "Y'all may actually be too fuckin' hyped."
Too hyped? Hey, that was the knock on Run the Jewels coming in to Saturday's performance, not on Houston fans. And make no mistake, the hype on current indie-rap kingpins El-P and Killer Mike has been glowing and extensive. Their two albums -- one a free digital download, the other a carefully calculated product -- have been co-signed by all the right blogs. With their name on the lips of tastemakers nationwide, the success of this year's sequel record was all but assured.
Generating hype is one thing. Living up to it is another. But then, El-P and Killer Mike are hardly rookies trying to find themselves onstage. Both have been scratching out a living on the rap circuit for years now, but it wasn't until they combined forces last year that they started fielding calls from the The Late Show and shit.
Facing a crammed-full house over the weekend, the duo never let up or turned down, and the enthusiastic crowd came bound and determined to match their energy from start to finish.
Killer Mike (left) and El-P alternated the roles of MC and hype man by the verse.
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The electricity crackling across the floor was palpable right from the jump. The Outfit, TX and Ratking did well in warming up the early birds. Queens rapper Despot, who kept heads nodding hard in the dark with cuts like "Knock Knock, Who Cares?" and "House Made of Bricks," couldn't help but comment on the crowd that was happily cheering him much louder than it had to.
"A lot of people are not excited to be at a rap show," he said in his best Mitch Hedberg deadpan. "That is not the case here."
While Despot was clearly pleased with the enthused response he got from the crowd of hip-hop junkies, the damn roof nearly blew off the place when Run the Jewels started up. The screams were deafening as El-P and Killer Mike arrived to lead the audience in a singalong of Queen's "We Are the Champions," and that was as quiet as things would get for the rest of the night.
"First off, R.I.P. Screw, R.I.P. Pimp, R.I.P Hawk," said Killer Mike, rattling off a quick checklist of local respects to pay. "Now we gonna burn this motherfucker to the ground."
And with that, Run the Jewels tore into their self-titled song, and all hell broke loose. Have you ever been to one of those shows at Fitzgerald's where you become acutely aware of just how many people are bouncing up and down on that balcony? Well, this was one of those, playa. From the rafters to the concrete below, people were losing their minds, getting far crunker than is typically advisable.
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It was so packed in Fitz Saturday one fan said, "it doesn't even feel safe up here."
More than up to the task at hand, El-P and Killer Mike quickly proved to be terrific performers. Each is easily able to command a stage all on his own, so teaming these guys up is almost unfair. They were unstoppable on Saturday. Verse by verse, the pair traded off roles as MC and hype man, and they kept the energy off the scale for the duration.
The sinus-clearing, spermicidal bass blasting out of the club's PA system was interrupted only for some timely snatches of scratching from DJ Trackstar. There were thunderous clapalongs to songs like "Banana Clipper" and "Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)." It was breathless stuff, with both the artists and audience eager to bang hard through as much of the Jewels' material as was on hand.
That old, dank smell, the stench of dope and sweat that has so long been the hallmark of Fitzgerald's best shows, was in full effect only a few songs in. More than a couple of times, the performers had to pause to appreciate its rank sweetness.
"This shit feels very special," El-P said, and it was hard to disagree. "I'm glad to be a part of it."
By that time, it was already well after midnight and Run the Jewels had already knocked their lofty expectations out of the park. Instead of heading for the exits early, though, Fitz stayed packed to the gills all the way to the end. There was nowhere to go. There was no way to move. This was Run the Jewels, actually exceeding their ridiculous hype, if only for one night. What the hell else were we supposed to Instagram?
Fans showed love as El-P told them, "this shit feels very special."
Personal Bias: Rap regionalist.
The Crowd: Thick. Mostly scruffy white dudes.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Dude, it doesn't even feel safe up here."
Random Notebook Dump: Fitz was flat-out the place to be Saturday. Balcony smokers were treated to an impromptu art car parade as more than a dozen whacked-out vehicles, including the giant chicken car, honked their way down White Oak.
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