Run The Jewels Run Almost Everything Else, Too

Run the Jewels
House of Blues
October 13, 2015

I would have fully expected Run the Jewels’ headlining set at House of Blues on Tuesday night to be something grand for all parties involved.

Grand because we’re watching two meticulous rap heroes, El-P and Killer Mike, become the best rap duo this decade has seen so far. Grand because no matter the tour stop, whether it be a festival set, a small venue, a fish fry or a picnic, the two men from New York and Atlanta (respectively) are going to saunter out proud with their chests out to Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” That’s grand.

Well, grand did happen on Tuesday night.

The moment Killer Mike stopped giving thoughtful and articulate commentary on the Democratic debate, he was trying to punch a hole through the roof with only his voice. Whenever El-P broke down mid-set and spoke his mind, you felt it. You felt the rush and uproar of a guy who looks about as average as can be rallying people about the police “killing kids all over this country” before launching into “36’.” You could hear him say, through a perfectly balanced mix of intoxicated and aware, that politicians only wanted to “lie, cheat, steal, kill, win” before bobbing and weaving through “Lie, Cheat, Steal." Last year it was Mike who took stages across the country, most famously in St. Louis, to cry how little people of authority cared about protecting those who didn’t pose a threat. If El-P was dictating people to put up cellphones, apologizing to fans who came to the show with injuries and have fun during “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)," Mike was growling with glee about his affinity for Houston.

“In honor of Pimp C, Pokey and Screw, we’re about to burn this motherfucker down,” Mike told the crowd before launching headfirst into “Run the Jewels." He continued on, picking up when El-P accidentally referred to Houston as Dallas, kept dropping more and more names of admirers and men he had grown to appreciate as a fan and fellow musician, and let out a deafening roar, “I feel like I'm home, man. Free Brad Jordan in this motherfucker!”

The love for Run the Jewels is about as grassroots as you can get. Beyond the typical stuff you can pluck from a Wikipedia page, Killer Mike and El-P came from opposite worlds and are now damn near married at the hip. Their shows, growing in size from the 400 or so who packed Warehouse Live last year and the near thousand-plus who filled both levels of HOB's Music Hall Tuesday, always offer something different, something unique. It’s not that their DJ, Trackstar, is given his own shine to cut up records; it’s the extensive family they have. Bun B can climb onstage and feel like family; Gangsta Boo (who I secretly wished grabbed BeatKing, too) can feel like a sister who is just as submerged in Houston's rap history as she is in Memphis's.

The Jewel Runner Tour lasted all of an hour for his heroes. The undercard of Boots, Fashawn and Cuz Lightyear (plus Doughbeezy!) did more than enough to set up a crowd of bearded bros and hungry rap fans for what they paid to see. There’s nothing weird about what you get from El-P or Killer Mike these days. If they want to make a remix album with cats, they can do it and people will gobble it up. The ironic thing they may walk with? That despite the fact that the idea of the “group” may be dying on this side of popular music, they’re arguably the best thing going.

And they’ll probably out-debate your ass on the issues before tearing a stage down.

Run the Jewels
Oh My Darling Don’t Cry
Blockbuster Night Pt. 1
Banana Clipper
Sea Legs
Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)
Pew Pew Pew
Lie, Cheat, Steal
All Due Respect
Love Again
Get It
A Christmas Fucking Miracle

Bun B & Gangsta Boo

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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell